This blog post has been written by Grafton deButts, Vice President of Membership & Government Affairs. Learn more about the Public Policy initiative, by clicking here.
On January 2nd, after working for the Loudoun Chamber for the past 11 years, it was strange feeling to walk into the same office, the same desk, but be faced with a completely new challenge unlike anything I’ve experience in my last decade of work. As the new Vice President of Membership & Government Affairs, half of my job I remain very comfortable with. Membership engagement and creating programs that add to the member experience is right in my wheel house. It was the last two words of that title, Government Affairs, that has ushered me into a world that I’ve realized is deeper and more complex than I could have imagined.
I experienced this first hand on my first evening on the job: my first Board of Supervisors business meeting. I made a commitment to myself, to our team, and to our membership that I would ensure that the Loudoun Chamber be visible and influential to those that are making decisions that affect Loudoun County. Visible I can handle. 90% of success is just showing up, right? So that first meeting, I committed to staying until the end. I told my wife I’d be home by eight. (For those of you that know how these meetings actually go, you have my permission to laugh at the previous sentence.)
Hoping to get out early, but realizing it wasn’t promising, I sent my wife the first text.
6:30 p.m. – “Start dinner without me.”
Followed soon, by the second text.
7:15 p.m. – “I won’t be home for dinner.”
About an hour later, by a third text.
8:00 p.m. – “Can you give the kids a bath?”
And then a few more.
8:30 p.m. – “Could you start the kid’s bedtime?”
9:30 p.m. – “You don’t have to wait up for me?”
10:30 p.m. – “You up?”
At 11:45 p.m., I tapped out. The meeting ended at 12:15 a.m. that night, but the issue that I was watching (Dulles Greenway tolling) had just finished up. On my way out made joke to a few of the Supervisor Aides and a local reporter/podcaster, “Sorry guys, got to leave early tonight.” Our Board of Supervisors that day tackled many important issues and I was able to watch as an army of County staff and our elected officials choreograph difficult and challenging business in an open and public setting. I also commend them for doing it in a way that is professional and always seeking more information rather than making decisions based on limited knowledge. All of that said, this stuff is kind of fun.
Here’s 3 things we’re watching for with the 2019 Board of Supervisors:
- Loudoun’s new comprehensive plan: Loudoun 2040. For over two year’s Loudoun’s citizens, appointed stakeholders, and now the Loudoun County Planning Commission is working on a draft of the new comprehensive plan that will shape how Loudoun handles land use (what can be build where), transportation, the environment, economic development, and fiscal management. As a chamber, our voice heard loud and clear in this process. There were multiple pages in the original stakeholders report that included the over 500 comments that were submitted by our membership during the public input. We’re looking to repeat that impact to ensure that our priorities on housing, transportation investment, and other variables that impact our healthy economy are addressed in this document. Please mark your calendars for April 10th, as we’re hosing a PolicyMaker Series event focused on this topic and what we need to do as a Chamber to act.
- Affordable Housing. As mentioned above, we’re closely monitoring the increasing challenge that Loudoun is facing to house our growing workforce. This issue not only affects our quality of life by hurting the service, restaurant, and hospitality industries, but now has extended to our first responders, law enforcement, educators, our college graduates seeking to plug into the workforce and even our highly touted technology sector. Our lack of housing options is now an economic development issue that will hurt Loudoun’s competitiveness in the market, unless we’re able to improve this situation dramatically. If you have information on how our lack of housing options are causing a hardship for you, your employees, and your business, please let me know. We’d love to talk to you about that.
- It’s an election year! Loudoun residents will vote on our entire Board of Supervisors and our Virginia General Assembly Delegates this year. Each election year, the Chamber hosts a variety of forums and debates that give our members the opportunity to hear from those campaigning for our votes in November on the issues that matter most to our business community. Here’s a sneak peak: this fall the Chamber will be hosting two candidates forums for our General Assembly and our Board of Supervisor candidates and also a debate featuring the two candidates for the position of Chair of the Board of Supervisors. These events give our members the opportunity to ask the candidates direct questions about the acute issues facing their business and prioritizes each candidates knowledge of our positions. Our influence is needed now more than ever in this upcoming election. No matter which candidate wins and what party they represent, we want to ensure that our positions and priorities are known and that our business community remains a top priority to all of our legislators.
I’m really looking forward to the coming year, and being your representation at many of Loudoun’s public meetings and events. If there are issues that are directly affecting your business, I want to know about it. Please email me anytime.
Learn more about our Public Policy Committee, by clicking here.
Photo credit: Loudoun County Government Facebook page