PUBLISHER’S NOTE: Page Valley News will be publishing profiles of local candidates in contested races for this fall’s elections over the next few weeks. PVN will begin with the Luray Council race, where five candidates will compete for three seats; then the race for Mayor of Luray, with two candidates; and the chairman of the Page County School Board, with two candidates. All profiles will be published in alphabetical order at 9 a.m. Mondays and 3 p.m. Thursdays, beginning Thursday, June 25.
• Age: 48
• Education: Bachelor’s of Science and Master’s of Science, Urban and Regional Planning; Graduate Certificate in Public Management, Virginia Commonwealth University, 1996 and 2004; Prince Edward County (VA) High School, 1990.
• Work: Director of Planning, Zoning and Permitting, Madison County (VA), 2019 – Present; Bill Dudley & Associates Real Estate, 2016-2019; Town Planner, Town of Luray, 2006-2016; Land Use Planner, Rockingham County (VA), 2004-2006; Planning Intern, Chesterfield County (VA), 2002-2004.
• Family: Daughters, Sylvia (14) and Laurel (12).
• Why are you running for public office?
I have lived in the Town of Luray for more than 13 years, and it’s the only home my children have ever known. Luray is a special place and helping to shape its future would be an honor.
Public service is my chosen career and something I enjoy. I possess more than 16 years of local government employment experience, and have advised numerous elected boards and councils on a wide variety of issues. I have also served on two appointed boards: Page County’s Economic Development Authority (5 years) and Luray’s Board of Zoning Appeals (since 2017). Running for public office is a logical step given my experience in local government and my desire to contribute to the place I proudly call home.
• What makes you the best candidate?
I believe my education and experience in local government makes me a good candidate. My previous position as Luray’s Town Planner provides me with extensive knowledge regarding past actions and the future challenges facing our Town.
I am reluctant to proclaim to be the “best candidate” — each candidate brings a unique set of experiences and qualifications to the table, and it’s the voters who ultimately decide who may be the best. However, if elected, I promise to be fully engaged and always have the best interest of the Town and its citizens in mind, and I will be easily accessible for those who might have concerns or issues, similar to when I was Luray’s Town Planner.
• What is Luray’s most pressing issue?
Obviously the recent pandemic has significantly impacted Luray’s tourism and service industries, which are essential to the local economy and Town revenues. Hopefully things will return to normal, and the impacts of decreased tourism will dissipate. At this juncture it’s still “wait and see” and we are all hoping for the best, but the Town needs to be prepared.
The pandemic notwithstanding, there are several issues which remain challenging. Given my experiences in local real estate, I would like to highlight the lack of available long-term rental units in Luray and Page County as a whole. Several years ago a study undertaken by a regional nonprofit estimated Page County lacked roughly 300 to 350 affordable housing units; and this deficit disproportionally affects seniors and families with young children. This shortage of long-term rental housing, coupled with the continued growth of the more lucrative tourist related short-term rentals (which in Page is estimated to be several hundred units), has resulted in higher monthly rents, and a lack of available rental housing. If elected I will work with local developers, real estate professionals and housing advocates to ensure Luray is actively participating in increasing the availability of long-term rental housing.
• What is one thing that you would like to change or improve about Luray?
Like many rural communities, a high number of Luray residents commute long distances for better paying jobs outside of the region; often driving an hour or even more. Though it may be aspirational, I hope this will change over time. Ideally, better paying jobs in our County or region would lessen this burden. As Harrisonburg, Front Royal and Winchester continue to expand, employment opportunities in our region and (hopefully) in/around Luray will increase too. There is no easy solution, but I think it’s important that elected officials recognize increased employment opportunities in our region directly benefits Luray and Page County. To me, economic development is not “zero sum” and as our region continues to grow and thrive, so will Luray.
• Briefly describe a decision you have made in a leadership role and tell why you made that decision.
To me, leadership and initiative go hand-in-hand. A good leader takes initiative to get things done. The personal example I would like to highlight was during my tenure as Luray’s Town Planner.
In 2011 an annual evaluation of the Main Street Bridge resulted in the 75-year-old bridge being considered structurally deficient and needing replacement. Given the cost of replacing the bridge (roughly $4 million), securing outside grant funding was critical in order to lessen financial impacts on the Town. I immediately took initiative to identify and apply for numerous federal grant opportunities to fund the bridge’s replacement. In 2012, the Town was awarded $1.6 million in federal funding. With the collective efforts of many, and additional grant funding, in 2019 the bridge’s replacement was completed with a significantly reduced financial burden to the citizens of Luray.