By Randy Arrington
LURAY — About 10 weeks out from the June filing deadline, the first candidate for a local town council seat has stepped forward to put their hat in the ring for the November ballot.
Luray resident and Harvard University junior Alex White announced this week that he intends to file his candidacy to run for one of three open seats on the Luray Council. While this is White’s first bid at public office, he is no stranger to public service.
“I decided [to run] after serving for about a year in an appointed position for the county,” White said.
At age 19, he was thought to be the youngest public appointment in Virginia when he was nominated and approved by the Page County Board of Supervisors to become the District 1 representative on the county’s Economic Development Authority (EDA).
“I learned that when young people get involved in things like that you can get some fresh air in the room and get a new perspective,” White said.
During his time on the EDA, White convinced his peers to subscribe to a grant database, which he used to help local non-profits like Page One, Page Alliance for Community Action (PACA) and the West Luray Rec Center apply for and receive nearly $100,000 in grant funding.
White, 21, manages to find time to volunteer in the Luray community despite his lengthy commute back to Massachusetts to complete his B.A. in government (with a focus on domestic policy). The rising senior at Harvard also serves as the assistant manager of the Page One food pantry in Luray.
“I have been blessed to have a lot of opportunity because of Luray, so I want to take the results of those opportunities and give back through public service,” White said. “That has included my volunteering with the Page One food pantry, my role with the EDA, and now seeking this office, where I think I can make an even bigger impact for the people of Luray.”
On Dec. 21, Shenandoah Valley Electric Cooperative officials gathered at Page One in Luray with local leaders to present White with the Young Cooperator Award for 2021. The annual honor recognizes “outstanding cooperative members under age 40.”
“A graduate of a small rural high school and local community college, Alex has received numerous honors. These include serving as Boys Nation Senator from Virginia [and] attending the Sorensen Institute High School Leaders Program at the University of Virginia,” Adam Shifflett of the Virginia Cooperative Council said during the December presentation. “A self-proclaimed ‘big believer’ in the cooperative model, Alex was sponsored by his local electric co-op, Shenandoah Valley Electric Cooperative, to participate in the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association’s Youth Tour in 2018.”
One of Virginia’s youngest delegates to a 2020 national political convention, White said attending the youth tour more than three years ago allowed him to see how government worked and piqued his interest in public service. The tour included a week in Washington, D.C. complete with a tour of the Capitol and other government buildings, as well as several keynote speakers.
The Young Cooperator Award came with a $500 stipend, which White donated to Page One.
Despite his enrollment as a student out-of-state, White is a resident of Luray, and he assures the electorate that the fourth-month overlap — if he secures a seat on council — would not interfere with carrying out his responsibilities.
“I will be graduated by the time my term is getting off the ground,” White said. “I intend to return to Luray to serve, and I think this is a perfect opportunity to do so.”
By Election Day, White will be nearly midway through his final year of college. If he wins a seat, his swearing-in would occur less than four months from his graduation.
“For the entirety of my four-year term, I will be committed to attendance,” White said, “and I have already demonstrated my abilities to travel back to Luray and carry out my duties as assistant manager for Page One food pantry, an EDA member and the involved author of a column in this publication.”
Following an agreement between the publisher and White, his column — “Small Towns, Big Potential” — will be suspended while he carries out his bid for public office.
On track to graduate with honors in May 2023, White hopes to return to his hometown fulltime to make the difference that he writes about in his column.
“A lot of young people are in my position, in the sense that they want to come back and build a professional life in town,” White said, “and we need to see what we can do to retain and attract young families…whether that’s addressing job opportunities or addressing housing opportunities.”
If elected, White said he will continue to volunteer and be involved in the community.
“Beyond just being a decision maker of things that come before the town, a member of the town council has to be a community-oriented person that is really playing a social role more than just casting a vote twice a month,” White said. “We need to retain our small town, welcoming feel and the fact that the people of Luray are willing to work with people different than them to make things better. The most important part is being open and listening to people.”
The 2019 graduate of Luray High School, who turns 22 two weeks before the fall election, believes his age is an advantage rather than a hindrance.
“Luray can only be its best when young people are in the room represented for the important decisions,” White said. “My election to the town council would reduce the average age in the room by a decade, maybe two decades, that has real implications for a town that’s trying to improve while maintaining its essential character.”
Three seats on the Luray Council currently held by Vice Mayor Jerry Schiro, Ron Vickers and Stephanie Lillard will be up for election this November. At least two of those members are projected to defend their seats. Schiro is not expected to seek re-election.
Residents of Luray who wish to run for an open council seat will need 50 signatures by qualified voters within towns limits, along with filing a Declaration and Qualification of Candidacy with voter registrar of Page County by 7 p.m. Tuesday, June 21 in order to appear on the Nov. 8 ballot.
For more information about candidate forms or to volunteer as a poll worker,
contact the Registrar’s office at (540) 743-3986 or email [email protected]