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Jefferson Manor neighborhood in Groveton (staff photo by Matt Blitz)

One of the oldest neighborhoods in southeastern Fairfax County is holding its birthday party this weekend, despite the likelihood of rain.

Jefferson Manor near Groveton is celebrating its 75th birthday tomorrow (Saturday) with a block party that will include food trucks, music, beer, a kids’ zone area, and a magician. Franconia District Supervisor Rodney Lusk and Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay are both expected to attend.

Held on Monticello Road between Fairhaven Road and Edgehill Drive from 4-7 p.m., the block party is expected to draw about 300 attendees, even with the potential for dicey weather, Jefferson Manor Citizens Association President Derek Cole told FFXnow.

“We started the block party in 2017 just to celebrate how tight-knit our community was,” he said. “The turnout that we get speaks volumes to the community participation that we have.”

Consisting of about 550 semi-detached duplex homes, Jefferson Manor was built in 1947, as thousands of veterans returned home from World War II for jobs in the military and government.

Then covered in dairy farms, Fairfax County was a perfect place to build a home and settle with a family near enough to the urban core. Between 1940 and 1960, its population sextupled, growing from about 41,000 to nearly 249,000 people in just two decades. Those new residents needed homes fast.

A D.C. developer named Clarence W. Gosnell began buying up land across the county, including about 80 acres near Old Town Alexandria from S. Cooper Dawson, the co-owner of the well-known Penn-Daw Hotel.

Gosnell immediately went to work on the land, naming the neighborhood and the surrounding streets after president Thomas Jefferson.

Gosnell was one of the developers who was able to put up housing quickly and affordably,” Tammy Mannarino, a local historian who recently presented at a Jefferson Manor Civic Association meeting. “And he did that by having them be partially prefabricated.”

Gosnell’s company built and installed 12 to 16 homes a month in the neighborhood, a rate only exceeded by how quickly the homes were being sold, The Washington Post reported in 1947.

Every time they released a section of Jefferson Manor, it sold out,” Mannarino said. “They almost couldn’t build them fast enough.”

Homes were directly marketed to veterans, with Gosnell often advertising the starting price of $8,750 — about $114,000 today — as something “you can afford.”

Amenities soon sprang up to serve the budding neighborhood. Mount Eagle Elementary School (then called Penn Daw School) was built in 1949 to accommodate the new families.

However, as was the case in many county neighborhoods, there were restrictions on who could buy the homes.

The original contracts to purchase a Jefferson Manor home all contained a discriminatory covenant precluding anyone “not of the Caucasian Race” from occupying, using, selling, renting, or being given the home. The only exception was for “domestic servants.” Read More

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Layout of the new self-storage facility being planned for Herndon (via Town of Herndon)

A new self-storage facility appears likely to replace a soon-to-be-demolished, four-decade-old warehouse in Herndon.

On Monday (Sept. 26), the Town of Herndon’s Planning Commission unanimously approved plans to construct a 30,000-square-foot Security Public Storage facility at 331 Victory Drive. The old warehouse currently on the site, located in a business park, would be demolished.

This came after a public hearing where a couple of neighbors shared their own approval for the project.

The new building will replace a warehouse originally built in 1982 that currently houses several tenants, including Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts, which uses the space to build and store sets and props.

“This proposal will demolish an aging industrial building with a modern building that more efficiently uses the town’s limited space,” reads the staff report.

The project was first brought to the town’s Architectural Review Board back in April.

Renderings of the self-storage facility on Victory Drive in Herndon (via Town of Herndon)

Even with the commission’s approval, there remain several steps before demolition and construction can begin.

Next, the project goes to the Herndon Town Council for a public hearing. If it passes there, a site plan will undergo an administrative review, then return to the Architectural Review Board for another public hearing on the exterior. Finally, Security Public Storage can apply for building permits to start construction and demolition.

If and when all of that does happen, demolition and construction could take about a year to complete.

Several commissioners and neighbors said during the public hearing that the new building is expected to be an improvement over what’s there now.

A drive aisle will be removed, trash dumpsters will be shifted indoors, air conditioners placed on top of the building, and an on-site stormwater treatment solution will be installed.

Residents hope the changes will lead to less traffic, better landscaping, improved water quality, and a decrease in noise around the building, which borders about five single-family residences in the Van Buren Estates.

“Overall, we are very pleased with what the new building will be, removing the road, and moving the…trash dumpsters from the building,” one resident of Van Buren Estates said at the public hearing. “It’s definitely a big improvement.”

Residents and the commissioners still had some questions or concerns about the details of the plan. The length, material, and continuity of the fence dividing the self-storage facility from the residences as well as the landscaping were topics of discussion.

Some also wondered if the community actually needs another self-storage facility. With several multi-family developments in the pipeline for Herndon, Security Public Storage made the case that more self-storage would be needed.

While a couple of commissioners questioned that assertion, the project nonetheless proceeded forward.

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Students wear and wave Pride flags at Fairfax High School’s walkout (photo by Carys Owens)

(Updated, 3:20 p.m.) Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay believes the county will be on “safe legal ground” if it chooses to not follow Virginia’s recently-proposed model policies that would limit the rights of transgender and other gender-nonconforming students.

Based on conversations with the school board, Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS), and legal experts since the draft policies were unveiled earlier this month, McKay senses the school system will ultimately stick with its current policies, he told FFXnow yesterday (Wednesday).

The proposed policies would reverse regulations that FCPS adopted in 2020 affirming students’ right to access restrooms according to their gender identity and be called by their chosen names and pronouns. The regulation was updated last year based on state recommendations.

“If we do it and ignore [what] the governor is dictating here…my prediction based on everything I’m hearing is that the legal folks will say you’re on safe legal ground to continue the good practices that you have in place and not adhere to these new ones. That’s certainly what I’m being told preliminarily,” McKay told FFXnow.

McKay noted that, as has been reported elsewhere, legal experts have identified a myriad of legal problems” with the new proposed policies, including protections from discrimination based on gender identity in the Virginia Human Rights Act.

The cities of Falls Church and Alexandria have already indicated that they won’t adhere to the state policies. State Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-30), who represents parts of Fairfax County, Alexandria, and Arlington County, told FFXnow on Tuesday (Sept. 27) that there could be basis for a lawsuit.

“I think there’s existing law problems. I think there’s case law problems. I think there’s political problems,” McKay said. “And so, my suspicion is that we will likely be able to continue doing what we’re doing.”

The governor may be relying on the Dillon Rule as the rationale for arguing counties must adhere to the guidelines, if they’re adopted, McKay says.

Under that rule, localities only have legal authorities expressly granted to them by the state, but that doesn’t absolve the governor from the “obligation of being consistent with case law that’s already been established,” he said.

When asked whether the school system plans on taking legal action if the policies are adopted by the state, an FCPS spokesperson said they have no comment for now beyond a message that Superintendent Michelle Reid sent to families earlier this month, stating that FCPS was reviewing the draft policies.

“We will share more information when it is available,” the spokesperson said. Read More

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Amir Mostafavi always knew he would eventually open a South Block juice bar in his home of McLean.

The McLean High School graduate worked at the now-defunct Box Office Video chain that was owned by his parents for about two decades. Those days of stocking shelves, having an encyclopedic knowledge of actors, and ordering hard-to-find movies for customers were his first lessons in entrepreneurship.

“We were a local, family-run business that competed with Blockbuster, but what set us apart was our connection to the community,” Mostafavi told FFXnow. “People coming in, they knew me or my mom or my dad. We knew what our customers wanted…If someone came in and asked me about where a movie is, I could tell them it’s three rows over, three shelves down, and three videos over.”

In the years since, he has taken that experience and has applied it to create his own business. Mostafavi first opened his first juice bar on the campus of George Washington University in 2006 called “Campus Fresh.”

If working at Box Office Video was the entrepreneurial equivalent of an undergraduate education, Campus Fresh was like graduate school.

“I always joke with people that’s where I got my Ph.D. in business,” he said.

Five years later, in 2011, Mostafavi opened South Block was in Arlington’s Clarendon neighborhood. While it wasn’t an immediate success, as the company’s website notes, they kept building the company “one block at a time” and eventually opened a second location in 2015 in East Falls Church.

There are now 13 South Block locations across the D.C. region, including one in Vienna.

Soon, the juice bar’s 14th location is set to open in McLean’s Chesterbrook Shopping Center in early 2023.

Bringing his company home has Mostafavi reminiscing about working at his parents’ video store.

“It’s come full circle. I feel a sense of accomplishment,” he said on working in McLean. “I think about my dad.”

Amir Mostafavi with his dad, sister, and mom at Box Office Video (courtesy Amir Mostafavi)

Mostafavi is now 47, the same age as his dad when he opened Box Office Video in Langley Shopping Center — only 2 miles from the site of the new South Block.

“Me having that same experience at the same time in my life and opening in the same place where he opened it, it’s just kinda…” he said, trailing off and clearly emotional about the thought. “My dad lives in Vienna now and owns a Persian restaurant there. That’s kind of his retirement.”

When noted that owning a restaurant doesn’t sound like much of a retirement, Mostafavi laughed, “He works more than I do.”

Beyond the personal connection, he believes McLean is a perfect place for a South Block. He says the community is “underserved” in terms of food choices and is always “so supportive” of local businesses.

“Even though it isn’t [techincally] a small town, it still has that small-town, community vibe in that people want to support small businesses,” he said.

South Block is moving into Chesterbrook Shopping Center, which was first built more than 50 years ago. It’s now undergoing an $8.5 million facelift. Mostafavi said the renovation is “much needed for the community” and one of the big reasons why they choose to move in.

Just like Box Office Video, South Block is a family affair with his brother serving as vice president of the company. For Mostafavi, that was the only way to go, considering how much he learned from his parents about what it takes to run a small, local business.

“It’s from [them] that I learned work ethic, being resourceful, persistent, and not giving up,” he said. “That’s all huge in being a successful business.”

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Across Fairfax County and Virginia, thousands of students walked out today (Tuesday) in protest of proposed state policies that would limit schools’ ability to support transgender and other gender-nonconforming students.

Students from more than 90 schools, including nearly 30 in Fairfax County, took a stand against policies introduced earlier this month by Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin regulating everything from which bathroom a student can use to the definition of “the phrase ‘transgender student.'”

The walkout protests were organized by the Pride Liberation Project, a student-led organization that advocates for the LQBTQ+ community in schools. The group aims to persuade the governor to revoke the draft policies, which are now open for public comment through Oct. 26.

Since the policies were announced more than a week ago, local school districts, board members, and elected officials have questioned and overwhelmingly come out against policies that would severely curtail the rights of and support that school districts can give transgender students.

Fairfax County Public Schools said last week that it was “reviewing” the proposed policies and reiterated a commitment to supporting LGBTQ students.

Today, though, it was students’ turn to make their voices heard.

At West Potomac High School in Belle Haven, an estimated 1,000 students walked out at 10 a.m. in protest. They filed into bleachers on the football field, while speakers shared their experiences and why they personally would be affected by the new policies.

“As a trans [person], I have been discriminated against for my gender identity and was told it was wrong. That I was wrong,” said a West Potomac High School senior. “These policies are just a new case of this happening.”

“I can’t be a student if I don’t know what name my teacher is going to call me,” said another student.

Mara Surovell, one of the lead organizers for the West Potomac High School walkout, hopes it will encourage Youngkin to not implement the policies or, at the very least, allow school districts the authority to continue to implement their own guidance.

“Most of my friends are transgender and my sister is also transgender. So it affects all people I love. And I don’t want any of my friends to feel like school is an unsafe place,” Surovell told FFXnow. “I don’t want to see…their mental health plummet because of these policies, and I really just want them to feel safe and loved, and I don’t think that’ll happen if these policies get approved.”

Students involved in walkouts at South Lakes High School in Reston and Marshall High School in Idylwood shared similar thoughts.

Rishi Chandra, a South Lakes junior, said that he has personally seen how well trans and nonbinary students can do in school when they feel safe, but if the new policies get approved, they will “harm queer students.” Read More

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Rendering of the new South County Police Station and Animal Shelter in Lorton (via Fairfax County)

When Fairfax County’s new animal shelter opens next year, some of its first residents will likely come from across jurisdictional lines.

Last week, the Board of Supervisors approved an agreement with the City of Fairfax to provide services and housing to animals under their care. The city cares for fewer than 100 animals a year. In 2021, it cared for 31 dogs, 20 cats, and 11 other small animals.

On track to open in the spring, the new South County Animal Shelter in Lorton is expected to provide plenty of space for these furry friends.

“[The Department of Animal Services] already has a long history of supporting the City with meeting their animal welfare needs,” a county staff report said. “With the opening of the second facility in Lorton in Spring 2023, DAS will have ample space and appropriate staffing to accommodate additional animals from the City.”

The 23,000-square-foot facility on Lorton Road will be the second county-operated shelter, joining the existing Michael R. Frey Animal Shelter on West Ox Road in Fairfax.

The South County Animal Shelter will likely begin operations in late spring when construction is completed, DAS Director Reasa Currier confirmed to FFXnow.

The board is expected to approve about $2 million to help provide services, staff and maintain the shelter as part of a fiscal year 2022 carryover package.

“This facility will allow us to substantially grow the geographic reach and impact of our work for the residents of Fairfax County,” Currier said by email. “Not only will we be able to create even more families through adoption, but the second shelter will provide a hub for essential services from behavior and training support, veterinary medical care, pet supplies, and other critical services that help keep pets together with their families.”

Currier says the Lorton shelter will be “similar in size and footprint” to the Fairfax one, with 88 dog kennels, 42 cat condos, 2 catios, and a “state-of-the-art” veterinary clinic. There will also be an 20,000-square-foot outdoor space for the animals.

Like other shelters nationwide, the county’s lone animal shelter has faced its share of capacity challenges. Even before recent influxes of rescued beagles as well as cats and rabbits, there was a clear need for more shelter space in the southern part of Fairfax County.

“For too long, the many services and resources provided by [DAS] have been inaccessible for the residents in South County,” Currier said. “We are very excited about the location and are looking forward to serving South County residents and their pets. We are already hearing from residents who live nearby the new shelter who are eager to begin volunteering and participating in our programs.”

The shelter will share a new $30 million building with the South County Police Station, which will be about 31,000 square feet and is expected to open at the same time.

The building will have a number of sustainability features, including electric vehicle charging stations and space for solar panels, and energy-efficient systems. Landscaping will be made up of native plants and be bird-friendly.

The facility is on Lorton Road between the intersections of Workhouse and Hooes roads. Called the “Triangle” by the county, the parcel was specifically acquired in 2001 for public safety use.

In 2015, voters approved a $151 million bond referendum that included money to fund the Lorton project, which broke ground last May.

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Solar Panels (via Flickr/Minoru Karamatsu)

After years of effort, solar panels are finally coming to the I-95 Landfill Complex in Lorton.

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a motion on Sept. 13 to lease about 40 acres of the county-owned closed landfill within the complex to Sun Tribe Solar to install, operate, and maintain an array of ground-mounted solar panels.

Sun Tribe Solar, in turn, will let the county purchase renewable energy generated at the site with little upfront or operational costs, which staff say will help the county reduce its greenhouse emissions.

With the company quoting a rate of about 11 cents per kilowatt hour with no escalation over the life of the agreement, the county expects to save money immediately — about $51,000 in the first year of operation and over $1 million cumulatively by year eight.

Thought to be the first such project in the Commonwealth, the panels are expected to be installed and go online by the end of 2024, Fairfax County Department of Public Works and Environmental Services (DPWES) Deputy Director Eric Forbes said at the meeting.

A map of where the solar panels will go at the I-95 Landfill Complex (via Fairfax County)

As a number of supervisors noted, though, it was a long time coming, with a number of challenges along the way.

Despite solid local support, the county needed approval from the Virginia General Assembly for solar panels to be installed on its land. The county was exploring the project at least as early as 2017, but every time it was taken to the state legislature, their request was denied.

The needed permission came at last from the 2020 Solar Freedom Act, which included a specific clause providing Fairfax County the go-ahead for the landfill project.

“I really wish this had happened a long time ago when I was chair of the environment committee because that’s when we first started having this discussion,” Mason District Supervisor Penny Gross said. “[A closed landfill] is perfect for solar. If it had not been for that pesky Virginia General Assembly not allowing it unless there was a change in the legislation, we would have done this a long time ago and would have been way ahead of the game.”

Gross wasn’t the only one to express frustration at the state holding up a project that the county says will increase its use of renewable energy while also saving money. Read More

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A historical marker for the McLean Volunteer Fire Department was installed outside the Old Firehouse Center in 2020 (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

(Updated at 5:35 p.m.) Fairfax County will install six new historical markers over the next year honoring Black and African-American history. The markers will highlight local civil rights activists, enslaved peoples, educators, and a famed four-star general.

At last week’s Fairfax County Board of Supervisors meeting, it was revealed that a Board-appointed committee had chosen the winners of the inaugural “Historical Marker Contest.”

The student-led contest, which was launched a year ago, was designed “to focus on narratives and oral histories of our African American communities, whose history, culture, and accomplishments in the County are underrepresented in our history books, lessons, and markers.”

Local students submitted 53 proposals for potential markers that held relevance to Black/African American history in the county. From there, 14 finalists were considered, and six were chosen.

The winning proposals will become physical historical markers sometime in the next year, per Providence District Supervisor Dalia Palchik, who presented the joint board matter at the meeting on Sept. 13.

The six markers are:

  • Louise Archer — The principal at a one-room schoolhouse in Vienna during the early part of the 20th century. She also established one of the county’s earliest 4-H Clubs for African Americans
  • Lillian Blackwell — A civil rights activist who successfully sued Virginia to ban segregation in public accommodations, including schools and movie theaters
  • Annie Harper — A Gum Springs resident who successfully challenged Virginia’s poll tax
  • Gunnell’s Chapel — A small wooden post-Civil War Methodist church in Langley
  • Gen. Colin Powell — A four-star general who was also the first African American to be appointed Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff as well as Secretary of State. He was a McLean resident.
  • The West Springfield 16 — A group of 16 enslaved persons who lived and worked on the property where West Springfield High School now sits

Next, staff and the History Commission wil work to “refine the language of the marker,” have the marker made, and plan the eventual installations.

As Palchik noted at the meeting, the process to get each marker made and installed can be a “lengthy one” but the plan is to have them all in place within a year.

The board matter also authorized the preparation of a proclamation honoring the students, county and Fairfax County Public Schools staff, and the voting committee for their ideas and work to make these markers a reality.

Their work “has allowed us to engage deeply and authentically with the contributions of our Black/African American community in Fairfax County,” the board matter says.

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Emptied trash and recycling bins by the street (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Trash troubles keep piling up with the county out of trash cans for at least another two months.

Fairfax County has “exhausted” its inventory of trash cans and won’t be able to provide new ones to residents until later this fall,  Dept. of Public Works and Environmental Services (DPWES) spokesperson Sharon North told FFXnow.

“A new order already has been placed and should be in-house by early November,” she said via email.

In the meantime, North suggested that residents who are waiting on a new trash can to put their trash in a box or another container and leave it curbside on their pick-up day.

“It will be picked up, even if it’s in a box,” she said.

The missing trash can issue was brought to FFXnow’s attention by a Dranesville District resident.

About 90% of county residents and businesses have their trash picked up by private haulers, but about 10% have theirs picked up by the county. That’s about 43,000 residential units.

It’s those 43,000 that are potentially impacted by the shortage, though it only applies to those who are requesting a new trash can due to theirs being broken, moving into a new house, or are otherwise in need.

The problem started earlier this summer, North shared, when the county gained about 1,100 new customers. This created a bit of a “domino effect.” While the county’s Solid Waste Management Program put in order for more trash cans in May, those were all gone by July.

Rising costs and shortages of the worldwide supply of resin also have contributed to the lack of trash cans available to county residents, North said. The hope remains that a fresh stock of gleaming new trash cans will be available come November for new residents and those with broken ones alike.

This isn’t the county’s only recent trash trouble.

Last month, county officials addressed the “multiple complaints” they’ve been getting from residents about the performance of some contracted trash collectors in the county. Reports were coming from across the county about haulers missing pick-ups and not communicating delays all the while potentially increasing rates.

Complaints were coming in most often about American Disposal, a pattern that dated back to 2019. The company blamed a driver shortage, but Board Chair Jeff McKay told FFXnow in August that alone shouldn’t result in missed pick-ups and increasing rates.

“[A driver shortage] should not result in some of the significant problems our residents face as our haulers do not lack for resources to remedy staffing and related issues,” he said.

A number of solutions were proposed including “franchising” the county’s trash collecting and issuing fines to haulers not fulfilling their trash pick-up duties.

At a Tuesday meeting, the board approved a board matter by Braddock District Supervisor James Walkinshaw to further examine problems with American Disposal  Services and possible solutions.

The matter was jointly pushed forward by McKay and supervisors Kathy Smith and Dan Storck. It directs county staff to update the board on efforts to address complaints about missed and late pick-ups. The matter also includes language the could allow the county to move to a different system of solid waste collection, if changes are approved by the General Assembly. 

County staff from the Department of Public Works and Environmental Services have done amazing work to resolve residents’ individual issues with ADS — but a better solution would be for ADS to meet the requirements of the County ordinance and keep its commitment to its customers,” Walkinshaw wrote in a statement. 

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Albert Vega, Democrat running for the Springfield District Supervisor seat (photo courtesy of Albert Vega’s campaign)

(Updated, 4:10 pm) Springfield District Supervisor Pat Herrity has gotten his first challenger in next year’s Board of Supervisors race.

Albert Vega, the co-founder of the local tech business Building Momentum, announced earlier this week in a press release and video that he’s set to run in the Democratic Primary in June 2023 for the Springfield seat on the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors.

He’s the first Democrat to submit a statement of organization for that seat, the Fairfax County Board of Elections confirmed to FFXnow.

The primary winner will likely take on the incumbent and Republican Pat Herrity in the general election in November 2023.

Vega is the chief technology officer for Alexandria-based Building Momentum who also spent time in Afghanistan working with the United States Army. He’s using his tech experience as one of the main driving points for his candidacy.

“There are few counties as large or as sophisticated as Fairfax County. With all of the benefits that affords our residents, there comes a set of challenges that are equally as large and sophisticated,” Vega said in a press release. “As our county increasingly relies on new and emerging technologies to solve those challenges, our Board needs a voice that understands those technologies first hand and has spent an entire career solving problems from the battlefield to the classroom.”

Vega told FFXnow that he decided to enter the race now, a full 9 months before the primary and 14 months before the general, because he learned the value of “starting early” from his time training Marines.

“During my time supporting our troops in Afghanistan and years training Marines locally and abroad, I learned first-hand the importance of starting early, having a plan, and adapting often to changing circumstances,” he wrote FFXnow in an email. “That’s exactly how I’m approaching this campaign. Also, following redistricting we have many new residents who call Springfield home. I want to be the first candidate to knock on their door and welcome them to our District.”

He noted that his campaign’s priorities are affordable housing, public safety, local jobs, and protecting the environment.

In Vega’s comments to FFXnow, though not mentioning the incumbent by name, he criticized Herrity for his values not being in sync with the rest of the county or Springfield.

“More times than I can count, I’ve seen the Springfield Board seat used to spout partisan talking points and cast votes in opposition to board items that are consistent with our County’s values and harmful to Springfield,” Vega said. “For example, the recent lone vote was cast against a plan to reduce single use plastics, which frequently wind up in our watersheds such as the Occoquan. Often the supervisor takes no vote at all and leaves the room. Springfield needs a voice on the Board that is actually at the table.”

Herrity first became Springfield District Supervisor in 2007, having won three other elections since. In his latest election in 2019, Herrity narrowly defeated his Democratic opponent by only 441 votes.

In the latest campaign finance report filed in July, Vega has raised about $16,000. Meanwhile, Herrity raised nearly $60,000 during the same time frame.

Vega isn’t the only candidate announcing their intentions to run in 2023 now. In June, Franconia District Supervisor Rodney Lusk announced he’d be seeking reelection next year.

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