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A Fairfax County voting machine in use during the June 2021 primary election (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Early voting for the next general election has just gotten underway, but Fairfax County’s elections staff is already planning for next year and beyond.

The county’s Office of Elections has requested $5 million to launch a multi-year rollout of new, updated voting machines as part of a $190 million spending package carried over from fiscal year 2022, which ended on June 30.

Expected to start in 2023, the process will replace more than 1,200 machines owned by the county, according to Fairfax County Office of Elections spokesperson Brian Worthy. The existing machines are now eight years old.

“While the machines are secure, function well and meet current standards, the Office of Elections will replace them to keep up with technology changes, as well as meet new federal security guidelines that will become the standard in the near future,” Worthy said.

The voting machine replacement plan is one of several initiatives covered by the FY 2022 carryover review, which uses surplus funds to address previously approved or new, one-time budget items.

Buoyed by higher-than-anticipated revenue from staff vacancies and close spending management, per an Aug. 1 memo from County Executive Bryan Hill, the package includes a net total of 30 new positions, 27 of them for the upcoming South County Animal Shelter.

The animal shelter positions are needed to ensure the facility is staffed for an expected opening in May, Chief Financial Officer Christian Jackson told the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors’ budget policy committee on Sept. 20.

The proposal raised some eyebrows, since it will require ongoing funding.

“We have traditionally been very, very disciplined about using carryover for recurring expenses,” Mason District Supervisor Penny Gross said. “30 is a lot [of positions].”

Jackson reassured the committee that the carryover will allocate $1.9 million to fill the positions for part of a year, but full-time funding of $2.9 million will be included in the county’s next proposed budget, which is typically presented in February each year.

Other notable items in the carryover review include:

  • $10.3 million for environmental initiatives, including electric vehicles and charging stations as well as LED streetlight replacements
  • $3.5 million for an expanded child care center at the Original Mount Vernon High School
  • $2.58 million for employee pay and benefits
  • $2.5 million to establish a Tysons anchor organization
  • $5 million for Fairfax County Park Authority capital projects
  • About $13.2 million for facility improvements, including the demolition of two Historic Courthouse wings and a long-term design for the Hybla Valley Community Center

The Board of Supervisors has also proposed using remaining unallocated money to help bring permanent restrooms to local high school stadiums, improve sidewalks to Huntley Meadows Park, enhance trails in Gum Springs, and hire a data scientist for the board auditor’s office.

Springfield District Supervisor Pat Herrity requested that the county address police staffing shortages with a $2.5 million reserve for one-time hiring bonuses. He also proposed letting employees defer retirement for two more years and enabling the police chief to hire retired officers.

Jackson said employees can only use the deferred retirement option for up to three years, but the current average is less than two years. She also said retired police officers can already be hired for a limited amount of time, since otherwise, they’d have to un-retire.

The board will vote on the carryover review after a public hearing on Oct. 11.

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A Fairfax County Office of Elections ballot drop box from 2021 (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

(Updated at 9:10 p.m.) In Fairfax County, the battle for control of Congress starts tomorrow (Friday).

The county will open three early voting sites and start mailing out absentee ballots for the Nov. 8 general election, which will decide three seats in the House of Representatives as well as the Town of Herndon’s leadership.

Turnout is tough to predict, but early voting and voting by mail “seem to be growing in popularity” after Virginia made both options available to all in 2020, Fairfax County Office of Elections spokesperson Brian Worthy says.

Nearly 70% of registered voters participated in the last midterm elections in 2018, but no individual House race saw a turnout over 37%, according to Worthy. Last November’s election, which anointed Glenn Youngkin as Virginia’s governor, drew a 60.2% turnout.

“Because the Office of Elections always prepare for high turnout, they will be ready to manage turnout greater than the recent gubernatorial election,” Worthy said.

He says the county has filled all of the 2,300 election officer positions needed for Nov. 8, but there is always a demand for bilingual poll workers, especially people who speak both Korean and English.

What’s New This Year

Voters may see different candidates than they anticipate on their ballot, thanks to last year’s redistricting process, which altered federal and state electoral boundaries in Virginia.

Polling sites will stay the same for 96% of voters in the county, but everyone should double check their district through the Virginia Department of Elections before voting in person, Worthy says. There have also been a few precinct changes unrelated to redistricting.

To limit confusion, the county elections office sent every voter a mailer with information about their legislative districts and polling place earlier this year.

“The office will be mailing voters a sample ballot with this same information, and the state is also sending a redistricting mailing to voters,” Worthy said.

In addition, Virginia will now let new voters register and cast a ballot up to and on Election Day. The General Assembly approved the change in 2020, but the law won’t take effect until Oct. 1.

While the new flexibility will be welcome for anyone who misses the Oct. 17 deadline, election officials don’t recommend waiting until the last minute to register. Voters who register Oct. 18 or later will get provisional ballots to allow “additional time to verify” their paperwork, according to WTOP.

Provisional ballots aren’t reviewed until after Election Day, and the state electoral board determines whether each of them can be counted.

“Because same day registration is a new law, the Office of Elections is uncertain of the impact, but they are prepared to manage a large number of same day registrants at early voting sites and polling places on Election Day, as well as to process these registrations,” Worthy said. Read More

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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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Councilmember Sean Regan is running against two other candidates for mayor (Photo via Town of Herndon/website).
Mayor Sheila Olem is running against councilmembers Sean Regan and Jasbinder Singh in the upcoming mayoral race on Nov. 8. This week, FFXNow will feature candidate statements in their unedited form. Statements are published in the order in which they are received.  Featured here is Sean Regan.

What are your top three priorities for the Town of Herndon?

I am running for mayor to provide a new voice for change, a voice unencumbered by disagreements from the past, a voice for what Herndon is today and what we can become together. As mayor I will focus on three areas:

Housing – Herndon does not have its own housing authority but we can work with Fairfax County to bring affordable housing to the Town. We can also increase the supply of workforce and moderate-income housing by adjusting our zoning to encourage adaptive reuse of existing properties. We can provide a housing stipend to middle-income Town staff because governments work best when employees live in the community they serve.

Downtown – I will set the direction for the ongoing negotiation and execution of the downtown development PPEA. In my work advising non-profits and others on major development projects, I’ve been involved in a half-dozen similar projects. That experience will serve the Town well.

Traffic and parking – I will continue to work with staff, residents and surrounding jurisdictions to reduce cut-through traffic and free up parking to make life easier for the people who live, work, shop and play in Herndon.

In addition to these specifics, as mayor I will create a collaborative environment where diverse viewpoints are heard. I’ve lived by this value in my time on Council, on the Planning Commission, and in my career. Good legislation can come from anywhere and we will work together to understand the ideas, break them down, and shape them into legislation that serves the people of Herndon– not any outside interests. We will disagree at times but we don’t have to be disagreeable. We can argue joyfully.

With the opening of the Silver Line on the horizon, how do you believe the town can better prepare for transit-oriented communities?

I’m proud of the work Herndon has done to prepare for metro: from the HTOC district we developed and approved while I was on the Planning Commission, to the specifics of road, bike bus, and pedestrian connectivity which are finishing now, to the plans for water and sewer upgrades that will be in place as offices, shops and residences fill. We’re doing the hard work and I’m excited to see it start paying off. There are certainly some additional things I’d like to implement: HPD funding and officers to protect residents in the new development especially as we become connected to the DC metro area as we never have been before. Adapting our zoning and focusing our economic development efforts on attracting a major 4-year university to the HTOC, one which can provide hundreds of well-paying jobs. Continuing our parking overhaul to encourage the use of metro and to prevent commuters from flooding our neighborhoods and taking up spaces our residents and visitors need to live, work, shop and play here. And finally I’d like to find ways to connect Worldgate with the metro area, encouraging visitors to experience the amazing international restaurants we get to enjoy every day.

How can the town better position itself to manage public safety and road safety?

Herndon is safer than other jurisdictions and we need to keep it so by supporting HPD in attracting and retaining officers and staff. We can also embrace the goals of Virginia’s Marcus Alert which shifts law enforcement’s response to behavioral health emergencies. And we can anticipate how Metro’s opening will place an increased burden on HPD as we become more-closely tied to the greater-DC region.

Concerning road safety, we need to elevate the work of the Pedestrian & Bicycle Advisory Committee (PBAC) and the Town’s Traffic Engineering Committee, which are tasked with analyzing pedestrian, bike and vehicle problems in the Town. Some solutions will take long-term planning and costly changes so we should also be creative and open to simple immediate interventions that can make a difference even as bigger changes proceed.

Racial diversity continues to grow in the Town of Herndon. To what extent is the town prepared to cater to all communities?

People have different perspectives and we must always be on the lookout for bias in our work and the way we serve the Town. I’m excited about Herndon’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee and hopeful it will give our diverse community a stronger voice in Town government. Real change will come as these voices are heard.

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Mayor Sheila Olem is running against two other candidates this November (Photo via Sheila Olem).

Mayor Sheila Olem is running against councilmembers Sean Regan and Jasbinder Singh in the upcoming mayoral race on Nov. 8. This week, FFXNow will feature candidate statements in their unedited form. Statements are published in the order in which they are received.

What are your top three priorities for the Town of Herndon?

  • Promoting active living by improving pedestrian, cycling, and transit spaces in our community.
  • Using redevelopment to usher in mixed-use projects that add vitality throughout our 4.2-square-mile town.
  • Working with partners to plan and design streets, sidewalks, paths, and transportation facilities to make them safe and accessible for people of all ages and abilities and vehicular transportation while keeping our taxes low.

What is the top challenge that the town faces and how do you hope to address it?

Getting our community partners to come back out for community events! I hope you will join me and attend NatureFest at Runnymede Park, September 25, the Herndon Home Coming Parade, Downtown Herndon, October 8. Wintermarket, December 10, Downtown Herndon. If you are looking to get involved with your community, we have many groups looking for volunteers.

With the opening of the Silver Line on the horizon, how do you believe the town can better prepare for transit-oriented communities?

The Town has been planning and preparing for the arrival of Metro for decades. Drive around the Herndon Parkway where the Metro will arrive, and you will see the new bus bays and kiss & ride bays for commuters to arrive on the north side of the Herndon Metro. Take a turn onto Van Buren by Haley Smith Park and you will see the ‘Complete Streets’ project which is part of the key connections for multi-modal travelers to connect between the W&OD Trail and our Historic Downtown to the Herndon Metro Station. The $120 Million in transportation/safety/stormwater projects funded with $85 Million from county, regional, state, and federal dollars (our partners). As a resident of Herndon since 1990 I have been personally involved in countless community meetings over the years, for the arrival of the Silver Line. I personally have been impressed over the last 20 years, at how far ahead of the ‘other’ metro stops the Town of Herndon’s planning has been. I will continue to collaborate with our community and partners on improving our community for all to enjoy.

How can the town better position itself to manage public safety and road safety?

We, as the elected officials, can make sure we attract and keep the best and brightest staff available. We can also keep in mind that we are part of the Northern Virginia Region and collaborating with the partners will be productive for all. Our Town Staff work very well with staff in the region, which has and will continue to keep our community and roads safer.

Racial diversity continues to grow in the Town of Herndon. To what extent is the town prepared to cater to all communities?

We have a very professional, diverse staff and they work well with all our community. One of the reasons my Husband Harvey moved to Herndon was the international diversity. He felt like he had a front row seat into the experience his great-grand fathers had when they brought their families to the U.S. in 1904. As a parent that has two children that completed Herndon Schools (Fairfax County Public Schools Hutchison, Herndon Elementary, Middle & High Schools) our schools are well prepared. As an active member of the community, I have seen for myself, how our community and town work with people to make them feel welcome. Our own ‘host student’ from Pakistan, now living in the DC area, speaks of how welcome he always feels when he visits Herndon. Our community will always make.

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Mark Keam has resigned as delegate for Virginia’s 35th House District after 13 years (courtesy Mark Keam)

(Updated at 1:30 p.m. on 9/7/2022) Del. Mark Keam (D-35) has stepped down from his seat in the Virginia General Assembly after representing Tysons, Vienna, and Oakton for over a decade.

In an email message to supporters, Keam announced this morning (Tuesday) that he has submitted his resignation to Speaker of the House Todd Gilbert in order to work in President Joe Biden’s administration.

“While I have loved every moment of the past thirteen years as your state legislator, I have decided to continue my public service in another capacity,” Keam said in the message. “…Returning to federal service will require me to work full time, all year long, which is why I submitted my resignation to the Speaker of the House who will soon call a special election to fill the vacancy until my term expires in January 2024.”

Keam will join the Department of Commerce and the Office of National Travel and Tourism in the International Trade Administration, he told FFXnow. His career has included past legal work for the federal government.

Contenders for the now-vacant 35th District seat are already stepping up for a special election that Speaker of the House Del. Todd Gilbert announced will be held on Jan. 10, just one day before the General Assembly starts its 2023 session.

Karl Frisch, who represents Providence District on the Fairfax County School Board, announced his candidacy this morning, positioning himself as “a progressive fighter” who will oppose Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s agenda.

“We need someone who will stand up to Governor Youngkin and the far-right — someone who will work every day to protect our world-class public schools, defend reproductive freedom, build an economy that works for everyone, prevent gun violence, heal our planet, and preserve our democracy,” Frisch said.

Holly Seibold, founder and executive director of the nonprofit Bringing Resources to Aid Women’s Shelters (BRAWS), confirmed to FFXnow that she will also compete for Keam’s seat in the upcoming special election.

(Correction: This article initially said Seibold was going to challenge Keam in a primary next year, but Seibold clarified that she had submitted her candidacy after learning that Keam was going to step down and she got his support to join the race for the open delegate seat.)

Originally elected to the House of Delegates in 2009, Keam was the first Asian-born immigrant and first Korean American to serve in the General Assembly. He helped found the legislative chamber’s first Asian American and Pacific Islander Caucus last year.

During his 13 years as a state lawmaker, Keam made environmental issues a top focus, authoring a bill that established a state grant program to fund electric school buses. Other notable pieces of legislation include a requirement that public schools provide free menstural supplies and the creation of a special identification card for individuals who are blind or visually impaired.

Most recently, Keam easily won reelection to a seventh term last November after facing a challenger for the first time since 2013.

The Fairfax County Democratic Committee thanked Keam for “more than a decade of public service.”

“While we wait to hear when the special election to replace Del. Keam will happen, FCDC is formalizing its plans to operate an open and fair process to choose our nominee,” FCDC Chair Bryan Graham said in a statement. “We will ensure that a Democrat remains representing the people of Dunn Loring, Tysons, Vienna, and Oakton in the current 35th House District.”

Under Virginia’s new redistricting maps, which were approved by the state Supreme Court in December, much of the 35th District — including Tysons, Vienna, Dunn Loring, and part of Oakton — will be subsumed into a new 12th House District that extends south into Mantua down to Little River Turnpike.

The new district will take effect with the 2023 general election.

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Herndon government offices (file photo)

Elections in the Town of Herndon could see some big changes as early as next year.

At a meeting earlier this week, Herndon Town Council began preliminary discussions on changes to elections, including the possibility of increasing and staggering the terms of office and instituting term limits.

Staff are also exploring the creation of town voting districts or wards, but council members said they would need to court significant public feedback before considering possible changes.

Any changes to the elections process could require updates to the town’s charter, town code and an amendment to the state’s constitution.

For example, increasing the terms of office would require amendments to the town charter and the town code, while staggered terms would only require an amendment to the town charter.

Term limits would require an amendment to the town charter and the state’s constitution. Town voting districts only requires an amendment to the town code.

If the town proceeds with any changes, the council will consider moving the legislation to the General Assembly. An ordinance, which must first be adopted by the town council, has to be forwarded to state legislators before Dec. 1 to be considered in the next session.

The earliest changes would go into effect is July 1, and the earliest town council terms would change is November 2024.

Councilmember Sean Regan said he would only want to move forward with the discussion if town residents favor changes. Other council members said they were unsure if it was worth investing town staff and resources into the endeavor.

Overall, the council leaned on exploring four-year terms on a staggered basis.

“We want to go with the voice of 24,000 people,” Regan said, adding that he wants to find out what the “pulse of the people” is on possible changes.

Currently, Herndon has no voting districts. Proceeding with proposed boundaries would require pre-clearance from the U.S. Department of Justice.

Most council members were wary of the proposal.

Councilmember Pradip Dhakal said he was concerned that proceeding with voting wards may not be suitable for a small town like the Town of Herndon.

“It seems so complicated for a small town,” concurred Councilmember Signe Friedrichs.

She also cautioned that it may be too early to consider changes, given the looming Dec. 1 deadline for submitting legislation.

Olem said separating the town into districts could result in divisiveness, with residents from specific areas pitted against each other.

Councilmember Jasbinder Singh — who originally pitched the idea — said the redevelopment of downtown Herndon takes up too much focus from the town and that more representation for other parts of town is needed.

“The energy is taken by the downtown,” said Singh.

Town Attorney Lesa Yeatts cautioned that opening the charter for amendments could result in other changes at the hands of General Assembly members.

“Sometimes, the General Assembly can take liberties and they can amend in ways that once its open, it’s open,” Yeatts said.

However, she noted that it’s much more likely that the General Assembly would deny or accept the proposal, not offer major changes.

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The Reston Association Board of Directors has filled another vacant seat (file photo)

For the second time in the past month, Reston Association’s Board of Directors has appointed a new board member — a process that is typically conducted with a member-driven election.

Margaret Perry fills the Hunters Woods/Dogwood seat that was vacated by Caren Anton in May. Perry, a government contractor, beat out candidates David Crocker, Radhika Gupta Murari, and Carol Nahorniak, who also vied for the position.

The nine-member board has seen two vacancies after members elected three new board members in April. When newly elected board members were officially sworn in on April 13, board member Tim Dowling unexpectedly resigned. The next month, the board appointed John Farrell to take his position.

Both Perry and Farrell will only serve until April of next year, after which the seat will be eligible for at-large voting. The appointed directors also have the option to run in next year’s election.

Perry has lived in the Hunters Woods area since 2010. Her priorities include ensuring all people’s voices are heard and active engagement with members.

“All community members should feel that they not only have a voice, but that their voice is heard,” Perry wrote in a statement.

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Herndon government offices

A trio of candidates is seeking the position of mayor for the Town of Herndon, typically a non-competitive race.

Councilmembers Sean Regan and Jasbinder Singh are running against current Mayor Sheila Olem to fill the seat for the upcoming 2023-2024 term.

Election Day is on Tuesday, Nov. 8, and polling locations correspond with locations for the national elections.

Regan says he wants to create a collaborative environment where diverse opinions are heard and welcome. His top priorities are housing, the redevelopment of downtown Herndon, and traffic and parking.

“We will disagree at times but we don’t have to be disagreeable. We can argue joyfully,” Regan said.

Olem said she hopes to continue leveraging her 12 years of experience as mayor and council member going forward. 

“With the arrival of Metro, my goal is to keep the hometown feeling of community that brought many of us tot he Town of Herndon,” Olem wrote in a statement.

Singh did not immediately return a request for comment from FFXnow. In 2020, Olem faced Roland Taylor after longtime mayor Lisa Merkel stepped down.

On the side of the Herndon Town Council, nine candidates are running for six seats for the 2023-2024 term.

Current council members include Naila Alam, Cesar del Aguila, Pradip Dhakal and Signe Friedrichs. The other candidates are Clark Hedrick, Stevan Portr, Keven LeBlanc, Donielle Scherff and Roland Taylor.

The election is administered by Fairfax County.

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Caren Anton resigned unexpectedly from RA’s Board of Directors (via Reston Association)

Another Reston Association board member has resigned following April’s uncontested election.

Caren Anton, director of the Hunters Woods/Dogwood District, resigned from RA’s Board of Directors yesterday (Tuesday) morning, leaving the association with another vacant seat to fill.

“This was a very painful decision for me because I care deeply about Reston Association. But life is fleeting, and I want to spend the rest of mine serving in ways that will bring me less frustration and greater satisfaction,” Anton wrote in a statement to FFXnow.

The resignation comes after Tim Dowling left the board shortly after April’s election, which welcomed three new candidates to the board following a months-long tally from members.

Anton served on the board for four years, including a one-year term as RA board president last year.

In a letter to recently elected president Sarah Selvaraj-D’Souza, Anton said it was an “honor” to serve the membership. The cause of her resignation was not available for public dissemination.

Mike Leone, RA’s spokesman, said he was unaware of why Anton resigned. Selvaraj-D’Souza deferred comment to Leone on behalf of the association.

John Farrell was chosen at a board meeting on Thursday (May 26) to fill the seat vacated by Dowling.

RA has once again issued a call for candidates. Members can submit their applications online by 9 a.m. on June 10 for consideration. The board will then appoint a new director to serve on the board until next year’s election.

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