By Liz Palmer
I am honored to be running for the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors in the Samuel Miller District, where I hope to serve the people of Albemarle with dedication and commitment. As a supervisor, I will focus on supporting school excellence, and I am proud to have been endorsed as the pro-education candidate in this race by the Albemarle Education Association. I am also committed to protecting our unique natural resources, and getting the infrastructure that we need, such as schools, roads, bike paths, parks and bridges. And I will dedicate myself to maintaining the public trust by involving citizens in all important decisions.
As I actively campaign from door to door, from Bellair to Batesville to Bungletown, I am often asked why I decided to run. I told an elderly man in Howardsville that I have a deep commitment to Albemarle County and know I can do a much better job than the incumbent, Duane Snow. I told a young working mother in Ivy that I am the fiscally prudent, socially responsible choice in this race and I listed for her some of the poor decisions my opponent has supported.
And I tell them all a little bit about myself. I tell them that my elderly parents, whom I care for deeply, moved here in 1975, and that I moved here in 1996 to be closer to them. That our children Clay, Ben, Matt and Bailey attended Albemarle County Public Schools and that Matt, Ben and Bailey graduated from Western Albemarle High School. That I live near Meriwether Lewis Elementary School with my husband Herb Stewart, my loving companion and supporter. He has spent his entire career as a clinical psychologist at Western State Hospital, while I have been a practicing veterinarian for over 30 years and started a mobile practice in 2008 for end-of-life care and pain management for dogs and cats.
I first became active in local issues in 1996 when, while hiking with my children along the Moormans, I was shocked to see that three miles of the river below Sugar Hollow Dam was dry. Water was being piped to Ragged Mountain Reservoir, but a lot was being wasted because of poorly maintained, antiquated infrastructure, and there were no plans or money to fix it. This started me on a 12-year journey to get a long-range, 21st-century water supply plan adopted, so that our people would have the water they needed and our rivers would be properly protected.
In 1997, I joined a League of Women Voters committee where I met and worked with a number of people, including respected long-time Supervisor Sally Thomas, to work on long-range planning to protect our county’s rivers and streams and keep our water supply local. We examined how water pricing can help with conservation, and involved the Darden School in improving the water authority’s management structure. In 2006 I was appointed to the County water board where I worked on a fair-pricing system that would help us rebuild our needed infrastructure without stressing small water users. And we implemented a policy to make growth pay for growth through appropriate connection charges.
I am proud of the 12 years I spent working on the water supply plan that was adopted in 2011. It brought together the local business and environmental communities (no mean feat) as well as city and county governments. I have continued my service on the county water board, after being reappointed in 2010. And I am honored to say that Sally Thomas is now my campaign manager.
I have also served on the boards of the Rivanna River Basin Commission and the Ivy Creek Foundation. In the Commission we addressed water quality in the entire watershed, and in the Foundation we worked to foster environmental education and recreation for the public.
Over the last four years I have watched with concern the direction the county is taking. We declined to make important long-term investments in our infrastructure and schools, missing the window of low construction costs and interest rates (though Crozet’s beautiful new library is an exception). Furthermore, we have not done the necessary planning to prepare for the needs of an aging population in our rural areas such as North Garden and Esmont.
My opponent has made decisions where insensitive development—often inconsistent with our rural heritage—has trumped quality of life and safety. We saw that in this year’s vote to approve a commercial campground in historic Howardsville in the flood plain of the James River. In the name of economic development, he and two others voted for a campground where lives would surely have been lost when the James flash-flooded this spring, just as the neighbors had predicted.
Public participation has not been a priority of some on the current Board of Supervisors, as was seen in the now-infamous midnight vote on the Western Bypass – a maneuver in which Duane Snow actively participated, taken with no warning to the public, late at night. The Daily Progress called the vote “a show of disrespect” and said, “The end-run around the public amounts to an act of contempt for the public. This is exactly the sort of maneuvering we abhor when it occurs in the halls of Congress. It is even more appalling when it occurs at such close range.” (Daily Progress, 6/14/2011).
These and other decisions, such the vote against the Women’s Equality Day resolution and withdrawing from Cool Counties, paint a picture of an Albemarle County government that is letting slip its leadership role in good governance, environmental protection, and carrying out the wishes of its people. We can do better. Much better. We must do better to attract good teachers for our schools, entrepreneurs with vision who will build the technology companies and rural enterprises of our future, and do better to maintain our quality of life for future generations.
Albemarle County is one of the most attractive and desirable places to live in the entire United States because its citizens care. Its local government, reflecting local citizens’ involvement, has made tough choices in rural areas to ensure natural resource protection. This protection is essential, not only to our quality of life, but also to the robust economic vitality of Albemarle County. The shortest path to economic decline would be to damage our natural resources, either by neglect or intention, in the name of uncontrolled, anything-goes economic development. I have made – and will continue as county supervisor to make – efforts to insure that appropriate balances exist to respect and protect our natural assets. A healthy environment is good for everyone. Our children will thrive and our economy and property values will grow.
We all travel around our community without thinking about the political boundaries between city and county. However, the political relationship between the two has grown increasingly strained. As a member of the County water board, I have worked with the Charlottesville City Council to successfully negotiate cost-allocation agreements on large infrastructure projects. One of my goals as a member of the Board of Supervisors will be to improve City-County relationships for the benefit of the citizens of both jurisdictions.
This November, I ask you to elect me to the Board of Supervisors from the Samuel Miller District. Together, we can protect our community from the threats it faces and from the neglect it has endured. Virginia has given me many wonderful opportunities and experiences over the years, and I would like to now give something back. The citizens of Samuel Miller District deserve a better choice than their current representation on the Board, and I offer them my energy, enthusiasm, experience and determination to work with them, for them, in an open and trusting government. Thank you,