Albemarle County Board of Supervisors White Hall District representative Ann Mallek has announced that she will run one last time for re-election to the board this fall. Mallek is currently serving her fourth consecutive term as supervisor after having been first elected in 2007. At a campaign re-election announcement event on February 18 at the Crozet Library, about 30 constituents and reporters listened to her case for why she’s still the right woman for the job.
“I’m an effective representative with strong convictions and understanding of the community and its history, and a record of advocacy on which people can rely,” said Mallek. “While we should not live in the past, my institutional memory is important. We must focus on needed improvements while keeping our community feel and character.”
Mallek noted that many top issues in 2023 are reminiscent of those back in 2007. “Residents worry about rapid residential development, increasing population, and community services which have not kept up—from missing sidewalks, to playgrounds and parks, to the cost of housing,” she said. “But our place matters. The sense of belonging to the community is directly tied to our sense of place. Longtime residents worry about the loss of community they know and love, new residents do their research before coming here and count on local government to follow its adopted values. We must do better.”
Mallek said that for effective planning to happen, all citizens need to consider how the county will grow. “Rapid growth may make some sectors of the economy wealthy, but leaves residents paying the [tax] bills and suffering the impacts,” she said. “We all have a stake in these decisions. Safety, opportunity and prosperity are all interconnected. One example: our economy cannot prosper without trained and capable workers, who cannot be trained without learning effective critical thinking skills, who cannot work here without access to housing within their means, who cannot get to work here without transportation infrastructure.
“So, what is our community’s future and how do we get there?” Mallek continued. “Debate will surely continue about the growth area boundary, as it has since 1980 when it was created. Our urban surfaces growth area is limited to 5% of the county [land mass]. Understand that expanding services costs a fortune. Thus, the growth area limits make financial as well as environmental sense. We must oppose decisions to allow sprawl and neighborhoods into the rural area when they don’t have any accompanying urban amenities such as water, sewer and sidewalks.”
As an example of necessary infrastructure, Mallek lauded the library building itself. “It is great to be standing in this space,” she said. “This library was put on the books in 1988 and we finally got it open 2013. It was a very, very big deal for the county and for the residents of this Crozet growth area, which has grown as you know from 2,500 residents in 2005 to over 10,000 today. So, the people are already here, now the services need to follow ASAP.”
On the sidewalk outside the library during the event, a half-dozen protestors held signs advocating governmental policy prescriptions, such as “Practice Budget Restraint,” “Lower the Tax Rate,” “Bring Back Transparency,” and “Excellence in Schools,” along with “Retire Ann Mallek.” Among them was John Lowry, who ran for supervisor of the Samuel Miller district against Liz Palmer in 2017 and lost.
“I am a Republican, but these others here are just concerned Crozet citizens who wanted to hold signs today,” said Lowry. “I’m willing to participate, and we’re just offering another point of view. It’s been surprising as we’re standing here, there have been lots of people that absolutely agree with us and want to tell us about it. [These issues are] on their mind.”
In comments to the Gazette after the launch event, Mallek addressed her path to and motivations for running again. “It’s true that I was having an argument with myself for several months about the ‘fire in the belly’ needed to continue,” she said. “It was actually others around the state and in the White Hall District who lit that fire again. I felt bad that I was considering turning away the presidency of VACo [Virginia Association of Counties] and co-chair of the EPA’s Small Community Advisory Subcommittee by not even trying get re-elected.”
Certain issues are perennial and continually worrisome to Mallek. “The problem of affordable housing is not just about paying incentives to developers, but finding the correct partners whose business model really is building the housing we need, not just more high-density, market-rate units,” she said. “The water protection and buffer issues are high priority and will not happen without constant pushing for more progress. The next meeting on April 19 will inform us on progress to date. Tied in with that is the boring old Comprehensive Plan, but without doing an exemplary job on that plan in this review, Albemarle may end up like every other place, and that would be sad.
“There is true frustration among citizens about rising costs, and the sky-high assessments due to high demand for housing here,” said Mallek. “Yes, more people means higher costs and taxes—period.”
She has also consistently stressed the importance of stream health. “In the 80s I was loudly criticized for raising the issue of too many people outweighing the ability for our ecosystem to manage our impacts, and that has come true for sure. There is not a macroinvertebrate in the stream along 21 curves, while just 20 years ago there were hundreds which could be seen and counted in just an hour. Too many people, too much runoff.”
Mallek is thus far running unopposed, as she did in the 2011 and 2015 elections.