Crozet resident Brad Rykal has announced his bid to represent the White Hall District on the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors in this fall’s election, running against incumbent Ann Mallek. The board is comprised of six representatives from each of the county’s magisterial districts, and it guides and controls county operations from the implementation of its budget and comprehensive plan to local land use, housing, and environmental policies, zoning ordinances and tax rates. Mallek has served as the White Hall representative for four consecutive terms since 2007.
Rykal (rhymes with pickle) served in the U.S. Army after college, completing two tours in Iraq as an Intelligence Analyst and a stint working with Special Forces in Afghanistan. After his service he earned an MBA in finance and worked at Rivanna Station, an intelligence analysis facility north of Charlottesville. He and his wife Mallory, a senior scientist with the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab, moved to Western Ridge in Crozet, where they have two children and another on the way. Rykal worked as Chief Operating Officer of a defense contracting firm until the birth of their second child during the pandemic. He now is a stay-at-home dad.
Rykal has embarked on a listening tour to engage with residents across the district, which covers 213 square miles from Batesville to Boonesville to Earlysville and is home to 19,000 people. “I’m running it as an Independent, very intentionally, because I don’t think that national politics should override local community issues,” he said. “I want to have a big tent for both sides because when you talk to your neighbor about something that’s going on in your neighborhood, you care less about D vs. R than about how to better our community.
“What I hear from people, and what I feel as well, is that the board is not working on our behalf, and people want to be able to affect change,” he said. “I want Albemarle County to thrive, but not at the cost of White Hall and Crozet.” A theme for Rykal’s campaign is “We did our part,” referring to the district’s strong growth. “We did the quadrupling that we agreed to—we went from a population of 3,000 to 12,000—but that growth was without sufficient infrastructure to support it. There are capital projects that are needed when you have substantial growth, and those should have been accounted for over the last 15 years. Citizens’ voices need to be heard more clearly at the board meetings.”
During the recent Crozet Master Plan update, citizens and county representatives spent two years trying to establish reasonable parameters for growth, and many Crozet residents were opposed to increased housing density without commitments to infrastructure improvements. “Not many people were happy with that last vote for the Master Plan [during which a new Middle Density category was imposed on several Crozet locations over citizens’ objections],” said Rykal. “Our own Supervisor voted yes. It feels like over the last 10 years, trade-offs were made that put interests over rights and expediency over principles.”
In 2019, Rykal launched a podcast called “The Brad Rykal Brief,” a creative endeavor where he interviews Crozet residents, family and old friends, reviews books, and discusses finance and the pursuit of personal goals. Having just recorded his 100th episode, he says that talking with so many local people has helped him understand what knits a community like Crozet together and has shaped how he sees his potential role as a supervisor.
“What I bring to this position is intelligence, energy and integrity,” he said. “My strong suit is in asking questions and getting feedback. I think what makes a good Supervisor is listening to your constituents and making something happen, following through, persuading representatives from other districts. It’s easy to calcify if you do a job for so long, and you can get pessimistic. I don’t have a pre-canned answer for why something can’t happen. I attack the issue with doubt and inquiry and say, ‘why can’t we get it done?’”
With his background in finance, Rykal says he is prepared to ask reasonable questions about the county budget and spending priorities. “I use an accounting methodology that is zero-based, where there’s not an assumption that last year’s [spending] is set in stone and now you’re asking for $10 million more. I do think that I can go on the Board of Supervisors and affect how others view White Hall. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be running.”
One theme that Rykal says comes up often when he’s listening to residents is the lack of support for businesses in Crozet. “It’s been interesting to me, thinking about how can we make it easier on businesses to operate here. Why is it harder [in terms of regulations] to put up a sign for your business than it is to pipe a stream? People say that the reason they are moving out of Crozet is because of a lack of jobs—they have to leave Crozet to go do something. My approach is to be business-friendly and to make it as easy as possible for them to get spun up here.”
As Rykal contemplates the future as he and his wife are expecting their third child in May, he thinks about the long-term consequences of government decisions on White Hall families. “I have skin in the game, because my kids play at the parks, my kids go to the schools, we ride in the streets, and if there are sidewalks, we walk the sidewalks,” he said. “Every single day, the decisions that are made by our Supervisors on the board affect us on numerous levels.”
In physics and military parlance, a “force multiplier” is a factor or capability that amplifies the power of that force. “In that sense, I think a Supervisor needs to be a ‘community multiplier’—to be able to take the desires of the community and their vision and to make it happen,” he said. “Because who better than the local committed community to say what the vision of the future should look like?”