The newly elected Loudoun County Board of Supervisors will hold its first meeting on January 3. During that meeting, it will elect one of its members to serve as vice chairman, approve members and chairs of its standing committees, and adopt its rules of order.
The first meeting of a new board is always interesting, as it is the first real glimpse of how the board will operate and who its leaders will be. It also sets a tone for the next four years.
Sometimes, there are surprises.
In the first board meeting of 1996, newly elected chairman Dale Polen Myers was clearly stunned when a “gang of five” supervisors (including current Chairman Scott York) made a show of force by rejecting her proposed slates for the board’s standing committees.
This reportedly sparked at least one heated exchange between supervisors behind the scenes, and ultimately led to a board vote to censure one supervisor for his conduct during that exchange. The bad feelings among the two factions on the board echoed throughout the four years of that board’s term.
Myers enjoyed some measure of payback in 2004, even though she had been defeated by York in a bid for re-election in 1999 and no longer held elected office.
York had just been elected to a second term as chairman. However, a pro-development group of supervisors, including supporters of Myers, turned the tables on him during the first meeting of 2004, stripping him of some of the powers that had traditionally been granted to the chairman.
In one memorable moment, York attempted to recess the meeting, a routine action that is usually unquestioned by other board members. But this time, York was voted down, and he left the dais in frustration as the rest of the board continued the meeting.
The tone was set. Sniping between members of the two factions continued over the next four years. Vice Chairman Bruce Tulloch, as leader of the majority faction, arguably wielded more power than York throughout that board’s term.
I don’t anticipate any major surprises on January 3, 2012. Still, the meeting will provide some early indications of who the board’s leaders will be and how it will operate.
I will be interested to see who is nominated to serve as vice chairman, and whom York selects to serve as chair of the board’s Finance Committee.
The vice chairmanship was once primarily a symbolic position of leadership – a designee to run meetings when the chairman is absent. In recent years, however, both the chairman and vice chairman have worked closely with the staff to develop policy and strategy on key issues.
The Finance Committee is arguably the most powerful of the Board’s standing committees, as it helps develop fiscal policy and keeps a close eye on the county’s finances. In the past, the chairman of the Finance Committee has been included in top level discussions with staff, the county’s financial consultants, and representatives of the bond rating agencies.
It will be interesting to see if Sterling District Supervisor Eugene Delgaudio, as the senior board member not named York, is chosen for one of those positions, signifying that he will be part of leadership of the new board, or if he moves back to his customary position anchoring the ideological right end of the board. Delgaudio chaired the Finance Committee during Tulloch’s reign as vice chairman.
Ashburn District Supervisor Ralph Buona appears to be well positioned to assume a position of authority on the new Board, either as vice chairman or Finance Committee chair, or perhaps as chair of a resurrected Economic Development Committee. Buona is a former chairman of the Loudoun County Chamber of Commerce and member of the county’s Economic Development Commission.
Several other new board members have experience in public office, and may be in line for leadership positions. Ken Reid (Leesburg) and Janet Clarke (Blue Ridge) have served on town councils. Geary Higgins (Catoctin) is a former school board member. Suzanne Volpe (Algonkian) was a planning commissioner.
Or will relative newcomers such as Shawn Williams (Broad Run) or Matt Letourneau (Dulles) be tapped for leadership positions on the new board?
The first meeting will be telling.