(Updated 11:00 a.m.) Just days after the Providence District Supervisor Linda Smyth announced she wouldn’t be running for reelection next year, at least two candidates have stepped forward in a competitive race to fill that seat.
Along with Board of Supervisors Chair Sharon Bulova also announcing her retirement and Supervisor John Cook’s earlier decision not to run, the Providence District race opens up a chance to see new leadership at the county level.
Erika Milena Yalowitz, a Tysons resident, Arlington County court officer and a board member of the Rotunda Condominium Unit Owners Association, formally announced her intention to run for Board of Supervisors in July at a launch event in the Tysons Biergarten. School Board member Dalia Palchik announced on Tuesday (Dec. 4) that she would also be running for the seat.
Both candidates have cited development’s impacts on infrastructure and schools as primary focuses of their campaigns, but there are still differences between the candidates. Yalowitz said her experience in the courts and with neighborhood associations gave her a well-rounded civic background, while Palchik said her experience as a teacher and within the School Board has given her experience in handling the schools as well as planning issues.
“This is a new era, I think we need a new vision,” said Dalia. “[We need to be] addressing needs of schools and kids. Land is tight… we have a lot of wealth as well as a lot of poverty.”
“She’s good as a school board member, but I feel I would be better at governing,” said Yalowitz. “I worked with the Fairfax County government from a human services perspective, and now as a court officer I have an understanding of issues about criminal justice.”
Yalowitz said her experiences with the Rotunda Condominium Unit Owners Association have given her experience in land use issues and working with the Tysons Partnership.
But Palchik said her experience on the School Board has given her broad exposure to the inner workings of Fairfax county government. Last night, Palchik spoke to Tysons Reporter after serving as the school board liaison to the Planning Commission.
“We are looking at the policy on the planning commission… regarding the ‘One Fairfax’ policy on how we handle schools through planning lenses,” said Palchik. “I don’t know that other members have direct experience in land use.”
Palchik said the gains of Tysons aren’t making their way to other parts of the district
“In our county, in Providence, we’re starting to see resegregation,” said Palchik. “We’re trying to figure out how to address that. Socioeconomic and racial resegregation are happening in Providence. How do we ensure that mixed income housing is affordable?”
Meanwhile, Yalowitz is part of the new population of the ever-growing Tysons, which she said gives her a unique insight over Palchik into the local infrastructure needs.
“I get the issue of density,” said Yalowitz. “I get the issue of growth, and the needs we are looking at for the future. Our schools are overcrowded. Our roads are overcrowded. I believe we can do better, I believe we can continue building for the future.”
Both candidates highlighted the need for Fairfax County to gain greater independence from state control, though over different issues. Yalowitz said Fairfax needs to gain greater control over it’s roads to be able to swiftly and reliably react to the infrastructure demands brought on by new development.
“Most of the roads in Fairfax are controlled by VDOT and we have no control,” said Yalowitz. “We make a bike lane and those lanes can be repainted by the state. Arlington doesn’t have that problem. Arlington owns most of its roads. We need to work with the state to change that. Tysons needs more autonomy.”
Palchik, meanwhile, said the Providence District could be a leader in renewable energy if it could free itself from state control.
“We have to work with the state to be more energy efficient,” said Palchik. “We’re limited in Virginia on what [localities] can do for solar energy, but we need to be more forward thinking with our carbon footprint.”
Whoever is elected to fill Smyth’s seat, Planning Commissioner Phillip Niedzielski-Eichner said in an email to Tysons Reporter that managing how the new development in Tysons impacts the Providence district will be the biggest challenge.
“Tysons development will continue apace toward becoming a full-blown urban center and Supervisor Smyth’s successor must continue to press for diversity and creativity in building design, adequate public facilities to support a growing resident population, affordable housing units dispersed among high-density developments, open space for recreation and enjoyment, and a pedestrian-friendly infrastructure such as sidewalks, walkways across the broad thoroughfares and street lighting.”
Tysons Reporter also reached out to Edythe Kelleher, a former member of the Vienna Town Council, who, sources say, is considering a run for Board of Supervisors. But Kelleher said she was not prepared to comment.