Although Dalia Palchik has spent nearly all her life in Providence District, her first term representing the district on the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors still threw her some curveballs.
Though she had some prior experience with the county government as Providence’s representative on the Fairfax County School Board, Palchik tells Tysons Reporter that she still had to get acclimated to the many departments, initiatives, and organizations, all while in the middle of a once-in-a-century pandemic.
“My next goal is to have us get away from acronyms,” Palchik joked.
More seriously, the supervisor says the pandemic has uncovered problems in Fairfax County that she believes can be tackled if the county commits to building trust in the community and working with established and respected local groups and organizations.
She says this year has revealed the vulnerability of communities that have less access to housing, good schools, and walking trails. Those populations also bear the brunt of economic depressions and climate change.
While it is important that the county has hard data showing these inequities, it needs to work “so much faster and harder to help not make those gaps even larger,” Palchik said.
Palchik also saw significant gaps in Fairfax County’s ability to communicate with people who speak Spanish. Upon becoming supervisor, she learned that the county had no Spanish-speaking person overseeing all communications with Spanish speakers.
“I was shocked, honestly,” she said.
For a few months, Palchik filled that role until it was taken over by a Spanish-speaking staff member who joined the county communications team this fall, she says.
As supervisor, Palchik also noticed a disconnect between the county’s operations and the needs of hyper-local communities, noting that many residents are more likely to think of Rhode Island when they hear the word “Providence.”
“They know that they live in Oakton, Falls Church, Tysons, Merrifield or Dunn Loring,” she said. “I think the big challenge is continuing to do things that support our whole county, while honing in at the community development level.”
In the new year, she wants to partner with faith communities in the county and school-parent liaisons. With trust in government — from the local to the federal level — weakened or broken in many areas, the county needs to work alongside groups that already have that trust, she says.
For example, she used to attend a monthly meeting in the Graham Road community where business owners, school administrators, and representatives from libraries and public safety discussed ways to improve access to transportation, schools, parks, and walking paths.
“I would love to see that model spread to other parts of my district,” she said.
Palchik says she wants to focus more on walkability in the coming year, citing climbing numbers of accidents and deaths for pedestrians and cyclists. However, she is worried about finding enough funding to retrofit new areas with trails and sidewalks.
“I’m hopeful our new [White House] administration will be focused on this and help localities boost what we’re able to do for safe sidewalks and trails,” she said.
She also wants to see more support for access to early childhood education, which was a fixture of her campaign platform when she was running for supervisor.
“It looks like there will be a little federal support — I don’t know how much will come to the county — but that’s absolutely an area of continuing need,” she said.
Overall, Palchik is confident and hopeful about the next year of her term.
“I know it’s been a challenging year, but knowing this community so well, I’m just so impressed by the level of commitment and expertise from both our county staff and the community,” she said.
Staff photo by Jay Westcott