Hello Middleburg! I am pleased to see so many people in the Town elections on May 1, 2017. Ten people filed for the available mayoral seat and four council seats. I cannot recall this many candidates competing in recent years!
We experienced recent turnover on council. Middleburg elected four new members of council in the 2016 elections: J. Kevin Daly, Phillip Miller, Peter Leonard-Morgan and Trowbridge (“Bridge”) Littleton. These new members replaced Trowbridge (“Trow”) Littleton (“Bridge’s” father), “Bundles” Murdock, Erik Scheps (who moved out of town) and Kathy Jo Shea.
The Town ballot on May 1 will have the following seven candidates contending for four available council seats: Chris Bernard, Kevin Hazard, Darleen Kirk, Peter Leonard-Morgan, Kristin Noggle, Cindy Pearson and Mimi Stein. In addition, I am also among three contenders for the open mayor seat.
This is terrific civic participation, but I am concerned that council may soon lose its continuity and long-term memory. Currently only Betsy Davis (retiring at the end of June), Kevin Hazard, Darlene Kirk and I were on council to experience and are able to remember council events before 2016. If the citizens do not elect any of us in May, no one on the next council will possess this knowledge!
A degree of continuity is invaluable to the council. Knowledge and experience can prevent many mistakes. For example, the four of us (including Betsy Davis) remember treacherous mismanagement by a previous Town Administrator that brought Middleburg to the brink of insolvency about a decade ago, depleting Middleburg’s reserve funds. Middleburg went from a $103K general fund surplus following 2003 to a deficit of $748K in 2006 (source: April 26, 2007 report from our auditor, Davenport & Company LLC). This was just in time for the big recession, making a serious situation dire.
This financial debacle led to staff turnovers and painful budget decisions as council labored to right its budget. Middleburg began raising the tax on real estate by close to 50% and looked at similarly painful cutbacks.
Middleburg council and staff are operating on a much higher, responsible level now. Still, backsliding takes place in much less time than the climb back up! It can take a long-term boom to recover from a frighteningly quick bust.
Middleburg’s budget for the next fiscal year (FY19 is from July 1 2018 through June 30 2019) is down a bit from this year. The current draft budget is down slightly by about 3.3% to just over $5m in all funds (General, Utility and Health Center).
One concern for me is current look at space needs for council, police and staff. Council knows we need more space for staff. We must also reduce meeting-space contention between council and its many committees. Thus, council anticipates a professional report soon on potential solutions from PMA Architects. A new ad hoc committee discusses divesting and acquiring Town property. I am hopeful that these do not lead council into unwise spending decisions, such expansive building or acquisition.
Experience and continuity also helps council protect the village that Middleburg is and its unique character as the foxhunting equestrian capital enshrined by our beautiful and tranquil countryside.
I look forward using my lengthy and broad council experience to bring council to its next level with the leadership Middleburg deserves to keep pace with an ever-busier schedule. I am also determined to balance tourism with citizen concerns, as I want to do more for residents – for example, informal citizen meetings.
That is my opinion – what do you think? Do you have ideas to improve Middleburg? I would love to hear your comments, suggestions and questions!