New Town Administrator
Middleburg has formally announced that it has hired Danny Davis as its new Town Administrator, replacing Martha Mason Semmes who, after 8 years of service in the post, will retire in January.
Middleburg Mayor Bridge Littleton commented, “We are delighted to welcome Danny, who has extensive experience in local government and will be a huge asset to the town,” said. “At the same time, we’re sorry to see Martha retire. We thank her for her many years of service. Her leadership and dedication have made a significant difference to the Town of Middleburg.”
Semmes had first served Middleburg as its Town Planner and Zoning Administrator 1995-2003. She returned in 2010 to take the position of Town Administrator.
Davis has nearly 15 years of public and private sector leadership experience. Most recently he served as President and Executive Director of an assisted living community.
Prior to that, he worked in local government for almost 14 years, serving most of that time in policy development and executive management for the Loudoun County government. In the last post with the County he served as Chief of Staff to the County Administrator. He then served as the assistant town manager of Purcellville.
Davis has broad experience in local government issues including community and economic development, citizen engagement, fiscal management, organizational development, and public information and communications.
A native of suburban Atlanta, Georgia, Davis moved to Northern Virginia in 2000 to attend Patrick Henry College.
He received his Master of Public Administration from George Mason University in 2013.
He has been a member of the Virginia Local Government Management Association and International City/County Management Association; served on the board of directors of Visit Loudoun from 2007 to 2010, and on the board of directors of Leadership Loudoun from 2016 to 2017.
Davis resides north of Gilberts Corner with his wife and three daughters.
The family is involved in many activities at Reston Bible Church in Sterling.
Turnout was heavy in Middleburg for elections held on Tuesday, November 6, with more than 300 voters casting ballots in a special local election and more than 800 in the national midterms.
In a special election for the Town Council Seat vacated by Middleburg’s Mayor, Bridge Littleton, and occupied on an interim basis by former Council Member Bundles Murdoch, Chris Bernard defeated Kurt Abendschein 185 to 135. Three votes were cast for write-in candidates. Only residents of the Town itself were eligible to vote.
Bernard, 32, is West Federal Retail e-Commerce Director and manages three Middleburg businesses: Lou Lou Boutiques, Crème de la Crème, and Zest Clothing, Inc.
Bernard was formally sworn in by the Loudoun County Clerk of Court
U.S. Senate and House
Tim Kaine (D) received 491 votes to Corey Stewart’s (R) 301. Kaine’s 61% majority here was only slightly less than the 63% he received in the County as a whole.
In Middleburg Democrat Jennifer Weston defeated Republican Barbara Comstock for a seat in the U.S. House representing Virginia’s 10th District 459 to 352. Wexton’s 57% majority here was 3% lower than her roughly 60% majority in the County as a whole.
Both former Middleburg Mayor Betsy Davis and current Mayor Bridge Littleton had formally endorsed Comstock, in a joint letter under the heading, reading, “From the Desk of the Mayor. . . ,” a move that prompted some negative reaction in local social media.
At the November regular session of Middleburg Town Council Mayor Littleton spoke directly to the issue noting that: 1) the endorsement was NOT written on official town letterhead, nor was it meant to appear so; 2) it was clearly identified as from and on behalf of the Comstock campaign; 3) both he and former Mayor Davis were simply exercising their right of free speech as private citizens; and 4) there was nothing unusual at all in seeing a Middleburg Mayor or other elected official stumping on behalf of a candidate.
Both Kaine and Wexton carried the State, as well as the County and Town.
A special election in January will fill the seat in the Virginia Senate vacated by Wexton.
New Middleburg Police Officer
Police Chief A. J. Panebianco administered the Oath of Honor to Middleburg’s newest addition to its Police Force, Officer Ryan Gray, at special badge-pinning ceremonies held at Town Hall in the presence of the Town Council, the general public, family and friends.
Ryan, Chief Panebianco reported, “comes to Middleburg from the Warrenton Police Department by way of UPS.”
Rural Summit Calls for Action
A three-quarter-day RSVP “Rural Summit “ of concerned citizens and community leaders was held at Middleburg’s Salamander resort on November 14, called by Loudoun County Board of Supervisors Chair, Phyllis Randall.
The full house of attendees expressed almost universal concern that, in the words of Attorney John Flannery, “the push by developers, favoring suburban gentrification of Western Loudoun, threatened to build thousands of residential units that will compromise, if not destroy, the natural treasure that is Western Rural Loudoun.”
Middleburg Mayor Bridge Littleton helped open the conference. “It’s all about the Comprehensive Plan,” he told attendees. “The Comprehensive Plan is ‘the’ document which will govern land use for all Loudouners for the next 20 or 40 years. It’s just as important to Loudouners in the East as it is to the West. If we continue unconstrained development, it means worse schools, higher taxes, more transportation, and we destroy the Western Loudoun … we all enjoy.”
Lovettsville Vice-Mayor Jim McIntyre concurred. “I think the biggest thing we have to communicate is the value of Loudoun’s Rural West,” he said. “We can’t emphasize that enough.”
Chris Van Lack, the President of the Loudoun Farm Bureau, called for “ . . . a Comp Plan that recognizes that we need a critical mass of acreage for agriculture so that we can have the economic strength so that those farms can continue, and also [continue to wield] the conservation tools that … help keep our water clean, and serve the entirety of Loudoun County, [and] take the pressure off having to do more structural water cleanup in the Eastern part of Loudoun County.”
Tia Walbridge, an active sheep farmer, in Western Loudoun, a founding board member of “Save Rural Loudoun,” an associate director of the Loudoun Soil and Water Conservation District, and member Virginia Agricultural Council was originally named as MC for the Summit.
She withdrew, however in the face of accusations that the assignment was evidence of political partisanship on Walbridge’s behalf on the part of Loudoun County Chair Randall. Walbridge had announced her intention run for the post of Blue Ridge District Supervisor. Tony Buffington presently represents the that District
According to reporting by John Flannery, “In the political tumult that followed, a Lovettsville activist threatened online to bring a crowd to disrupt the Summit – if Walbridge does not withdraw as the Summit’s MC. “
“Walbridge,” Flannery noted, “confirmed the threats in an interview, and said that she withdrew so as not to distract from “the important business of the Summit.”
Both Blue Ridge Supervisor Buffington and Catoctin Supervisor Geary M Higgins attended the Summit.
A Flawed Process?
From the beginning of the “Envision” process, by which the County set forth to draft a new County Comprehensive Plan, there has been legitimate community concern that the “process” suffered from a grave risk that it was calculated to deliver a pre-determined outcome.
The thousands of comments from the citizens (recorded in small 10 pica type), as part of the “process,” demanded the Board preserve Western Loudoun as Rural:
“Stop the urban sprawl and protect Western Loudoun.”
“Maintain two distinct areas, rural west, urban east.”
“Keep the West rural.”
The residents’ opinions were at loggerheads with a separate “Foundation Report” that claimed, “Loudoun County has evolved from a collection of rural villages” and from when it was “primarily an agricultural community.”
The Report insisted that there was a “growing market demand for new types of development and community amenities.”
The Report then took aim at the rural lands of Western Loudoun, “the remaining uncommitted or underdeveloped residential land that could be developed in the future is approximately 1/3 of available land in the Rural and Transition areas …”
Western Loudoun’s rural land, as envisioned in the Report, represents an inventory of land “available for development” of 82,600 acres.
The number of residential units “envision[ed]” for Western Loudoun has crept upward as the “process” marches on; thus the public outcry.
Attendees and presenters at the Summit were unanimous in their view that a rural West is also an invaluable financial, cultural and environmental asset for our fellow citizens in the East.
“Talk to your Supervisors and to the County Staff, for sure,” several presenters urged, “but also talk to your friends and neighbors who live in the east. Saving the west is good for us all.”
Town Cash Grants for Non-Profits
At its November regular meeting Town Council approved a total of $40,000 in cash grants to the following non-profit organizations:
A Place to Be: $4,000
Backpack Buddies: $3,000
Cherry Blossom Breast Cancer Fund: $2,000
Loudoun Abused Women’s Shelter $1,000
Middleburg Community Center: $8,000
Middleburg FISH: $5,000
Middleburg Museum Foundation: $4,000
Seven Loaves Services: $9,000
Windy Hill Family Services: $4,000