by Gretchen L.H. O’Brien, Bull Run Observer
11 August 2006, p. 7
“He likes that he can make a difference in people’s lives by helping them resolve problems. Some of those resolutions are the feathers he counts in his supervisor’s cap. Some of the accomplishments he’s proud of, over his almost three-year tenure, are relatively small, but he knows they’ve made some locals very happy.”When John T. Stirrup decided to run for Gainesville’s spot on the Board of County Supervisors, he’d been involved in politics for many years but had never run for an elected position. What spurred him to run? ‘I wanted to personally engage and make a difference,’ he explained. He’s had plenty of opportunities to do that in many ways.
“When he was elected in 2003, he was glad to have the chance to try his hand at keeping ‘balanced growth’ in the county. The job, he acknowledges, has been ‘far more rewarding than I ever anticipated.’ His constituents in the Gainesville, Haymarket, and Catharpin area are generally great to work with, he continued. He considers the population in the area to be a ‘very astute, aware constituency.’
“This is not a come-home and become sequestered type of community, he said. People in this area are very aware of, and involved in, the issues they care about, whether it’s the hospital, sports, homeowners’ communities or something else. Residents, he said, send him very extensive, detailed emails on topics of concern. When people are educated on the topic they care about, Stirrup noted, it’s very easy and rewarding to work with them.
“While he knows, and believes Gainesville District residents know, that he cannot always give people the answers the want, he does believe in doing his best to get an answer for them. That’s his job, he said simply.
“The first time many people deal with local government, he realizes, is when something goes wrong. When that’s the case, he wants to know how he can help. People should ‘feel comfortable contacting me,’ he said, even when it’s a state or federal legislative issue. He wants people new to the area, and those who may have lived here awhile, [to know] that the Board is ‘here to serve you; we work for you.’
“For example, the quarter-mile stretch of Waterfall Road that he helped to get paved made an impact on local residents’ lives. He said people still compliment him on that success. In addition, he’s ‘very proud to have been a part’ of the decision-making group that helped get a traffic light installed at the intersection of VA 55 and Catharpin Road.
“In addition, he’s happy to see Bull Run Mountain roads are well on their way to being tarred and chipped. A decision to provide this type of road coverage, he said, took hundreds of man hours by a number of people, including the county attorney, public works professionals, the mountain’s civic association, and others. This project, he explained, typifies how a sometimes-contentious project can be resolved through a lot of discussion and hard work.
“One behind-the-scenes project, which no commuters can as yet recognize, is the work Stirrup and other supervisors did to help Norfolk Southern Corp. sell its Balls Ford Road property to Florida Rock Industries, even though the Virginia Department of Transportation may put a new interchange in the area, which would use a portion of that land. Stirrup said getting everyone in one room and sitting down to hammer out a solution resulted in a decision that ‘everyone was satisfied’ with. Florida Rock’s potential center on that property, Stirrup said, could employ about 1,000 people.
“More recently, the Board worked on what’s referred to as the Silver Lake project, and Stirrup is proud to have helped dliver the ‘largest park and recreation profrer in the history of the county.’ That proffer, he said, will provide a number of sports fields, get Sudley Park open, and provide $2.3 million for park improvements and much more. That was a nearly two-year project, he said.
“Communication and taxes are two other areas Stirrup continues to emphasize. His quarterly town hall meetings, he said, have been a useful way for residents to learn about the community and important issues. In addition, the meetings give Stirrup a chance to meet a wide variety of residents.
“Some of those residents may agree with Stirrup’s assessment that the tax burden should be a little less strenuous. He hopes to get a taxpayer’s bill of rights passed that would put a cap on the increase in [county government] spending to four percent, a number he says adequately matches county growth. He anticipates others will argue with his figures.
“As the county grows, this eight-year county resident hopes to bring more employment closer to home so that residents’ commutes will be shorter, and he’d like to help establish a conference center that could accommodate the county’s business professionals who may currently hold annual meetings outside of the county. This type of venue, he said, ‘will only enhance economic development’ and move the county closer to the world-class community he sees on the horizon.
“He’s gratified to know he has engaged in the community through his town meetings, his efforts on residents’ behalf, and his continued efforts to tackle the tough problems that have no easy answers. Stirrup wouldn’t say whether his horizon holds other political positions. He did say he truly enjoys his position as supervisor and so will likely run again, when the time comes.
“Stirrup hopes local residents will contact him if they have any issues with which they’d like his help. Stirrup’s office can be reached by phone, 703-792-6195, or email, Gainesville@pwcgov.org.
“His website is www.gainesvillesupervisor.com.”