There is a special election this November for the Board of Supervisors seat that was previously held by Dick Glover, who passed away in February. Mr. Glover was the representative for the Brookland District for 30 years, and this year marks the first election that does not have an incumbent running for the spot.
This week, we are spotlighting Courtney Lynch, who is a Democrat running for the seat. Courtney is a former Marine Corps Officer, William & Mary Law School Alum, owner of a leadership consulting firm, and mother of three. We sat down with Courtney at Final Gravity and asked her a few questions about her experience and positions:
How do you think your experience as a mother and a Marine have prepared you for this position?
Becoming a Marine was all about my desire to serve and add value. As a Marine, I learned how to lead. I am deeply committed to being of value here in our community. Earning the opportunity to serve as the Brookland District representative on the Board of Supervisors is an extension of my lifelong desire to be of service to others.
As a mother, I’ve learned that my children aren’t going to affirm everything I do as a mom. I won’t expect citizens to affirm all that I do as a candidate or as a Supervisor, and that’s okay. As I knock on doors and share thoughts with voters, I appreciate their candor. While it’s great to work with people who agree with me, it’s more interesting and valuable when there are differences. I believe the best ideas come from leveraging diverse perspectives. It’s been an absolute joy to meet new people throughout our district.
Dick Glover represented the Brookland District from 1987 to 2017. That’s 30 years of having one person representing the district. If elected, what changes would your constituents expect to see? What would stay the same?
One of the things that I want to stay the same is the feeling of access. I want to be out and in the district every day. Dick was great at being present and being accessible. I want to preserve that and be responsive to citizen needs.
Dick and I were born in different eras. I respect what he has done in the community, and I have directly benefitted from everything that he added to the community. I’m looking forward to the future. My goal is to build on his legacy of service in a way that is valuable for the Brookland District now and for the future.
I also want to point out, that I am NOT going to be serving 30 years! I have a strong belief in term limits and think that turnover in the government is necessary to ensure that fresh ideas and thoughts are brought forward. I went to William & Mary Law School. Thomas Jefferson studied there as well. I appreciate Jefferson’s belief that elected officials should move between political life and service in other ways so that government stays representative of the people. My goal is to serve well, and then when the time is right, step aside so the next leader can bring their perspective.
As a Democrat running for a consistently Republican held seat, what challenges do you think you’ll face?
The Brookland District has changed. It’s becoming a more Democratic District. I’ve seen this firsthand as I’ve been knocking on doors and canvassing. I have met a lot of Democrats. I want to be a Supervisor for all citizens. I think it’s important that we move to a post-partisan era. Meaning, we respect the diversity of thought and beliefs represented throughout the electorate as we seek the best paths forward to resolving challenges. Local office is exciting because you can have support from Republicans and Independents. For example, I want to give a shout out to Ben Dessart. He ran a great campaign, and he is the type of innovative leader that I would love to see remain engaged in the political conversation in Henrico. Brookland is fortunate to have great people who represent a variety of political viewpoints.
I’m a proud Democrat, and I’m excited to see the change, but I want to make sure all feel comfortable to share their thoughts and beliefs.
As you know, the Governor’s race will also be on the ballot this year. To what extent do you think national and statewide politics will figure into this race?
I think it will drive strong turnout. We’ve already seen this in the June primary, the turnout was extremely song for both parties. After the events of 2016, regardless of your preference, we are seeing more people engaged. Engagement is the foundation of a strong democracy, and it’s great to see.
In Lakeside both Lakeside Elementary and Holladay Elementary are only partially accredited. How do you plan on addressing this, and what influence do you think the Board of Supervisor can have on education in the Brookland District?
All the Brookland District schools are meeting minimum standards, but we can do better. We need to do better. If elected I will be the only mother of school-aged children on the Board of Supervisors, and only the second woman to serve on the board in the history of Henrico. Moms matter. During my campaign, I’ve spent a lot of time listening to fellow parents, educators and school officials. People value the idea of having a representative on the Board of Supervisors who has three kids in the school system like I do. Schools represent more than half of the County budget expenditures, so it’s important that the relationship between the Board of Supervisors and the School Board be as strong as it can. If elected, I’d like to help build a bridge between the two Boards.
And while the budget for schools is significant, I also know that it’s not all about the money. We spend more per student in the East End than in the West End, but there is still a difference in outcomes for kids based on where they go to school. I’d like to encourage more public private partnerships – engaging local businesses in the process and doing better to put schools in the center of the community. Our future is our children, and I want to explore ways we can bring more integrated community support to our schools.
Lakeside can feel caught between the big money of Western Henrico and the low income needs of Eastern Henrico. How will you make sure that Lakeside/Brookland has a strong voice?
Lakeside and the greater Brookland District in many ways are a microcosm of our country. It’s important that middle class communities are strong and that their voice is heard. I think there is a good opportunity to influence outcomes throughout the County and our District can be a bridge between the East and the West. I want to strongly represent the Brookland District and I want to help the county as a whole meet its challenges. I don’t want to make it all about my district versus yours. I want to contribute to the next era of success for Henrico County.
While Lakeside has been seeing new developments both within the district and in the surrounding areas, some of the longer standing shopping centers (Brook Run for example) have been in a decline. If elected, how would you address this?
I am definitely for infill development for places like Brook Run and Dumbarton Square. Willow Lawn is a great success story, and Libbie Mill is an example of a success story in the making. We know that there is going to be growth in our area, the key is to grow smartly. We have to make sure that community viability and sustainability happen alongside the profits and commerce that come with growth.
I have a real passion for development. My father worked as a civil servant with the Fairfax County Planning Commissions from 1970 – 1998. My dad has always been quick to highlight what Fairfax did well – green space and bike and pedestrian access – and he is also quick to point out some of the things they did not do as well (congestion challenges, land use concerns.) Voters today are more open to smart planning. It doesn’t have to mean new sprawl. With the Comprehensive Plan coming up for review next year we have an opportunity to continue to ensure our community stays livable as we grow.
As a business owner, I value the free market and how excellence in the market creates profit. Today, development excellence means reinventing blighted areas and building livable communities that have the amenities all generations value.
Your opponent has been the Planning Commissioner for the past 6 years. What are your thoughts on development in Brookland?
I think proper planning and transparent citizen input – transparency around the entire process – are important. I want true citizen input. We have a smart electorate and the flow of information needs to move more freely. From zoning laws to architectural review, a lot of the aspects of the planning process need to be made clearer to citizens. Especially around what can and cannot be changed based on citizen input.
The recent Dollar General on Mountain Road is a good example. Some citizens didn’t understand the process and thought they had more opportunity to change the outcome than they actually did.
I think it’s important the we preserve the feel of the Brookland District. I love that I can be in Short Pump in 15 minutes or that I can get on my bicycle and be deep in the countryside in the same amount of time. That diversity is unique and as our community grows we can focus on making sure the Brookland District stays special.
Where do you see the Brookland District in the next 5 years?
I see Brookland as being vibrant and strong. It grows more diverse every day – and that’s a great thing. We have excellent economic development opportunities here. We have everything that an employer could want: great schools, an educated workforce and quality government. I see a future for Brookland where we continue to attract talented people and vibrant businesses to our fantastic community. With good leadership and planning we can ensure a positive quality of life for our families and neighbors.
You mention sidewalks and cycling infrastructure as key to “Smart Development” on your website. How will you improve upon existing infrastructure?
The first thing to do would be to assess what we have and seek projects that can improve our pedestrian and cyclist infrastructure in cost effective ways. There are places where paving a simple 10-foot stretch could connect two neighborhoods for bikers and walkers. I would look for conservative ways to provide maximum return. We need to do some of the simple things – like crosswalks and safety lights. Sadly, Henrico County has the highest amount of pedestrian fatalities in our region. We need to make our streets safer.
We need to hit the low hanging fruit first and then look at best practices that have worked in other regions. I went to North Carolina State University so I think about Wake County, NC with bicycle and pedestrian paths. Or look at Fairfax City and how they are testing road diets- meaning they are repainting existing roadways to include bike lanes and pedestrian walkways.
We are fortunate that though groups like Bike Walk RVA, we have access to experts right in our area who can support our County in becoming more livable.
As Henrico grows, we need to find ways to make pedestrian and bike accessibility an essential part of how we live. It’s a public health concern – we as a society need to be more mobile – and it’s important to find feasible ways to incorporate mobility into our daily lives.
You also mention areas of potential infill for development; do you have any plans to require infrastructure development to go along with that development? (An example is the new Kroger shopping center on Staples Mill, which has no pedestrian or cyclist access.)
These are the serious discussions that we have to have with developers. I’m not going to mandate things, because each development is different, but these are the types of discussions that I am a strong proponent of having. I like to see all sides. We can’t just be, “No, we don’t do this in Henrico.” I want to help create beautiful, livable, and profitable communities. I’m a business person, and so I understand margins and meeting payroll. I deeply respect that. I want to work with developers to redefine what excellent development looks like in Henrico. Developers want to keep up with market demands. And clearly, people in Henrico are seeking sidewalks and bike paths. Together government and business can work towards meeting those needs.
Richmond is currently working on a BRT system to move people along the Broad Street corridor from two points in Henrico. Long term plans include a bus redesign with a branch service near Lakeside (http://www.richmondtransitnetwork.com/Pages/Final-Plan.aspx) at Chamberlayne and near the south of Bryan Park. What would you want to see from Henrico on further increasing public transit to the Lakeside area? How do you see cooperative efforts with the city and Chesterfield playing out in the future?
Multi-jurisdictional communication and cooperation are on the upswing in our region – even as a candidate I’ve seen this. The belief that economic development as a region is more effective is strong and I see lots of examples of neighboring jurisdictions cooperating for the good of the region. Of course, there are still strides to be made, and access to reliable transportation is important for all. I encourage Lakeside residents to engage with the County when it comes to transit concerns. The more people who voice their desire and need for greater access to buses, the more feasible increasing transit lines will become. As the Brookland District Supervisor, I would welcome greater citizen engagement on this important matter.
Join us next week when we will have an interview with Republican candidate Bob Witte!