How a stint in public service informs the bigger picture at Cavalry
December 13th, 2021, marked the closing of a bittersweet chapter for me. Since December 2016, I’ve had the honor of serving as an elected official in the City of Falls Church, Virginia. It’s where I live and where Cavalry calls home.
In 2016, when I decided to run for office, our city was on the precipice of three major decisions.
- Taking to market 10 acres of city owned land to negotiate a partnership deal with a private developer.
- Planning and executing numerous major economic development initiatives. These put our city on a strong fiscal trajectory and began lowering our property tax rate.
- Bonding and building a new high school. This project involved the largest debt issuance in our city’s history.
Why I Ran
I’m a strong advocate for public service. Volunteering in the communities where you live and work is critical. I feel each of us has a moral and essential human responsibility to offer our time and resources to serve those around us. Given the topics du jour at the time in Falls Church, my professional background, and my desire to provide leadership on those issues, I felt compelled to run for office. Fortunately, my message and experience resonated, and the voters elected me to city council for a four-year term.
What We Accomplished
During my time in public service, I have been fortunate enough to accomplish everything I set out to do. We successfully bid, built, and delivered a world-class high school on time and under budget. To pay for this $120 Million modern marvel, we pursued a public/private partnership to develop 10 acres of land that the city owned where the old high school existed.
Both initiatives had to happen in parallel. The choreography, cadence, and mechanics associated with pulling this off were nothing short of daunting. Through the tremendous efforts of staff, volunteers, consultants, and elected officials, we built our new high school, demolished the old high school, and negotiated a favorable commercial development agreement. Our development partners in that deal, headed by EYA and Hoffman & Associates, will build a 1.5 million-square-foot mixed use development.
This sustainably designed, metro-adjacent project includes virtually every major real estate food group. Office, market-rate and affordable multi-family housing, condos, senior living, a limited-service hotel, ground floor retail, a grocery anchor, and civic space. Although it hasn’t been built yet, the comprehensive agreement, site plan, and financial commitments have been executed. That allows the city to deliver a multi-generational commercial development that sets our city on a fiscal trajectory to achieve one of the lowest property tax rates in the region.
On that final point, despite the economic downturn over the last 18 months, we successfully lowered the city property tax rate for FY2022 by 3.5 cents. That’s something that had not been done in over a decade!
What I Learned
In closing, here are the most important lessons I’ve learned from my time in public service.
- Serving my community in this capacity is THE most rewarding and purposeful thing I have done professionally. Everyone should take the time to volunteer in their own community. It’s truly chicken soup for the soul.
- Having a seat at the negotiating table on large-scale mixed use commercial development deals of this size provided me with invaluable experience and perspective. I never would have achieved that in a lifetime as a real estate consultant.
- I recognize how fortunate I am to live in a community where so many people care so much about the outcome of projects like these. It’s rare to find so many willing to volunteer their time and expertise to accomplish great things that benefit the community far beyond their own lives.
- Most of the people I have had the pleasure of serving and partnering with on the dais, in city hall, or in our school administration come to the job wanting to do what they think is best for the community. I may not always agree with their approach, but I truly believe that most have the best intentions at heart. Fostering that mindset on all sides is the surest way to set the stage for a constructive debate on any topic.
- I’m going to miss it. It was often difficult, always time consuming, sometimes stressful. It was mentally exhausting and it came at a cost to other important priorities in my life. But if given the choice, I would do it all over again.