Walbridge Withdraws from Rural Summit Amid Partisan Rancor

Farmer, conservation activist, and 2019 county Board of Supervisors candidate Tia Walbridge will no longer emcee County Chairwoman Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large)’s rural summit planned for Friday, after protests from western supervisors Geary M. Higgins (R-Catoctin) and Tony R. Buffington (R-Blue Ridge) that her involvement made the summit a political event.

They also complained that they had been excluded from participating in the event rather than simply attending, and Higgins suggested it may constitute a violation of the board’s code of ethics, or a misuse of county funds, since Randall’s office staff organized the event.

The complaint quickly turned into a political flashpoint, with social media outcry, former Republican state chairman John Whitbeck editorializing against the summit’s apparent political nature and former School Board member Jeffery Maged writing to board Vice Chairman Ralph M. Buona (R-Ashburn) to request censure against Randall. Buona nominated Maged to a county advisory panel, the Other Post-Employment Benefits Investment Committee, in 2017.

Walbridge, a sheep farmer, founding board member of Save Rural Loudoun, associate director with Loudoun Soil and Water Conservation District, and member of the Virginia Agricultural Council, announced in September that she would challenge Buffington for his seat representing the Blue Ridge District on the Board of Supervisors. She was also scheduled to emcee the rural summit.

Randall said Walbridge called her and asked to withdraw from the event after seeing a Facebook comment suggesting reserving rooms on behalf of white supremacists, contacting CNN, and “sit back and watch the cavity searches.”

“The post shook her and shook me, to be quite honest,” Randall said. “And she called me and what she said is—and she is correct—that this summit it too important to the rural west, and these things have become a distraction and maybe even slightly dangerous.”

Instead, Hillsboro Vice Mayor Amy Marasco will emcee the event.

Walbridge said she withdrew because her involvement got in the way of “conversations are just so much more important.”

“The fact that they’ve made it political, I think, is very unfortunate, and the issue at hand is just such an incredibly critical one to get right this year,” Walbridge said. “We have to make some pretty major decisions as a county for the future of western Loudoun.”

The county Planning Commission is currently working on the county’s new comprehensive plan, amid discussions about other programs that might help the county’s rural lands like a transfer of development rights program or Buffington’s proposed conservation easement assistance program.

In an email to supervisors Wednesday afternoon, County Administrator Tim Hemstreet said with Walbridge’s removal from the program, county staff members would be allowed to participate in the program. Department of Economic Development Executive Director Buddy Rizer is scheduled to appear on a panel discussion, “View from the Inside: Tools available for the Rural Economy.”

“Since the event is no longer a political event, and staff believes that our presence at the Rural Summit provides a positive impact to the Rural economy, County staff is permitted to attend the event and to participate,” Hemstreet wrote.

Randall has not conceded that the event was political in nature.

“There are times we should give one another a break,” Randall said. “There are times when—the partisan atmosphere is so high right now. Every decision is seen through these not just partisan eyes, but terribly suspicious partisan eyes.”

On Wednesday afternoon, it was also decided the summit will include a tribute to Malcolm Baldwin, the prominent Loudoun County conservation leader who died Monday. The summit is planned for 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 16 at the Salamander Resort & Spa in Middleburg.

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10 thoughts on “Walbridge Withdraws from Rural Summit Amid Partisan Rancor

  • 2018-11-14 at 6:50 pm

    Randall’s political handouts on the public dime need to stop.

    A rural summit at a billionaire’s resort? Does that make any sense whatsoever?

  • 2018-11-14 at 8:40 pm

    A tribute to Malcolm Baldwin makes it into a political event, too. He was a Democrat who lost to Mr. Higgins for supervisor.

  • 2018-11-15 at 10:14 am

    This is how you get stuck with the Silver Line, the bridge to nowhere in Maryland and other multi million dollar boondoggles. We went to the bargain bin once to often and ended with this BoS. If there was a “none” option on the ballot so as to leave the seat vacant would we be better off? Instead of having to hold your nose to vote for the lessor of 2 evils, vote none. We could hire a staff that reports to elected BoS members to take care of constitute services. Knowing what we now know would we miss Buffington, Higgins, Randall and Wallbridge, we will never know but if I had to guess the answer would be a resounding NO!?

  • 2018-11-15 at 10:57 am

    “Since the event is no longer a political event, and staff believes that our presence at the Rural Summit provides a positive impact to the Rural economy, County staff is permitted to attend the event and to participate,” Hemstreet wrote.”

    So everyone in the county knows it was political event, except…. The Chair. And she’s sticking to her story. Yet she has the audacity to blame everyone calling her out on her political event, is due to, “politics.” You can’t make this stuff up. We deserve soooo much better.

    • 2018-11-15 at 1:04 pm

      Randall’s a typical bad manager. A glory hound that wants to be at the center of everything good and positive, but blames everyone else when things go wrong and fails to take responsibility even when she is clearly at fault.

      It’s not her fault the line-up was pure Democrats, it was her Republican colleagues (whom she failed to invite) who represent the area for being sore losers in the latest election. Everyone knows this was a political eveny, and Randall continues to deny reality.

      Classic narcissism.

  • 2018-11-15 at 2:58 pm

    “The fact that they’ve made it political, I think, is very unfortunate, and the issue at hand is just such an incredibly critical one to get right this year,” Walbridge said. “We have to make some pretty major decisions as a county for the future of western Loudoun.”

    “They” being who? The two supervisors for Western Loudoun that were not invited to the event?

    Let me get this straight. Randall organizes an event for rural Loudoun without including Higgins and Buffington who represent the People of the rural Loudoun districts, asks her buddy Walbridge who will run against Buffington to be the master of ceremony, and when everybody calls it for the campaign event it is, Walbridge defects the blame on everybody but Randall?

    Talk about the pot calling the kettle black.

  • 2018-11-15 at 3:52 pm

    Back on October 27th, Supervisor Tony Buffington (R-Blue Ridge) and Supervisor Kristin Umstattd (D-Leesburg) presented the American Legion with a proclamation passed by the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors honoring the local military community. Chair Randall was also there and gave the keynote speech. They were all there in their official capacity as elected officials in Loudoun County.

    While she couldn’t be bothered to attend the actual program portion of the event, Barbara Comstock also showed up for a few minutes so she could get a photo op with some veterans. She then sent out a tweet on her official account (she has another for campaign activities) saying she “joined Supervisor Tony Buffington” to recognize veterans. There was no mention of the Democratic elected officials who were also in attendance. Since Supervisor Buffington presented the proclamation with Umstattd and was on stage with Randall while she gave a 15 minute stage, there’s no way he could have missed either one of them.

    Since he didn’t say a word in opposition to Comstock’s political stunt, it’s clear he had no problem allowing her to use him and Loudoun’s veterans as political props in the final days of her campaign while implying the Democrats weren’t there to support veterans. Of course, that move would benefit him and his political party

    But Buffington is now making a huge deal out of Chair Randall trying to lead a discussion on issues important to rural communities in Loudoun because she didn’t give him a heads up that she was planning it. It seems to me that he was more disappointed that voters would see Randall engaging the general public like she’s been doing throughout her career and is therefore worried that it might give credibility to Democrats who she supports. Buffington should be ashamed of this and, as someone who lives in the Blue Ridge district, I’m embarrassed to say he represents me on the Board of Supervisors.

    • 2018-11-15 at 8:05 pm

      Did Buffington or Comstock use our taxpayer money to organize the event for the sole purpose of pushing their campaigns and in the process purposefully excluded other elected officials that represent the local military community?

      If so, you are absolutely correct, this is a disgrace and must be denounced.

      If not, you are off topic and comparing apples and oranges.

      The problem is not holding a campaign event. The problem is organizing a campaign event disguised as official government business using county staff paid with our tax dollars, all the while excluding the supervisors duly elected by the People of the Loudoun County districts this summit is supposedly about.

  • 2018-11-15 at 9:30 pm

    If this was the one and only time Randall “accidentally” left out other supervisors, she could feign ignorance. However, this is one more incident in a disturbing number of events that Randall has organized and purposely not informed or invited the local Supervisor. That is the problem. She is holding events as political stunts to promote Democrats and “forgets” to invite the Republicans. Clearly she is doing this on purpose to the detriment of the citizens of Loudoun. She pretends to be fair when she is clearly partisan to the point of harming constituents. And that is a big problem.

  • 2018-11-16 at 10:57 am

    And here I thought Randall was the only one in the county claiming it’s not a political event. Now she has her true believers out saying… “but but but, what about them?”
    Let me explain this: Chair Randall doesn’t care about anybody or anything but Chair Randall. She is completely convinced she is the smartest person on the planet, and the rest of us exist to reinforce that perception. She is surrounded by yes people, who tell her exactly what she wants to hear, and thus, there can be no deviation from her view of the world around her.

    If she had any actual advisors who would tell her the truth, they would have told her this was a political event, and it needs to be billed as such. It’s that simple, and nobody would have even noticed or cared. For Randall to continue to claim otherwise, when everyone, including Harrison Street, knows it’s a political event is concerning and perhaps an indicator she desperately needs a tough advisor to explain reality to her. In her world, our tax money is her money, and we taxpayers are the crazy ones for calling her out on her reckless use of our taxes to further her self-image.

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