A Leesburg resident whose political career began in his Ohio hometown has his sights set on a seat on the council dais of his new home.
Zach Cummings, a four-year town resident who lives in the Greenway Farms neighborhood, has filed paperwork to run for one of the three Town Council seats on November’s ballot.
If elected it wouldn’t be his first political rodeo. Cummings ran for—and won—his first council seat in his hometown of Dover, OH, in 2005 at just 23 years old.
“I was born and raised there so I felt like I wanted to give back to the community that gave me so much,” he said.
It was a steep learning curve, Cummings acknowledged.
“I was 23; I hadn’t really gone out and experienced much, other than going away for college. I learned very quickly [a council position] is not as sexy as you think,” he recalled.
Cummings said he learned a lot from his first political stint, serving almost all of his four-year term before resigning to take a job out of the area. Now, with his family settled in Leesburg, he is looking to serve again.
“What drew me to Leesburg was the sense of community I felt,” he said. “It mimicked to me what I grew up with. To be able to give my son that same community feel in an era where that community feel isn’t everywhere, that is pretty special to my wife and myself. Part of enjoying that community feel and being part of that community is stepping up to serve. That’s one of the reasons I wanted to run for Town Council. I feel that my fresh perspective is needed on council.”
He said the need for a fresh face was made even more evident by the events that transpired this week, with three council members accusing the other four of a hidden agenda in moving to terminate the town attorney.
“I don’t think you have to be friends, but can disagree without being disagreeable,” Cummings said.
At the top of his list of priorities if elected is economic development. He points to his background as a Realtor, following a previous career in political fundraising, as being an asset in this area.
“We need elected officials who are able to market and sell Leesburg because we’ve got to balance this burden between property taxes and commercial taxes and ensure the burden isn’t on the individual property owners. We need a balanced approach to fund our town,” he said.
Focusing not only on attracting new businesses to locate in Leesburg, while understanding the challenges of a mostly built-out town, and also ensuring continued success for existing businesses is a good two-pronged approach, he said.
Cummings also points to the need for smart growth and development, as well as ensuring continued viability of the water and sewer utility system, as big priorities. On the former, Cummings acknowledges that many will look at his career choice and assume he will be beholden to residential developers.
“A lot of people are going to think I’ll want every residential development to go up. What I can tell you is home values are related to the new development happening around them. A bunch of new houses won’t necessarily raise property values. You have to really balance this development. Ultimately my job as a member of Town Council is to protect the taxpayers of Leesburg, keep property taxes low. That’s why I want to focus my efforts when we talk about development on true revenue-generating development which is commercial versus residential,” he said.
Cummings has not yet set a date for his campaign kick-off, but said it will likely occur sometime after the March 3 presidential primary. For more information on his campaign go to facebook.com/ZachCummingsforLeesburg.
The seats held by council members Ron Campbell, Josh Thiel and Tom Dunn will be on the ballot in November. None has publicly announced whether they intend to run again. Mayor Kelly Burk is also up for re-election and has confirmed she will be on the ballot. The filing deadline to run for one of the four seats is June 9.