The newly-seated Leesburg Town Council may change some of the way it does business.
The council approved moving forward on several organizational topics this week.
Perhaps chief among these is support for securing office space for the mayor and Town Council. It’s a topic that’s been broached by the previous council, with Mayor Kelly Burk a vocal supporter. Often, discussion has stalled due to budgetary considerations, or the lack of available space within Town Hall’s walls.
This time around, though, a majority of the council seems poised to seriously consider it, giving Town Manager Kaj Dentler permission this week to explore available spaces.
“We’re the largest town in the state of Virginia. Round Hill, with 129 people, their mayor and council have office space. It’s time that we move beyond going to a public place and trying to have a private discussion,” Burk said during Monday’s council work session.
The council directed Dentler to look at spaces both in and out of Town Hall, including other town-owned properties, like Loudoun Museum, or even commercial office spaces. The ideal space would have a dedicated office for the mayor and a conference room available for use by all of the council.
Councilwoman Suzanne Fox objected to the move, however, citing both tight finances and pointing to the changing trends of meetings.
“Especially with COVID the trend has been going more virtual,” she said. “We have a lot of different venues we can meet with people now. To me I feel like we’re going a little bit backwards that way. Between Facebook and texts and coffee shops we have the opportunity to actually meet with folks. Anyone can create a Zoom meeting as well.”
One proposed change could be coming to council meetings themselves. Vice Mayor Marty Martinez has proposed doing away with the invocation at the start of the council’s business meetings.
Martinez said that he has been criticized by his council colleagues in the past for not wanting to do the invocation himself, as often council members rotate who is doing the invocation or leading the Pledge of Allegiance. He made it known that if the council wished to continue doing invocations at meetings, he would not be leading one.
“Prayer to me is private,” he said.
Rather than doing away with it altogether, Councilman Zach Cummings proposed working with the Diversity Commission to reach out to local religious leaders who could take turns leading the invocation at each meeting. Town Attorney Christopher Spera advised that, if the council wishes to go in that direction, it would be wise to create guidelines where participants would need to agree to the terms set by the council prior to leading an invocation. The topic is expected to be addressed at a future work session.
In other business, the council also voted to streamline its proclamation process a bit to set deadlines for when groups could petition for recognition, and to do away with the requirement that proclamations be voted on by the council at the prior business meeting.
The council looks to dig deeper into several topics at upcoming meetings. At its Jan. 25 work session, the council will take a look at Burk’s proposed changes to the Airport Commission, as well as a review of all Leesburg’s boards and commissions. On Saturday, Jan. 30, the council has scheduled a planning retreat at Ida Lee Park Recreation Center where, among other things, its rules of procedure will be discussed. The council also plans to review its ethics policy at an upcoming work session.