County Chair Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large) for the sixth time delivered what has become one of the hallmarks of her time in office: a state of the county address.
During her tenure, she has transformed the program, once a relatively quiet affair in front of the Chamber of Commerce, into a more elaborate celebration of Loudoun and its citizens.
With the COVID-19 pandemic receding, this year’s event returned to its usual extravagance under Randall, with an extensive program including the national anthem, a poem recital, two brief additional speeches and a separate speaker to introduce Randall, along with a small stage decorated with flowers and ushers in matching outfits, and a slideshow before the event with musical accompaniment.
This year was an all-female program, which spotlighted eight remarkable young women in Loudoun, including Bellen Woodard, Alana Andrews, Jasmine Coe, Nola Trindade, Zahria Ford, Elizabeth Michael, Mahsa Riar and Caroline Taylor. Woodard, known for launching the More Than Peach project in elementary school, said it was Randall’s plan to feature women in her 2020 to mark the 100th anniversary of the passages of the 19th Amendment that guaranteed women’s right to vote, but the COVID-19 pandemic pushed those plans back.
Randall’s speech centered on the pandemic and the racial reckoning over the past year. She recapped the county’s response to COVID-19, from freezing $100 million in the county budget to protect public finances in uncertain times, to rounds of business grants and support for nonprofits and the work of the county Health Department.
She also pointed to how well Loudoun’s businesses have done, relatively speaking, in weathering the pandemic, but also the particular difficulties faced by hospitality businesses.
And she referenced the wave of protests across Loudoun and the nation in the wake of more police killings of Black people.
“After hundreds of years and generations of African Americans being unjustly imprisoned and murdered, in 2020 a long overdue reckoning on racial injustice swept the country even faster than the COVID pandemic,” Randall said. “Likeminded people of all races, ages, orientations and demographics flooded American streets, masked up and fed up. Loudoun residents joined millions of people not just from across the country, but from around the world.”
And she pointed ahead to the Board of Supervisors’ ongoing work to tackle the high cost and low availability of housing in the county.
“Over the coming months we have decisions to make,” Randall said. “How many new neighbors can we welcome to Loudoun, and where will those homes be located? How do we build infrastructure in advance of or in conjunction with new housing? Is it important for us to have a community where college graduates and retirees can live? And very importantly, what is the connection between attainable housing and a strong economy?”
She also thanked educators for their work teaching online, and recognized the difficulty of doing so, particularly for special education students.
And she dedicated a large chunk of the speech to thanking and congratulating county staff members for their work during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Randall said once again, as she has every year since she began hosting a State of the County address at the beginning of her first term, that the state of Loudoun is “strong.”
Read the full text of the address here.
This article was updated May 27 at 12:54 p.m. to correct the number of times Randall has delivered a State of the County address, and at 2:58 p.m. to amend language around the slideshow.