Two new members of the Leesburg Town Council joined two returning members on stage at the Ida Lee Park Recreation Center this morning to take the oath of office following their Nov. 8 election victories.
Todd Cimino-Johnson and Patrick Wilt will begin their four-year terms Jan. 1. Mayor Kelly Burk was elected to a fourth two-year term. Councilman Neil Steinberg was elected to a second four-year term.
County Chair Phyllis Randall (D-At Large) joined in the ceremony with remarks that put a spotlight on the importance of serving in local government office and the positive relationship between the town and county governments.
“When people need the pothole filled, they’re not calling President Biden. When they need that streetlight turned on, they’re not calling Senator Warner or Senator Kaine. And, God knows, in a weather event when there is ice or snow, they are not calling [U.S. Rep.] Jennifer Wexton, they’re calling their local elected officials. This service—the service closest to the people—I think is the highest calling and service in so many ways,” she said.
And she warned the new members that public service is a full-time duty—and to be prepared to be stopped by constituents even at the grocery store during late night runs for ice cream.
“This is noble service and I thank you both for stepping up. I welcome you to the family of elected and appointed officials,” she said.
She also stressed the need to work together.
“We’re not always going to agree—you shouldn’t always agree with people in your own party to be quite honest—you’re just not supposed to,” Randall said. “But the thing is, we should be able to respect one another’s services and quite frankly have a modicum of respect for one another no matter if we agree or not.”
Burk also highlighted the importance of serving in local government.
“A recent Pew poll found that only 19% of the U.S. population holds the federal government in high regard, 49% believe and trust in the state government, but 72% of people believe and trust in our local government. That’s a huge responsibility and we need to make that number even stronger,” Burk said. “We must not mess this up. We, as local representatives, carry a heavy load. We must be honest. We must listen to the residents, even when they criticize us, even at 2 o’clock in the morning, even in the grocery store when you’re getting Chunky Monkey [ice cream].
“We must engage in learning all that we can about the issues and the concerns. We must work with others. We must work with all different ideologies and different people. We have to come up with solutions. And we must respect our residents, our elected officials and each other. I hope they will respect us in return, but we must by ready to give Leesburg our dedication, our time and our energy, and to make the best decisions based on what we know,” Burk said.
“It was a fast four years. It’s hard to believe I’m standing here for the second time already,” Steinberg said. “It was a pure joy, actually. Sometimes there were some hiccups but, overall, I thoroughly enjoyed representing the town of Leesburg and all of its residents working with our wonderful staff.
He also offered some advice to the new members on how to a handle those complaints about potholes and streetlights.
“When those calls come, the first thing you do is call Kaj Dentler, our town manager, or the appropriate department head and make sure they take care of whatever the problem is. And then you take the credit,” he said, drawing laughter from the crowd.
He described local government service as a very complex job with a lot of moving parts. “We do the best we can to serve each and every resident within the town and do the best we can to make this one of the nicest places to live in the state of Virginia, and the country for that matter,” he said.
The new council members said they were looking forward to serving the town’s more than 50,000 residents.
“Thank you to the voters of Leesburg for their confidence and supporting me and electing me to serve in this office,” Wilt said. “I’m looking forward to representing the residents of Leesburg, working with the Town Council and town staff and helping to guide this wonderful town for the next four years.”
Cimino-Johnson highlighted that he was the first out LGBTQ individual to serve on the council.
“Representation matters, and I just wanted to let any individual in Leesburg know throughout the Commonwealth that we are here, we are not going anywhere, and we will be in the halls of power,” he said.
Burk said there is a shared mission to improve the quality of life for town residents.
“I look forward to the next two years of working with the rest of the council members to continue to make Leesburg the exciting and vibrant place that it is—that makes all of us want to live here or work here. I want to continue to ensure that Leesburg is a safe place to call home and the Leesburg is the town that welcomes and embraces its diversity,” Burk said.
The Town Council held its final scheduled meeting of the year Tuesday. The new council is scheduled to hold its first meeting Jan. 10.