Arlington, VA

Earlier this month we asked the three candidates for Arlington County Board to write a sub-750 word essay on why the county’s residents should vote for them during the March 27 special election.

Here is the unedited response from Libby Garvey (D):

Like many ArlNow readers, I believe this is a pivotal time in Arlington. We are a vibrant, energetic community – without a doubt, Arlington is a great place to live and do business. But the years ahead present very real challenges and opportunities for our community as well as some very significant decision points for our community’s leaders.

The candidate who wins the March 27 special election will play a crucial role serving on the Board when Arlington faces critical decisions about how we manage change and opportunity in a time of limited resources. Our County Board must be clear about Arlington’s priorities and stay grounded in the fact that it serves you — the Arlington citizen. Our County Board’s priorities must be reflective of our community’s priorities.

While others make promises about improving our County, I have a record of accomplishment. My role in improving our public schools clearly demonstrates my ability to work effectively on an elected board to accomplish defined, measurable goals and objectives. As readers likely know, I have served the Arlington County School Board for more than 15 years, including five terms as Chair. I am proud of my School Board leadership and the work the Board has done to anticipate and adapt to the County’s changing landscape.

When I came to the Board in 1997, our capital program was a mess. Now, we have renovated and rebuilt almost every one of our schools, largely on time and on budget. Because projects were shovel-ready when the recession began in 2008, the Wakefield High School reconstruction project began earlier than initially thought possible, saving taxpayers nearly $30M. When completed in 2013, Wakefield will serve not only as a high school, but also as a valuable – and much needed — community resource.

Although our schools still have work to do, we’ve closed the achievement gap between majority and minority students by about 50% as shown by Virginia Standards of Learning. The Washington Post’s Challenge Index ranks our 4 high schools in the top 1% nationally. People like Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and companies like Boeing move to Arlington, in part for our excellent schools. And, as more people choose to live in Arlington, the student population grows. As a school system, we have worked aggressively to accommodate rising enrollment, through a number of coordinated short-, mid-, and long-term strategies.

This is not a race for School Board, but the traits and characteristics of a successful board member on an effective, responsive Board are the same. They are:

  • Establishing, and sticking to, clear goals and priorities that reflect what citizens have made clear are the most important needs of our community;
  • Being transparent, monitoring progress and reporting back to the taxpayers, even when the reports aren’t so good;
  • Being a team player who remains an independent thinker, one who speaks up, who questions and proposes alternatives.

For 15 years, you have seen me maintain that necessary balance. Independent, original thinking coupled with my years of service and experience is exactly the combination our community needs in our next County Board member.

Finally, we also need someone who has stood, and will continue to stand, up for our core civic responsibilities: public safety, education, transportation, physical infrastructure, affordable housing, and concern for the most vulnerable.
Again, I have a long track record. A commitment to civic responsibility — and to building a better community for everyone – is the thread woven throughout the fabric of my life. I am proud of my service – in the Peace Corps; as a PTA leader; on the School Board; and, and in the wake of 9/11, representing area school boards on the National Council of Governments’ Emergency Preparedness Council.

Whether born in Arlington or a transplant from elsewhere, we Arlingtonians share something important: a sense of community and a commitment to making Arlington a place where the system works for everyone. As we grow and change, we must keep that sense of community and shared values. That is why I’m running for County Board.

If elected, I promise to work as I always have — to listen to you, to look ahead, and to make decisions that I believe will serve our entire community well. I ask for your vote on March 27.

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