Last week we asked the four Democratic candidates for Arlington County Board to write a sub-750 word essay on why our readers should vote for them in the May 9, 11 and 13 caucus.
Here is the unedited response from Erik Gutshall:
I’m Erik Gutshall, I’m focused on the future, and I’m asking for your support to be the next member of the Arlington County Board. There are four strong Democrats running for the board, but I believe that I have the perspective and experience that uniquely qualify me to get the job done. When my wife and I moved to Lyon Park in 1995, we didn’t expect to stay long, but like many of you, we quickly fell in love with our new community. Impressed by what Arlington and its schools had to offer, we put down roots, and are raising our three wonderful daughters here. We learned that Arlington’s success story was written by ordinary citizens, with shared values, working together to tackle the challenges of their day. Wanting to give back, I volunteered with my civic association, a local family shelter, and eventually our planning and transportation commissions. I have met so many great people that I know we can tackle the challenges of tomorrow if we work together.
In 2003, I saw an opportunity, and took a risk to start my own business with only a supportive wife, a savings account, and my own determination to rely on. Fourteen years later, I’m proud to say that with hard work, great employees, and more than a few sleepless nights, I’ve built an award winning small business that clients can depend on, and provides for my family and employees. This experience is why I know down to my very core that if you don’t innovate, you stagnate. Our values haven’t changed, but our solutions have to.
While my perspective will be unique on the board, my story is not. It is shared by thousands in our County and if we are going to build an economy that works for all, we must empower our innovators and entrepreneurs to grow and thrive. I will demand a “Get to Yes” customer service culture so that our small businesses – the heart and soul of our community – can spend more time on their customers and less time dealing with frustrating bureaucracy. I know our county government can do this, but they need a leader on the board who will make it a priority. I will be that leader.
As a parent of three APS students, I know how important solving the capacity crisis is to Arlington’s future. Last year I lobbied for the Joint Facilities Advisory Commission (JAFC) because the School Board and County Board must work together to squeeze the most out of our limited space and dollars. On the board, I will champion the JFAC’s work to develop creative solutions that consider every opportunity, whether school, county, or commercially-owned, to build the schools and multi-purpose facilities we need.
I also know the anxiety of a parent who wonders if his daughters will be able to afford to start their families here. I will use my experience as Chair of the Planning Commission to create neighborhood-scale “Missing Middle” housing along our transportation corridors. Modernizing our old-fashioned zoning code will allow private investors to create this housing without taxpayer money to help young families starting out, empty nesters, and everyone in between from being priced out of Arlington.
Being a part of Arlington’s civic dialog has been an honor and a privilege, and facilitating that conversation is a deep expression of my progressive values. Ensuring that all parties have a seat at the table isn’t a box-checking exercise; it is the antidote to divisive issues that can pit neighbors against each other. That consensus-building process is the only way we can hammer out a plan that balances the needs of schools, parks and open space, and community facilities while redeveloping our transportation corridors to provide “missing middle” housing. I know we can stop bouncing from one ad-hoc decision to the next because I’ve been working with you to solve complex challenges for the last 15 years. With your support, I’ll be honored to do it for the next four as your board member. To learn more about what I’m focused on for the future of Arlington, visit Erik4Arlington.com and please vote on May 9, 11, or 13.