In his final State of the County address before he retires at year’s end, Arlington County Board chair Jay Fisette said he is proudest of providing stable leadership during the county’s transformation.
Fisette, in his fifth annual address before the Arlington Chamber of Commerce as chair since coming onto the Board in 1998, said he believes his legacy will be the way Arlington has become more urbanized and expanded its population while staying true to its values.
“For me, it would be helping to guide the 20-year transformation of the community into an urban success story that we are,” he said. “Change is hard, and doing that in a way that has resulted in a community that’s a model in so many areas of public life, while at the same time protecting the connectedness and the compassion of a small town. There are a lot of things that have to happen to make that kind of recipe work.”
In his remarks before more than 100 business leaders, elected officials and other attendees Wednesday morning, Fisette touted various successes in his tenure as the current Board’s longest serving member.
He noted the 9.5 million square feet in new office space and 2.5 million square feet in new retail space, 2,700 additional hotel rooms, more than 29,000 new homes and other indicators, all while the unemployment rate stayed largely consistent at 2.5 percent, among the lowest in Virginia.
“In short, the state of the county is really good,” Fisette said. “In my view, Arlington works.”
But, Fisette said, Arlington faces numerous challenges, including on affordable housing, Arlington Public Schools capacity and an 18 percent office vacancy rate among others. He said the county has faced problems on his watch, like the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the Pentagon and the loss of thousands of jobs through Base Realignment and Closure, but has always come through.
And despite those challenges, Fisette said the relationship between the business community and the county government remains strong, “[e]ven when our relationship is one where we don’t agree,” like the recent spat between the Chamber and Board over proposed changes to the towing ordinance.
Fisette had 10 recommendations for county leaders, after the jump:
- Be welcoming and compassionate. “In this difficult period in America, being so divided, and our immigrant community feeling threatened, we have to maintain our values,” Fisette said. “Our most vulnerable residents will be feeling more pressure, our nonprofits will be called upon, but this is the soul, and without the soul, none of the rest works.”
- Collaborate to use the county’s limited land wisely
- Emphasize long-term planning
- Keep being a regional leader, especially on Metro, which Fisette said needs a new dedicated funding source by the spring to avoid jurisdictions having to pay even more than they do already
- Invest in new tools to protect the county’s affordable housing stock, which has added 5,200 units but lost around 17,000.
- Never put the county’s Aaa/AAA/AAA bond ratings at risk
- Facilitate broader and more constructive civic engagement
- Keep moving forward with environmental sustainability practices
- Stay “nimble” to adapt to the changing business environment
- Make sure government works for everyone and is accessible
For the future, Fisette advised County Board members to continue to be forward-thinking and prepared to make hard choices.
“Stay true to a vision of values, ground yourselves in solid planning and policy, listen and lead,” he said. “Finally, respect and be informed by the past while continuing to be open to new and creative ideas for the future.”
Chamber CEO Kate Bates said she is excited to see what Fisette does in the community after he retires.
“I know Jay will stay involved in the county, and am excited to see what he does next,” she said.
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In loving memory of Joseph Robert Kapacziewski, who passed away in 2023 at the age of 41.
In loving memory of James Stuart Edmonds, who passed away in 2023 at the age of 84.
YULA’s ultimate frisbee spring season is now open for registration. We offer programs for middle and high schoolers — open to all players, whether they are new or have previous experience.
In the Middle School league, mixed-gender teams practice once during the week and have games on Sunday afternoons. Spring league is a fun, safe, and positive environment. The season begins mid-March and wraps up with a tournament in early June. There are several options for practice days, so we can often work around schedule conflicts with other sports & activities.
The Arlington-Aachen High School exchange is returning this summer and currently accepting applicants.
The sister-city partnership started in 1993 by the Arlington Sister Cities Association, which seeks to promote Arlington’s international profile through a variety of exchanges in education, commerce, culture and the arts. The exchange, scheduled June 17th to July 4th, includes a two-week homestay in Aachen plus three days in Berlin. Knowledge of the German language is not required for the trip.
Former participants have this to say:
_”The Aachen exchange was an eye-opening experience where I was fully immersed in the life of a German student. I loved biking through the countryside to Belgium, having gelato and picnics in the town square, and hanging out with my German host student’s friends. My first time out of the country, the Aachen exchange taught me to keep an open mind, because you never know what could be a life changing experience.” – Kelly M._
Valentine gifts for someone special or for yourself are here at George Mason University from noon -4pm on February 14, 2023. Satisfy your sweet tooth with Kingsbury Chocolates, find a handmade bag from Karina Gaull, pick up treats from Village