Five Vie for Providence District Seat

No shortage of candidates in Providence District Supervisor’s race.

For sixteen years, the Providence District, which includes most of Tysons, Merrifield and the Mosaic, Oakton and the Dunn Loring and Vienna Metro stations, has been represented by Linda Smyth on the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. Smyth was first seated on the Board in 2003 after winning the Democratic caucus held in May of that year. In 2007 she emerged victorious from a June Democratic primary before running unopposed the following November in the general elections, and then winning two more four-year terms in office.

In December of 2018, Smyth announced that she would not be seeking a fifth term. Five diverse candidates look to take her place.

While all five list a lack of affordable housing in the county as a top priority nearing crisis status, and all agree that transportation woes need to be addressed, with varying backgrounds, experiences and perspectives the quintet seek to differentiate themselves from each other and offer solutions that will appeal to the Providence constituents and ultimately propel them to victory at the polls.

Smyth herself has endorsed candidate Phil Niedzielski-Eichner, currently the district’s Planning Commissioner, and one of three candidates who can include public office experience on their resumes.

Niedzielski-Eichner and Smyth have had the opportunity to collaborate as the Commissioner was first elected to the Fairfax County School Board at the same time that Smyth began her tenure as a county Supervisor.

Edythe Frankel Kelleher has also held public office, serving seven two-year terms on the Vienna Town Council. She, too, comes to the race with the backing of a current member of the Board of Supervisors in Mason District Supervisor Penny Gross, for whom Kelleher once served as an aide.

Dalia Palchik is the third candidate who can claim experience as an elected official, having won a seat on the County School Board in 2015, where she chairs the Public Engagement Committee, co-chairs the Women’s Leadership Committee and is liaison to the Planning Commission’s Schools Committee among her other duties.

Linh Hoang and Erika Yalowitz don’t have experience in elected roles, but both foreign-born district residents come to the race armed with significant professional credentials and civic involvement, and like Argentina-born Palchik, an ability to bring a new and diverse voice to the political table.

Whoever wins the day at the primary on June 11, and then in the general election on Nov. 5 will have to handle a full plate at that table. The Providence District is one of the fastest growing in the Commonwealth, with a population of more than 133,000, covering some 27 square miles, and comprising some of the area’s most diverse and dynamic landscape, both physically and economically.

To help voters get a better picture of the candidates who are soliciting your voting approval, the Connection asked some basics for background purposes, and for some remarks on their key issues and solutions and how they see themselves as differing from their opponents. Here are their responses, in alphabetical order by last name.

[Some responses have been edited, simply for space purposes and to maintain a balance of allotted space per candidate.]

Name: Linh D. Hoang

Age: 36

Education: Georgetown University, 2004

Native of: Vietnam

Moved to the District: 2008

Prior and current professional, political and civic experiences, community involvement?

“I work in the private sector as a technology professional to help companies and government agencies use new technologies … I also help innovate start-ups and small businesses commercialize and pursue federal contracting opportunities.

Political experience?

“I have served on the boards of the Fairfax County Democratic Committee, the 11th Congressional District Democratic Committee and the Democratic Asian Americans of Virginia.

  • Virginia LGBT Caucus board
  • DNC LGBT Caucus to engage more Americans in the political process and ensure that our political institutions are more inclusive, responsive and accountable.”

Civic/Community involvement?

“Serving on the Virginia Small Business Financing Authority I helped level the playing field by providing small businesses with access to capital, helping create thousands of new jobs here in Fairfax.”

Why are you running?

“Because I believe Fairfax County is at an important crossroads. Business is growing and communities becoming more diverse. We should celebrate that growth. The question is what do we want that growth to look like in the next five, ten, twenty years? What kind of leaders should we choose today to get us to the Fairfax of tomorrow? … I believe in a Fairfax that offers opportunities for all … one that competes in the global economy, has the best public schools, and one that is a model for inclusion and diversity.”

What do you see as the top 3 issues in your district and what solutions do you propose?

“Diversify our economy: Promoting international trade, empowering small businesses to create good paying jobs, pursuing smart development and improving transit network to get people out of their cars to reduce traffic congestion and improve the quality of life.

World class education: Giving teachers a pay raise, providing access to universal pre-K and more resources and innovation in our K-12 system, including skill-based training to prepare residents for the workforce of the future.

Diversity and inclusion: Build a welcoming and safe environment for all our residents regardless of immigration status and sexual orientation. I intend to end unconstitutional and voluntary collaboration with ICE, provide due process for all residents, and end housing and workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation and identity.”

Key ways you differ from your opponent(s)?

“An an immigrant, a millennial, and LGBTQ person, diversity and inclusion have played an important role in my life. I believe my experience reflects the rich diversity and potential of Providence District and the United States.

I hope to bring my experiences in management consulting, technology innovation, and working with small businesses to the Board of Supervisors to ensure our policies encourage investments in Fairfax businesses and communities.

Name: Edythe Frankel Kelleher

Age: 62

Education: John Hopkins University, B. A. 1977

George Washington University, MBA. 1981

Family: Husband, Gary. Sons Daniel, Brian and Mitchell.

Native of: New York State

Moved to the District:

2016

Prior and current professional, political and civic experiences, community involvement?

  • Current - Southeast Fairfax Development Corporation, Executive Director
  • Bureau of Labor Statistics, Economist/Statistician
  • Legum and Norman, Property Manager

Political experience:

  • Elected to seven terms on the Vienna Town Council
  • Worked on staff of Mason District Supervisor Penny Gross
  • Elected by peers state-wide to Virginia Municipal League’s Board of Directors
  • Appointed to Virginia’s Real Estate Appraiser Board
  • Volunteered for many Democratic candidates

Civic/Community involvement:

  • Appointed to the Fairfax County Economic Advisory Commission, Merrifield Task Force and the Affordable Housing Resource Panel
  • Lions Club, American Legion Auxiliary, Virginia Girls State, Mosaic Homeowners’ Association, Lifelong Girl Scout
  • Participation with several charitable groups, including A Simple Gesture and Good Shepherd Housing

Why are you running?

“I am running for Providence District Supervisor because I believe our county has amazing potential to be a thriving, prosperous community where people from all backgrounds can live, work, and play.

After more than 20 years of local government service, I still believe that government works best when people are informed and engaged. Passionate about the democratic process and my goal is to allow every voice in the district to be heard.”

What do you see as the top 3 issues in your district and what solutions do you propose?

“Building our tax base: Smart new development … and the creation of walkable, transit-oriented neighborhoods [to] increase the tax base, keep rates lower, help sustain traditional suburban neighborhoods, fund the excellent school system, public safety, parks, and other services.

Improve/expand affordable housing: Dense new development offering bonus density to developers in exchange for affordable units within the projects. Look to vacant office buildings for potential conversion to affordable housing…and consider affordable housing possibilities in every county project. We should make it easier for places of worship and other organizations to provide affordable housing.

I served on the Affordable Housing Resource Panel which recommended many financial tools, as well as dedicated $25 million toward construction of new affordable housing.

Reducing traffic congestion: More affordable housing will help people live nearer work and spend less time driving. Transportation must be multi-modal.

Buses must be easy to ride with GPS for tracking to create schedule certainty.

Continue to explore light rail options along Gallows Road connecting Tysons and Merrifield.

Sidewalk and trail connections and pedestrian improvements to intersections needed.”

Key ways you differ from your opponent(s)?

“The only candidate who has served on a legislative body. My 14 years of votes are part of the public record.

As a trained economist/MBA who has worked in revitalization and economic development for most of my career – saw Vienna successfully through the recession while raising bond rating to AAA.

Built relationships throughout the county/state that enable me to work collaboratively to make sure Providence District residents get the most for their tax dollars.

Strong record of bringing together people of differing opinions, hands-on legislative approach.”

Name: Phil Niedzielski-Eichner

Age: 66

Education: John Carroll University (1970-74)

Glenn School of Public Policy, the Ohio State University (1977-79)

Family: Wife Chris, retired airline supervisor, two daughters, both of whom are attorneys, three grandchildren.

Native of: Columbus, Ohio

Moved to the District:

2001

Prior and current professional, political and civic experiences, community involvement:

  • Senior executive in the Obama and Clinton administrations
  • Local govt. executive in Columbus, Ohio and Oak Ridge, Tenn.

Fairfax County Public Service:

  • Honored in 2017 as Providence District “Lord Fairfax”
  • Providence District Planning Commissioner
  • Chairman of the Use of Force Subcommittee of the Ad Hoc Police Practices Review Commission
  • Twice-elected Providence District School Board member; selected by peers to be Chairman
  • Park Authority Board at-large member
  • Economic Development Advisory and Implementation Committees
  • Chairman, Master Planning Committee, Laurel Hills (Lorton) Sire Development
  • PTA President, Rocky Run Middle School and Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology

Budget VP, County Council of PTA’s

  • Soccer Coach: Chantilly Youth Association

Why are you running?

“To serve my community and help preserve and protect our quality of life.

Come 2020, five of the ten-member Board of Supervisors will be new to their jobs, including a new Chair.

I am best qualified to step into the role of District Supervisor and will be ready to lead on day one.”

What do you see as the top 3 issues in your district and what solutions do you propose?

“Affordable housing: ensure equality and opportunity for all

Smart economic growth: Multi-modal transportation, revitalized neighborhoods and commercial centers, and infrastructure construction.

Quality of Life: School-system excellence, environment and open space protection; climate change.”

Key ways you differ from your opponent(s)?

“My depth and breadth of experience are unmatched.

Not only have I held positions and titles, but have a well-documented record of accomplishments.

I have the experience and vision to govern, and bring results, on day one.”

Name: Dalia Palchik

Age: 35

Education: Johns Hopkins University, Post-Baccalaureate, Pre-Medical Certificate, 2011

Tufts University, B.A. Anthropology and French, 2005, Cum Laude

Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, Alexandria, 2001. National Hispanic Scholar.

Family: Parents Marta and Hector Palchik, siblings Violeta, Martin, Gabriel.

Native of: Argentina

Moved to the District:

Originally in 1989, returned in 2005, then 2012

Prior and current professional, political and civic experiences, community involvement:

  • Current Fairfax County School Board member, Providence District Chair, Public Engagement Committee.
  • Liaison, Minority Student Achievement Oversight Committee
  • Member, Tysons Regional Chamber of Commerce (TRCC)

Previously:

  • Board member, TRCC
  • Audit Committee and liaison to the Foundation for FCPS
  • Board member, Woodburn Village Condo Association

Why are you running?

“I am running because I care deeply about the future of the community I was raised in, and have lived in, for almost thirty years. As the school board member for the past three years, I realize we need to continue to invest in our county services, while working to grow and diversify our economy and focus on smart growth.

We must … listen to and engage all stakeholders in the decision-making process. We live in a very diverse district and must include more voices at the table that better represent our residents.”

What do you see as the top 3 issues in your district and what solutions do you propose?

“Affordable housing: Finding creative ways to increase affordable housing must be a priority … this includes public funding, incentives and land use policies to help preserve and increase market-based housing. Just as Arlington County created a plan and a fund to help reach their goals, I believe we need to work more quickly to address our needs.

The Affordable Housing Resources Panel … proposed allocation equivalent to one penny on the tax rate … to support the creation of new homes that are affordable [among other recommendations to spur affordable housing development].

School funding and modernization: We only receive 17 cents to the dollar we send to Richmond and Virginia is top ten for GDP, but bottom ten for funding public education. I will work with partners across the Commonwealth to reinvest in our public schools. In addition, we must look at the possibility of additional bond funding and partnerships with the private sector to help increase capital funds to renovate our schools on time, and get kids out of trailers.

Invest in multi-modal transportation options: In Providence District, we have six Metro stops and two major economic retail centers. I will work with county and state [and public-private partnerships] to increase support for more efficient bus, rail, trails and connectivity. We must review our street grids and continue to invest in non-car transportation options. I will prioritize making streets safer for pedestrians and cyclists … focus on traffic calming measures.”

Key ways you differ from your opponent(s)?

“It has been my great honor to represent the residents of Providence District as School Board member for the past three years.

I would be the first Latina immigrant to sit on the Board of Supervisors, and I would view that as a tremendous honor and responsibility. I would work hard to ensure that everyone has a seat at the table when decisions are made and that historically underrepresented populations are engaged in policies to make our community better.”

Name: Erika Milena Yalowitz

Age: 39

Education: Universidad del Rosario, International Relations, Political Science & Government, 2000-2007

Universidad del Rosario & George Washington University, Graduate Studies, Political

Management & Governance 2006

Georgetown University, Professional Certificate, Business Administration, 2009

Family: Husband Neil, daughter Antonia, and dog Titus.

Native of: Bogota, Colombia

Moved to the District:

2010

Prior and current professional, political and civic experiences, community involvement:

  • Court Officer, Arlington JDR Court, 2014-2019
  • Office for Women and Domestic and Sexual Violence Services, Fairfax County, 2011-2014
  • Hispanic College Fund, 2008-2010

Civic involvement:

  • Vice President, Providence District Council – local organization of homeowners’ associations.
  • Tysons Partnership, Emerging Leaders Council – to build and prepare Tysons to become “America’s Next Great City.”
  • Fairfax Federation of Citizens Associations
  • Rotonda Condominium Unit Association, member, Board of Directors – one of the largest and best managed HOAs in the Washington Metro area, almost 3,000 residents and a myriad of services.
  • Virginia Menstrual Equality Coalition, founding member.
  • BRAWS (Bringing Resources to Aid Women in Shelters) Advisory Board member.
  • Other volunteer activities

Why are you running?

“I want to answer to the needs of my community. We need alternatives to cars, to improve our stand on environmental issues - use of plastics, carbon emissions, etc. I have implemented some of those changes in my massive HOA.

I have volunteered for 16 years in these causes and realized that instead of changing one thing for one day, I can bring about meaningful and long term solutions with a seat at the table where local decisions are made.”

What do you see as the top 3 issues in your district and what solutions do you propose?

“Growth as a threat: Solution – Smart Growth. Control sprawling, focus density in urban areas, preserve the quality of single family neighborhoods, support land use that requires mixed-use for mixed income residential spaces to help people live near work.

Traffic congestion – diversify our modes of transportation. Widen sidewalks, not roads! Prioritize pedestrian and bike safety. Offer subsidies to students and low income individuals to use bike-share programs and facilitate access to transit.

Environmental vulnerability – Promoting renewable energy. Equal opportunity to charge an electric vehicle as obtain gasoline. Re-evaluate our waste management system and bring academia, non-profit, public and private sectors together to engineer businesses that work with recyclable waste. We need to cash in on waste, or we will drown in it!”

Key ways you differ from your opponent(s)?

“I am gratified to have started this race a year ago, and pushed a narrative that set the priorities for other campaigns.

I am a working mother, an immigrant who uses public transportation – most candidates and decision-makers don’t.

I have stood from the beginning for the preservation of parks (Blake Lane Park) and finding alternative solutions for schools that don’t affect the quality of life in our communities.”

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