Kelly Burk currently serves as Leesburg’s Vice Mayor, and has served as a member of the Leesburg Town Council for over eight years. Burk has also served as Leesburg’s representative on the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors. She has been a resident of Leesburg for 39 years, and a special education teacher in the Loudoun County School system for 34 years. She is a former president of the Loudoun Education Association. Burk’s service to Leesburg and Loudoun government is augmented by her support of Friends of Leesburg Public Art, the Loudoun County League of Women Voters, and the Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy. In 2001, Burk was named Loudoun Woman of the Year by the Loudoun Commission on Women. She also founded the annual Youth Job Fair. Kelly Burk received her BA from George Washington University, and her MA from Virginia Tech. She has been married to Larry Burk for 40 years, and has two sons.
Blue Ridge Leader: Is it a good idea for the Town of Leesburg to seek city status? Why or why not?
Kelly Burk: Some residents may think becoming a city is a solution to high taxes or double taxes; however, there is evidence it will, in fact, raise our taxes. If the only reason to become a city is to lower taxes, there is evidence it might not work.
Cities are mandated to provide a school system, constitutional officers, courts, social services, building code enforcement, an electoral board, libraries, and many other costly functions. Loudoun County now provides those expensive services, and due to the economy of scale, it does so at a lower cost than what the town could achieve. If the town were to take over these services, it is unclear how the town could possibly afford to do so without a major tax increase.
The General Assembly has imposed a moratorium preventing any town from becoming a city. This moratorium will expire in 2018 but there is serious talk of extending the moratorium for another 10 years. This is due to a number of indicators that some of the cities in the commonwealth are in financial distress and failing to provide the service.
BRL: One of Virginia’s Top 10 tourism hotspots is Manassas National Battlefield – just a half an hour from Leesburg. How would you increase tourism in Leesburg and keep the downtown vibrant?
KB: The Loudoun Artisan Trail is one example of how our area towns are banding together to create tourism destinations. The County is discussing how to increase biking in our area. The W&OD Bike Trail runs through the heart of Leesburg, and creating bike trails from other tourist hotspots in Northern Virginia to our area can only create opportunities.
Loudoun is home to 44 wineries, and Leesburg is the Gateway Town to the western part of the County. Having the Visit Loudoun Visitors Center located in Leesburg gives our town greater visibility, and opportunity to draw in residents and tourists.
I would like to see much better signage that tells people what is in town and how to get there. Signs can direct people to events and places.
BRL: What is your goal for residential versus commercial development? What’s the right balance?
KB: No one person can agree on what the right mix of commercial and residential balance should be. The Leesburg Town Plan aims for a 60 percent commercial to 40 percent residential revenue balance. Presently it is at a 23 percent commercial to 77 percent residential revenue balance. What is clear is that residents shouldn’t bear the burden of all of the town’s operational expenses. Residents value a balance between the two, and much of it is tied to the quality of life. Our neighborhoods are who we are – their character, streets, homes, parks, and commercial developments give us that small town feel, even though we are one of the largest towns in Virginia. Our residents understand that a healthy business community is essential to their quality of life and the town’s bottom line. The quality of life and impacts on everyone must always be given significant consideration when reviewing development proposals.
BRL: Do you see the need for Leesburg to extend its borders to accommodate growth?
KB: In recent years, the town has positioned Leesburg as pro-business, and put in place policies that encourage more business growth within the town limits. If Leesburg became a city, the door to annexation would be closed forever. We should always be judicious about any annexations. With redevelopment and new development, there are many opportunities for the town to grow.
BRL: Leesburg residents pay a personal property tax rate of 1 percent, and real estate tax rate of 18.6 cents per $100. of assessed value. What are your suggestions for ways the Town of Leesburg can save money and keep tax rates down?
KB: The Leesburg Flower & Garden Festival, Leesburg Airshow, and our 4th of July Parade are signature events that bring in revenue and create a unique brand for Leesburg. By involving the whole community in these events – and other annual ones – we can further their promotion and create more synergy for more success. As an educator, I believe in revitalization through education; give businesses the tools they need to grow and prosper, especially our small business owners. I am committed to working to increase opportunities for growth, and doing so in a fiscally responsible manner that will benefit the Leesburg taxpayer with efficient use of the taxpayer money.
BRL: Distinguish yourself from the other candidates; if elected, how would you make a difference.
KB: My approach has always been and will be to govern by timely and accurate communication, collaboration, transparency, diplomacy, accountability, and ethics. I strongly believe that the key to effective leadership is being a proactive representative of the people through respectful action, thoughtful listening, and being astute enough to seek the advice of experts where needed.
Having retired from teaching, I can be a full time mayor without the conflicts and commitments of the full time outside job.
During my time on council I spearheaded the creation of the Diversity Committee to outreach to the minority community, I support bike trails and crosswalks at busy intersections. I continue to work to revitalize the downtown. I began the Youth Career Fair and Keep Leesburg Beautiful. I insist that any new or infill residential development mitigate the impacts to the town services, and have govern with honestly and fairness.
My priorities will include: Leading through consensus building, collaboration through active listening with the council, with the town employees, and with local, state, and private industry. I am a firm believer in balanced decision-making through receptive input from others, building partnerships with local communities, and being the best advocate for the people of Leesburg. Going forward, Leesburg needs solid vision, accountability, leadership, unity, and ethics (VALUE) to put us on a continued path to being one of the best towns in Virginia in which to live, work, retire, and play.