Longtime Leesburg resident and popular county legislator Kelly Burk started her official 4-year term as Leesburg’s Mayor on Sunday, January 1.
A Virginian by birth, Burk considers Leesburg to be her hometown, having lived there for over 40 years. She served on the Leesburg Town Council from 2004 to 2007, and on the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors from 2008 to 2011 – chairing the Board’s Transportation and Land Use Committee. She returned to serve on the Leesburg Town Council in 2012, and served as Vice Mayor under Mayor Kristen Umstattd, before capturing the Major’s seat in 2016. Burk also worked as a special education teacher with the Loudoun County Public Schools before her retirement in 2014.
A steady, disciplined force in Leesburg and Loudoun County politics for many years, Burk cultivates a quiet presence publically, a presence that seems to show both her love of public service, and her knowledge of it.
And, in assuming the mayor’s seat Burk is very clear on her priorities.
She first discussed with the Blue Ridge Leader the tone she wants to set as mayor. That tone, in a word according to Burk, is transparency. “Government needs to act always in an open, honest and fair manner,” said Burk, noting that everything a Leesburg Town Council, or Board of Supervisors – or mayor – does, sends a signal to the public. Even on things such as the replacement of a public official who leaves office early, how a body goes about things, makes a difference, she explained. For example, when former Mayor Umstattd was leaving her seat as Mayor for the Board of Supervisors, Burk, who was Vice Mayor at the time, wanted the Leesburg Town Council to stick with tradition and appoint a member of the public to that office, rather than tapping her for the seat. Burk was about to announce her candidacy for mayor during the next election cycle. Others on the Town Council were likely to run as well, and Burk reasoned that if she were a member of the public, she might have seen appointing her as giving one candidate a leg up on the competition.
Burk has seen a questionable level of transparency on other issues as well, such as when a development project comes before a legislative body for approval and gets denied, only to come back later in the same form, and by luck or circumstance, be approved. In this way, there is a subtlety and deep sense of fairness to what Burk wants to achieve as Mayor of Leesburg.
Burk is also very big on enhancing the presence of art in the Town. “Art to me is a significant factor in peoples’ quality of life,” said Burk. “I’d like to see us add art to places that are already here, and I also love the idea of pop-up art galleries … I see them everywhere now.” And, “music!” added Burk. “Loudoun County has amazing musicians. I’d like to cultivate that and support all kinds of [artistic pursuits].”
Burk is also very passionate about Loudoun County getting a hold of its exploding growth, including what should be built, and where. She feels strongly that the Transition Policy Area needs to be protected, citing its very important role in helping to save the rural west. With respect to Leesburg, she is focused on getting government to promote the right mix of residential and commercial development. On specific votes, she cites the recent approval of hundreds of new homes, with almost no commercial to balance it out. Said Burk, “While I am disappointed with this vote, the second in two weeks to allow over 700 new houses in Leesburg, my hope is the new council in January will demand more from any rezoning and development.”