John Lowry's announcement speech
Good Morning. I am John Lowry. I stand here today to announce that I am a candidate for the Republican nomination for the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors representing the citizens of the Samuel Miller district.
I grew up in Williamsburg, VA. My first job was as a costumed guide in Colonial Williamsburg. My first paycheck was from Colonial Williamsburg: my first experience of less taxes and social security. Growing up in the history of Williamsburg I thought everyone did government service at some point in their life. In my youth I was also a Boy Scout. As I have seasoned in life I realize that I still have many of the traits that I learned as a Scout. Being prepared, thrifty, goal oriented and loving my community. My Assistant Scoutmaster was Robert Gates - Bob Gates the Secretary of Defense for both President Bush and President Obama. He was a much thinner version of Bob Gates back then. I learned a lot from Bob, particularly the importance of being a good leader. I went to the College of William and Mary. I met my future wife there. She is the former Nancy Feil. -There she is- We got married and moved to Charlottesville. We became the proud parents of three children and have six grandchildren. We have lived in Albemarle County for more than forty years. All along in my working career I volunteered for community service. I did charity work. I participated in cultural groups. I did government volunteering. I have worked for many years with members of the Albemarle County staff and I am happy to call many of them friends.
Increasingly over the last four years I have felt the Board of Supervisor’s management of the county has been out of balance. We need leadership that will get us a Better Balance. First, we need a Better Balance in the use of our Land. Second, we need a Better Balance in Managing the County’s Finances and, third, we need a Better Balance in our approach to Economic Development.
The record shows Albemarle is out in front in using land-use policies to help the county stay looking and feeling rural. But there is more than only rural landscapes in leading us to a Better Balance in the use of our land. For all the talk about change there is little action. The county needs honest discussion about changes to the bright line of where the Growth Area boundary could be amended. The county needs a strategic plan for Economic Development and there is none. For ten years it has been clearly established only 110 acres of land is zoned for light industry. More parcels with flexible sizes are needed for broadening the tax base. The county needs leaders who will honestly work towards a more balanced approach to our competing needs, instead of deferring the tough decisions to future generations.
Albemarle County Finances are out of balance because the Board of Supervisors has been driven to increase revenues by using increased property assessments and increasing tax rates, while spending the revenue, including bond issuance, as quickly as possible. This cannot continue. The Albemarle County tax rate has risen four years in a row. Although this year’s proposed budget does not call for a tax rate increase, real estate assessments are up another 2.9%. More tax revenue. We are currently operating in a budgetary surplus, but every surplus dollar is being spent. At this rate, there is no preparation for an inevitable downturn.
Two years ago, the Board of Supervisors assembled a Blue Ribbon panel to help with budgeting. The panel suggested the Board study how to maintain lower expenses. Unfortunately, the Supervisors ignored the suggestion. To date, there has not been an agenda item addressing how to effectively control county expenses.
In order to bring balance to the management of county finances, the Board of Supervisors must be financially disciplined. Good financial managers know that good financial times do not last forever. They create “rainy day funds.” When the overall economy is doing well, the tax rate should actually be going down.
Before this campaign is finished, Samuel Miller constituents will realize there are some flawed commonly held perceptions about business and growth. Besides having rural landscapes there are other uses for our land including Economic Development. A new county executive is going to have a Better Balance between land needs and growing our economy. One only needs to look at our neighbor, the city, to see how picking good business partners benefits the whole community.
People of all ages work downtown. SNL Securities, Chartered Financial Analysts (CFA) Institute, World Strides and Quantitative Investment Management are thriving companies that employ hundreds of associates. Why can’t Albemarle County have more of these types of businesses? We need new businesses in the county. By wooing and winning economic development opportunities we can broaden our tax base.
Included in our Comprehensive Plan are designated desirable markets thought to be of value for us. The missing ingredient is having leadership to carry out the plan. I would like to be one of the leaders who will carry out this plan.
I would like to represent Samuel Miller residents getting a Better Balance (1) in the use of our land, (2) in managing our finances and (3) have a better approach to economic development.
I ask for your support and your vote on November 7th.