Sally Thomas: 16 years on the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors

Sally Thomas

Sally Thomas

Sally Thomas has represented the Samuel Miller district since 1994 when she first won election to the board in 1993 as an independent write-in candidate over Carter Myers by a margin of 192 votes. In all elections since (1997, 2001 and 2005), she has run unopposed.

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“I originally ran to give Samuel Miller voters a choice when only one name was on the ballot. Since then, I’ve been privileged to serve those voters and all the residents of Samuel Miller and the County….I love the job and the responsibility that the voters have given to me, but sixteen years probably is as long as one should stay, so I won’t be running for re-election this November,” said Thomas. She announced she would not seek a fifth term on April 8, 2009.

Sally grew up in a small town in Oregon and has B.A. and M.A.T. degrees from Harvard/Radcliffe in Government and Education. She and her husband, George Thomas, have lived here since 1963, raising two daughters who attended Albemarle County public schools.

Before being elected in a write-in campaign in 1993, Thomas was director of Governmental and Community Relations at the University of Virginia. Thomas served on the Albemarle County School Board and was president of the local League of Women Voters. Thomas was also appointed to the Albemarle County School Board as the At-Large member during 1980-1983. Sally was selected as the 1994 Virginia Women’s Forum “Woman of the Year,” and the Leadership Charlottesville “Leaders’ Leader of 2001.” She received gubernatorial appointments to the Chesapeake Bay Program’s Local Government Advisory Commission; the Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations; and the Natural Resources Partnership.

She served as chair of the Metropolitan Planning Organization; the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors – 2001, 2002; the Planning and Coordination Council; the Citizens Committee for City-County Cooperation; the Thomas Jefferson Venture; and the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir Stewardship Task Force. She served as president of the Virginia Transit Association and the Charlottesville/Albemarle League of Women Voters.

Sally served on the boards of the AIDS Support Group; the Lewis and Clark Exploratory Center; the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission; Scenic Virginia; Albemarle County School Board; and the City Social Development Committee. She was board liaison for the Mountain Protection Committee; the Albemarle County Historic Preservation Committee; and the ACE committee. Sally was a member of the Lewis and Clark Festival planning committee; Virginia Association of Counties Finance Steering Committee; Thomas Jefferson Sustainability Council; Jefferson Area Board for Aging Plan 2020 Advisory Committee; and the Policy Committee for VDOT’s U.S. 29 Corridor Study. She is a graduate of the Albemarle County Citizens Police Academy.

Program Summary

Ms. Thomas spoke at the January 13, 2010 meeting of the Senior Statesmen of Virginia held at The Charlottesville Senior Center. The event was moderated by SSV Secretary Bill Davis.

Sally Thomas has represented the Samuel Miller district since 1994 when she first won election to the board in 1993 through her write-in candidacy. At the January 13 SSV meeting, she described how 16 years ago the incumbent had dropped out of the race just seven weeks before election day, leaving only one candidate, but too late for a new candidate to be on ballot and so a write-in was the only alternative Even given all the obstacles, she won with 3,238 write-in votes.

Change over the last 16 years include years of effort to get the neighborhood model with compact development. Biscuit Run would have been the best example of this model. We should think very carefully before expanding boundaries of development area when there are 14 square miles of vacant undeveloped land available (more land than Charlottesville), approved zoning for 13,000 homes not yet built and 4,000 in Charlottesville, and 2.5 million square feet of commercial and retail space zoned and ready to go.

Other positives include the dark skies restrictions on commercial lighting requiring caps on lights; the adoption of the ACE ordinance (Acquisition of Conservation Easement) which purchases development potential so family farms can continue to thrive; the “Wireless communication policy” so almost all of the over 100 cell phone towers are not visible; more protection of water resources; affordable housing policy; schools that now have a report card on-line so you can see how they’re doing.

She cited as a failure the inability to pass ordinances to protect from ostentatious mountaintop development. Others see the growth of the budget as a failure, but actually it is due to more competitive salaries, not a per capita increase in staffing levels. One exception is that employers used to release workers to respond to emergencies. Since that is no longer the case, paid firefighters are now employed and that represents the fastest growing part of budget.

Looking into the future, this will be a military town. Will we get tired of our roads and traffic? Will we continue to protect us from getting more ugly like Rt 3 Fredericksburg? We need more energy conservation, and to be better stewards of our water resources. Will we continue to be leaders in education? Can we eat local and support local retailers? Will we continue to have well run, efficient local government (this is the smallest county in the nation to have a AAA bond rating). We must maintain infrastructure. In closing, “Go forth and create good government.”

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