For this week’s Community Conversations, our host ST Billingsley talked with Occoquan District Supervisor Ruth Anderson.
Q: So you just recently started your term as supervisor. What kind of challenges have you run into?
A: Right from the get go, after I was elected in November and took office in early January, we had some major challenges in the Occoquan District. The first major challenge really was our high schools. We were under some threats of violence, and we had a huge Town Hall, and over 200 people attended. And actually that Town Hall helped our community come together – the principals, the public safety officials – so the results were good, and those threats have ended.
Q: And you also ran into some– which affects everybody–tax issues. What did you get thrown into at the very beginning there?
A: Yes, along with a major snowstorm came a huge county budget and that–that is a learning curve for any new supervisor, so to really get a grip on the budget, I formed a budget committee for the Occoquan District. We have at least 12 people on that budget committee, [and] each one was looking at different aspects of the budget. One person was looking at the school budget, another was looking at, you know, capital investments, and others were looking at public safety and the other categories that you find in the budget. It was extremely helpful to have people that are highly credentialed. Accountants, and people that do investing and so on throughout the community [to] help me understand the county budget.
And my goal was to help the county hold the line on the tax rate, which we did accomplish.
Q: So tell me, what is your day like?
A: I am dedicating myself to this position almost full time. It is a part time job, where you are–most supervisors are able to hold down a full-time job, and do this and you depend on your staff for many things, but I am retired from my career, and so I’m dedicating myself almost full time to this position. And each day is filled with constituent requests. We get several calls a day, related to road issues, property issues, land use issues – so many things. And we have a big database that we follow, and my staff helps me with that in a huge way, and I think we’ve responded to well over 200 requests since I took office.
It’s a role of actually being able to close an issue that was started. So constituent issues, but in addition to those constituent requests, I have goals for the Occoquan district. So major, major, goals that I want to work on.
Q: So one of them you have, we were just talking briefly about, you have one called ‘GO ACT’. Would you tell me a bit about what that program is?
A: The words GO ACT is an acronym. Its two words: GO and ACT, and it stands for the Greater Occoquan Area Coming Together and what it means is that, any district – busy district, like we have – is going to have problems, and we’re also going to have a vision of things that we want to accomplish. And I want to encourage all the residents of the Occoquan District to come together, and solve problems. When it comes to problems, if you see a problem, help us solve the problem. If you have a vision for how things could be better, help us brainstorm solutions to that.
Two of the major things under GO ACT right now is the think tank that we have going. And so we have a traffic congestion think tank, and this calendar year we’re focusing on Old Bridge Road itself. Old Bridge Road has become very congested with all of the new developments over the last 10 years. So because of all the schools along the Old Bridge Road and people using it as a thoroughfare to get from Manassas to 95. Our think tank is bring storming short-term and long-term solutions.
We had one meeting a couple of months ago, and our next meeting is this Friday night, June 17th, and we have about 15 people they’re helping us brainstorm solutions.
Q: What are some of the issues facing our community your name you have something like Zika, or anything else like that, that you’re working on or trying to help the community with?
A: We do have a couple of issues that are relevant right as we speak, and one of those is the threat of the Zika virus. And we know that there are many cases in the United States and there are I believe over 200 cases in Virginia itself. So far none of those cases have been initiated here, you know, it hasn’t been caught by somebody else that that’s here in the United States
The people that have it have come from other countries, or travel to other countries. But it is a very severe virus especially for women who are pregnant, because the consequences can be very bad for a newborn baby, and usually involves the brain of baby. And there’s been babies born that are called anencephalic, and that means either born without the brain, or major problems. So that’s why we’re taking this virus so very seriously.
I did a staff directive as a board member to ask our County Public Health representatives to give the briefing on what the county is doing in terms of the Zika virus. There’s a lot of education going on, and the federal, state, and county level public health and general health practitioners in the area are working hard to prevent problems, and to get the education out there. The main thing that the public can do is, is not have standing water around their homes and their businesses.
That was the biggest culprit that attracts the mosquitoes that carry the Zika virus, [they] are not found in being ponds of water, big waterways. They are found in small objects like pails, or toys that you have sitting around your homes or businesses. So that’s the best thing that the public can do to prevent it in their neighborhoods.
Q: Anything else that you know that is also affecting us right now?
A: Another thing it does involve congestion, and that’s the fact that with the Metro SafeTrack – they’re calling it – with all the stuff going on with Metro in this region is causing backup even in the Occoquan District. Old Bridge Road was congested enough, and now but now it’s even more congested because more people are driving their own cars to work, because Metro doesn’t have as many trips as it did. Doesn’t matter you know what line you start on, there’s probably going to be a line having problems down the road.
So we are trying to educate the people of the Occoquan District – to what’s happening with Metro, where the repairs are happening, where they can pick up buses, because we expect more tread you know, more people using buses, but unfortunately this comes at the same time as PRTC is having to reorganize their routes a little bit – cut a couple of routes because we had a nine million dollar shortfall in the PRTC the OmniRide, OmniLink system, and so we made up most of that money by using some county funds…but it doesn’t solve the whole problem.
So congestion is it is a serious problem, and if people are commuting to work, we encourage them to take advantage of any telework opportunities, any the type of work from home opportunities, to arrange their schedules so that they can get to work around the congestion and use public transportation – other public transportation – if they can possibly do so.
Q: How can people get a hold of you? You have a website coming, and maybe a new Facebook page?
A: Yes, we do have active Facebook page and that is Supervisor Ruth Anderson. We’d love to have you like our page, and participate [on] our Facebook. We have many, many people calling our office, so please call, and I’m probably best in communicating by email…I love getting emails from people.
Check back for more episodes of Community Conversations.
© Copyright 2018 What's Up Prince William. All Rights Reserved