Perhaps I should have known better, but I was fairly stunned to learn that Republican Rodney Thomas had defeated incumbent supervisor, Democrat David Slutzky, in Albemarle’s Rio District yesterday. As I write this, I presume Slutzky is over at the county building chairing today’s Board meeting, and no doubt nursing wounds that smart pretty good.
I’m sorry to see him go. One could argue with his style—and plenty have—but in my admittedly limited experience with Slutzky, I found him to be truly interested and curious about the ongoing question of managing growth and development so as to preserve the county’s rural areas.
It’s easy to say that we shouldn’t throw up houses and Starbucks all over the place, and almost everyone does say it. But a growing population and a general pressure to grow the local economy are constantly pushing back on any official who has made promises about protecting rolling vistas and dark night skies. To actually make preservation happen, Slutzky was willing to wade into deep policy waters.
Example: When I wrote in September about new stormwater runoff regulations at the state level, I spoke with Slutzky because he had submitted comments (as a private citizen) to the Department of Conservation and Recreation. My story explains Slutzky’s concerns about the regs, but I didn’t have room to include the fact that he had connected with Governor Kaine and the Secretary of Natural Resources to talk about the issue. "It was wonderful," he told me. "We really talked through these issues in a very comprehensive way." DCR also invited Slutzky to a couple of larger stakeholders’ meetings to hammer out changes to the proposed regs in response to public comments.
We’re talking here about pretty arcane policy, but Slutzky’s command of the issues and enthusiasm for the conversation impressed me. He was thinking about how master planning in Albemarle would mesh with state law, and was getting heard by the people who could do something about it. This is not the kind of work that gets directly noticed or rewarded by most voters, and I respect it.
Anybody want to weigh in? What do you think Slutzky’s defeat means for green issues in the county?