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New supervisor dives into nitty-gritty with McLean civic body

Jimmy Bierman has succeeded John Foust in Dranesville District
Fairfax County Supervisor Jimmy Bierman (D-Dranesville)

Just 67 hours into his tenure as Dranesville District’s new supervisor – and with a newborn daughter to tend to at home – Jimmy Bierman told the McLean Citizens Association (MCA) board of directors Jan. 3 that he already is focusing on multiple issues facing the community.

When Bierman, a Democrat, knocked on 6,209 doors during last year’s campaign, residents often expressed the need for community engagement and robust constituent services, he said.

“People wanted a supervisor and their local government to be competent and responsive,” he said. “They wanted us to try hard. They wanted us to listen to people. They wanted our doors to be open.”

Bierman highlighted key issues raised by voters, including:

Fully funding schools: Bierman pledged to make this his top priority.

“People know that our teachers are underpaid, they know that teachers really matter, that our buildings need improvement,” he said. “They understand that this is the crown jewel of Fairfax County and that we continue to need a great school system.”

MCA board member Jo-Anne Sears encouraged Bierman to work closely with newly elected School Board member Robyn Lady (Dranesville District) and the three at-large School Board members to ensure local schools can handle the influx of students generated by multiple development projects.

“We need the teachers, we need the space and we need to make sure that everybody gets a free, appropriate public education,” she said.

Housing affordability: Voters on the campaign trail who highlighted this issue  largely were in three groups, Bierman said: seniors living on fixed incomes who were worried about rising property taxes, young people who could not afford to buy homes and people who were earning the middle range of incomes.

MCA board member Steve DelBianco told Bierman the key was to control the property-tax burden on residents.

Trees and parks: Voters across the political spectrum expressed their affinity for these, Bierman said. Because Virginia is a property-rights state, Fairfax County’s powers to protect tree canopy probably are at their lowest when it comes to infill development, he said.

“I hear you loud and clear that we need to do everything we can to potentially find ways, with a tree ordinance, to incentivize keeping more trees,” Bierman said.

Public safety: Residents want a thriving, fully staffed and accountable police department, Bierman said. Fairfax County continues to lower the number of officer vacancies on the force, he noted.

Revitalization of downtown McLean: “Downtown McLean has not changed in decades,” Bierman said. “I’m 37 years old. The biggest change I can think of is the one-arched McDonald’s is now a Four Seasons [Flower Market].”

County supervisors recently have approved several development projects toward that end, such as the Mars Inc. headquarters expansion and Astoria residential development, Bierman said. While some residents have expressed worries about building height, traffic impacts and potential school overcrowding, Bierman said he would work toward acceptable compromises.

“I don’t want the perfect to become the enemy of the really good,” he said. “Let’s try to figure out things that we think are really good. But you’re darned right, there’s going to be a change and things are going to be difficult. There are going to be trade-offs. Our job is to find that balance to the best of our ability.”

495 NEXT Project: Bierman lambasted the Virginia Department of Transportation’s clear-cutting of trees along the Interstate 495 Express Lanes Northern Extension Project.

“I have no idea what they’re doing,” said Bierman, who will introduce a board matter to press VDOT officials on the issue. “This has gone so much further than I think anybody thought it was going to go.”

MCA board member Merrily Pierce said the association long has been concerned about tree losses, stormwater-management issues and traffic control associated with the project.

Bierman said he also would submit a board matter addressing cut-through traffic on Churchill Road and nearby streets, which has increased because of the 495 NEXT Project.

A lawyer who served on the county’s Police Civilian Review Panel, Bierman encouraged those attending the meeting to contact his office if they wished to serve on any of the county’s myriad boards and commissions. Like Foust did for years, Bierman will form a budget task force to evaluate the proposed fiscal 2025 budget, which County Executive Bryan Hill will release in late February.

Bierman on Nov. 7 defeated Puneet Ahluwalia to succeed four-term Supervisor John Foust (D-Dranesville) and took office Jan. 1. He is retaining many of Foust’s longtime staffers, including newly minted chief of staff Ben Wiles.

Bierman, who grew up in McLean, complimented the MCA for its more than 100 years of community service.

“It is obviously such a group that cares so deeply about this community, about making sure that we continue to move forward and continue to thrive,” he said.