By Elaine Anne Watt

January has arrived with the official opportunity to file to run for the office of Mayor of Middleburg with the coming elections in May.  As expected, there are new candidates stepping forward to join the announced campaign of Vincent Bataoel. Middleburg Life intends to sit down with each of the candidates to discuss their visions for our beloved town.

Trowbridge (Bridge) Littleton met with me just after Middleburg’s first B2B Expo, where the town council hoped to encourage businesses to get to know each other better and seek ways to collaborate for the good of the whole community.  As a council member, Bridge participated in the planning and execution of the event, and he was pleased with the results.

“We heard everyone saying that they had a greater appreciation for how we can help each other be more successful,” he says. “Several businesses already picked up customers at the event.”

Bridge wants to continue to be a part of the “measured change” that will make our town thrive.

“It’s very important to me that people vote for the right reason,” he says. “Does the person bring the right vision, experience, background and dynamic to look at this community and move forward as a community together.”

Bridge believes his legal training, experience in advocacy with the Aerospace Industry Association, working with the federal government on policies affecting the marketplace, and his position as President of Hellen Systems, LLC has honed his skills as a consensus builder, a valuable trait in public service.

He is the eighth generation of his family to grow up in the same home here in Middleburg. Unlike previous generations where when young people went away to school and to start their careers almost all came back to settle in the area, with his generation maybe a little less than 50 percent have come back. And, he sees more problems ahead.

“Middleburg struggled for many years with a positive operating cash flow of approximately $100,000 for a town budget of between 1–1.5 million dollars,” he says. “The town was millions of dollars in debt with infrastructure desperately in need of repair.” His father was on the town council then, and everyone was trying to do the right things and do them incrementally as money allowed.

He acknowledges that Salamander Resort’s contributions to the tax base have enabled the town to progress significantly on services such as essential utilities, infrastructure and even the police force. But, “it is a decades long thing. We still have a lot to do and aging structures to replace or maintain.” Planning is essential.  In fact, Bridge says that the town has “$3 million in infrastructure project spending that needs to happen in the next five years – that’s a big financial commitment we have to be prepared for.”

In making important strategy and funding decisions, “you have to look at the law of unintended consequences to make sure that when you adjust utility rates or consider a change in the taxes levied, that you don’t actually hurt your ability to pay your bills or plan for capital expenses,” Bridge says. “Purcellville had that experience.”

With population growth flat and the changing demographics of the town, Bridge is concerned that the next generation of current and potential residents will be priced out of living in town.

“The average household income in the town of Middleburg is $56,000 a year, whereas the average home price is $445,000,” he says. “The affordability curve for a town resident is somewhere in the range of $260,000-$275,000 for a home.  Loudoun County’s average income is $125,000 per year. And, the average age of a person living in Middleburg is 11 years older than in the rest of Loudoun.”

Bridge talking to senior girls at Foxcroft School about going into aerospace engineering and STEM education

Bridge talking to senior girls at Foxcroft School about going into aerospace engineering and STEM education

How do you attract young people to live somewhere they can’t afford, and what effect does that have on the tax base for the future?

“The essential question is to figure out how teachers, young families and our police officers can afford to live in town,” he says.

“We’re fortunate. The town has been running a surplus in the General Fund of about $1 million dollars for the past three years largely because of Salamander.  We have to make investments during the good times that will make us more efficient and save costs during bad times,” he continues. “Government needs to be in a position to step in and help when tough times come.”

Bridge noted how even with the best planning, catastrophic things might happen. “We ended up fiscal year 2017 with $3.2 million dollars in true capital reserves,” he says. “We have $6 million in long-term, inexpensive and bonded debt at 1.4 percent. I’d like to raise our capital reserve from 20 percent to 100 percent and put $1.5 million in the bank as an untouchable strategic reserve to ensure that we can weather a long-term storm.”

He’d like to see other monies spent on modernizing the town government and support so that the town is “IT enabled, so that the town clerk and others can be doing the important work that needs to be done instead of clerical duties like making paper packages of documents in preparation for town meetings.” He’d like to see the town meetings online and the access to important information cloud based. He wants to see competitive bid processes and transparent government.

“I want to empower people to be more successful by giving them the tools they need to do so,” he concludes. “I want to live by the mission adopted by the council: Preserving our heritage through purposeful change. The job of a good leader is to enable others to do their best work.” ML

Currently, there are three registered candidates for Mayor of Middleburg: Vincent Bataoel, chairman of the town’s Economic Development Advisory Committee, Mark Snyder, a Town Council member since 1998 and Bridge Littleton, a Town Council member since 2016.