By Chelsea Rose Moore
The Town of Middleburg is unique for many reasons. There are the horse-drawn carriages, the beautiful farms and rolling hills, the world-class wine, the spectacular vistas, the iconic peanut soup, the luxurious dining experiences, and the rich history. Then there’s the town itself and the people who give it its signature style and sophistication. But those who have spent time in Middleburg, know there’s more. Middleburg is about a feeling—a feeling spread through the community, touching every person who comes within its borders.
The Middleburg life is a different kind of life, carefully preserved by a staff of employees who have a deep understanding and love for the town. More than anything external, it’s written on their hearts and guides their daily actions.
“It’s not that we are trying to be snobs about it; we just love the way we live,” said Mayor Betsy Davis. “As much as we are forward-thinking and want to be on the cusp of new things, we want to retain that tradition and history. We want to be modern on the inside, but we don’t want to be modern on the outside. [People ask,] ‘Why won’t you let things like McDonald’s in [the town]?’ We like the fact that you come here and don’t have those kinds of stores. You want to come here and be different.”
Middleburg’s Town Council appointed the current Town Administrator, Town Clerk, Town Treasurer, Chief of Police, Town Attorney and other members of various Boards and Commissions, each of whom work tirelessly to continue making Middleburg an appealing place to live and work. With the exception of the Police Department, all departments have a staff of one and must wear many hats to get the job done.
Every single town employee understands and truly knows Middleburg, Davis remarked.
“They all came here originally because they knew about our town and were charmed by it and loved it,” she said. “We’ve hired people who are not only talented but who understand the town. They love working here. That’s what keeps them going strong. They love what they are doing and where they are doing it.”
As Middleburg Town Administrator, Martha Mason Semmes is a jack-of-all-trades. She is responsible for the overall administration and oversees the staff at the town office. In her job interview in 2010, she said, “I don’t think there’s anybody you could hire who could have more love and appreciation for this town.” To her, Middleburg is an incredibly special town (“Everyone here has such a strong sense of place!”), and she loves working to preserve its flourishing community.
“We are a small town,” she said. “We are not Ashburn. We are not Leesburg. We don’t want to grow like crazy. We like very incremental growth.”
Helping a town as small as Middleburg continue to thrive comes with its own set of challenges. For example, providing water and sewer services to a town with 487 customers can become both challenging and expensive. Semmes and her coworkers are always looking for ways to economize, while not compromising the quality they provide to residents.
“A lot of times people take for granted that they flush the toilet and it’s taken care of, or that they have the police there to protect them, or that their trash is picked up,” she noted. But that’s part of the reason she is so passionate about local government: You see the results of your work quickly. When a change is made, or a system is updated, you see the tangible effects of the work you did. “You see people using the sidewalk instead of walking in the road,” she said.
For Town Clerk Rhonda North, the thing that makes Middleburg so special is the people. She is particularly impressed by the amount of volunteerism she sees, a trait that enables the town to get things done quickly.
“I think it’s a matter of helping your neighbors and helping your community,” she said. “I think folks understand that you’re more successful if you’re working together to try to achieve goals. They understand it, they appreciate it—it’s sort of a way of life here in the community.”
North has been working as Middleburg’s Town Clerk since 2007, and she tracks agenda items for council meetings, takes minutes, and works on special projects. Each department has their own “functions,” and North ensures they have the items they need to work together to achieve their goals. Currently, the departments are working on producing an Electronic Agenda System for greater efficiency in meetings, and they are setting up a system for videotaping town council meetings. Residents will be able to watch council meetings online or type in specific topics (like “water” or “sewer”) to watch segments relating to their topics of interest. North is hoping these systems will be fully functional by May.
“We have a fantastic staff of employees for the town, and they are so very important to the whole process of how the council works and what we get done,” said Mayor Davis. “It is so important to have a well-oiled and knowledgeable staff. We have hired excellent staff that are completely dedicated. They do the work 110 percent, and they make us look good. They are doing this day in and day out. We make the decisions, but if you don’t have the right staff working, you are up a creek.”
With a historic election coming up on May 1, Mayor Davis is ready to pass on the mayoral torch and focus more on family and a slower pace of life. She is confidant Middleburg will be in good hands after her departure.
“All the candidates understand the town, what we want to be and who we are,” said Davis. “It’s extremely important for people to vote. That right we were given [to vote], we should learn what is going on and should vote. We all should care. We all should have a say.”
In general, local and national elections have seen low voter turnout in recent years. When Davis reflects on how hard America’s forefathers fought for the right to vote, and further, how tirelessly women worked to achieve the right to vote, she is saddened by the complacency she sees today. Every vote cast is an opinion voiced. Every vote cast makes an impact.
Voting is a means of becoming engaged with your community, according to North. “It’s your way to share what things you think are going well and what you would like to see continue. We are here to serve the citizens and need input from those citizens. And they in turn, help guide the staff, so we can get things done for the community.” She referenced a Middleburg election where a candidate won by literally one vote. “Your vote counts.” ML
To vote in the election on May 1, 2018, visit your normal polling location.
Unregistered voters can register to vote in the upcoming election by visiting Loudoun County’s Voter Registration Office at 750 Miller Dr. S.E., Suite C, Leesburg. Contact Judy Brown, General Registrar, at 703-777-0380 with questions, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Or register online by visiting www.vote.virginia.gov to submit a registration form online, or print it out and mail to the office. Online voter registration deadline is Monday, April 9 at 11:59 pm. In-person voter registration deadline is Monday, April 9, at 5:00 pm. By-mail voter registration must be postmarked no later than April 9.