Town of Middleburg | www.middleburgva.gov
Martha Mason Semmes, FAICP
Retired Town Administrator
What were the biggest challenges facing Middleburg when you took the job as town administrator?
MM:When I reflect on my over 40-year career in public service, I realize that I have spent more time in Middleburg than in any other community I served, which included Leesburg, Loudoun County and Purcellville. The town first entrusted its planning & zoning services to me, when I served as the Town Planner/Zoning Administrator from 1995-2003. When I returned in 2010 to interview for the town administrator’s position, I promised the mayor and town council that no one would serve with more passion and energy for Middleburg than me. I hope that I have lived up to that promise over the past eight years as administrator.
The greatest challenges facing me when I became administrator were returning the town’s finances to a healthy state and addressing a major backlog of infrastructure improvement needs. Especially during the first three years before the Salamander Resort opened, the town was faced with difficult financial times as the economy was slowly pulling itself out of a recession. Through the careful stewardship of the council and staff and the new revenues flowing from the resort and other town businesses, the town was able to right its financial ship and begin to make important investments in the community.
The improvements we’ve made include the Marshall/Madison Street crosswalks and elementary school sidewalk; U.S. Route 50 traffic calming/pedestrian safety improvements; and upgrading thousands of feet of old, undersized water lines in U.S. Route 50, on the east end of town, and in the Ridgeview neighborhood. We are also about to complete missing sidewalk connections along East Marshall Street and Stonewall Avenue, as well as replace the aging West End Sewer Pump Station.
What was the most memorable project during your tenure?
MM: As rewarding as it has been to see progress on these long-needed improvements, the project most fulfilling for me was saving the historic Asbury Church from demolition by neglect and seeing it stabilized by the town. This 1829 church is the town’s oldest surviving church building, serving the town’s first Methodist congregation, as a storehouse and hospital during the Civil War, and in 1864 becoming the town’s first African-American church. The town has invited proposals for the church’s adaptive reuse, and I am anxious to see it fully preserved and in productive
These are the things I will remember about Middleburg – its commitment to preserving its history and the beauty of the surrounding countryside, as well as the warmth and caring spirit of its people. It has been an honor to be part of the community for so many years, and I wish the town all success in preserving and enhancing the quality of life of its citizens and, through its success, the quality of life for all of us who call Loudoun home.
Middleburg Town Administrator
What do you see as the biggest challenges facing the town of Middleburg?
DD: First, it is a privilege to be part of such a great community as Middleburg. In my first couple of months here, I have come to appreciate how the community supports each other and works diligently to make the town better each day.
I believe one of the biggest challenges facing the town is creating resiliency. The town is currently thriving economically and financially, and there are many exciting projects on the horizon. However, we cannot always count on a strong economy – there are factors outside of anyone’s control that can affect businesses, residents, and visitor spending.
Resiliency is the ability to withstand factors outside our control, to remain stable and strong in challenging times, and to “bounce back” from difficult circumstances.
Finally, in looking ahead, I believe one of the key challenges will be protecting and promoting the history of Middleburg while helping the town grow into the new realities of the 21st century.
For example, we have some amazing projects underway, including a new website and a branding effort to enhance our marketing and community events. These efforts should proudly embrace the town’s history and community identity, even if implemented in modern styles. As another example, there may be opportunities for redevelopment of certain properties within the town limits. These should be considered on their individual merits of bringing vitality to the town while ensuring they blend seamlessly into the historic character of our community.
What long-term goals are you working on in 2019?
DD: One goal I have for our town is to provide resources to our local business owners to help them develop the strength to prepare for and overcome difficult economic circumstances. This may be in the form of business consulting, educational seminars, and digital literacy training. By enhancing the vitality of our small businesses, we will see benefits throughout the town.
Another key area of resiliency for our town is our water and wastewater (sewer) services. While we have new and fully-functioning water and wastewater treatment plants, we are still in the process of upgrading and repairing other infrastructure, such as pump stations, wells, and utility lines. This long-term investment in our infrastructure will ensure safe and dependable services while keeping maintenance and operational costs as low as possible.
An additional goal is to help our council build resiliency in our town operating budget. In one way, this comes through reviewing and implementing key financial policies. Further, the town has a variety of revenue sources, and it is important to keep revenues diverse and sustainable so that the town can withstand a variety of economic challenges.
I am excited about the opportunity to be a part of Middleburg’s future and to help the council, residents, and business owners continue to make this an amazing, thriving community.
The Town of Middleburg is hosting a retirement party for Martha Semmes on Tuesday, Jan. 15 from 5-7 p.m. at Emmanuel Church Parish Hall. For more information, contact Town Clerk Rhonda North at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article first appeared in the January 2019 Issue of Middleburg Life.