An Albemarle County supervisor candidate says the community needs to come together and find common ground in order to be successful.
Monday, independent Diantha McKeel announced the formation of a "Common Ground Council" to address county issues on the steps of the Albemarle County Office Building Monday morning.
The Albemarle County School Board member says the community's greatest challenge is polarization within local government. Monday, she spoke about how she thinks the issue can be tackled.
She says the eight-member committee is a group of nonpartisan community experts dedicated to making Albemarle the best place in America to live. The council consists of people associated with Charlottesville and the University of Virginia.
McKeel says it is important for groups to come together and address issues like education and infrastructure.
"The main challenge is that we need to come together to find common ground. We are polarized very often. The city and the county tend to be polarized. We're polarized between the environmentalists and the development community. And what I'm seeking is to sort of till that common ground and see if we can't come together and figure out what our core objectives are and then work together to compromise," said McKeel.
McKeel says one area where the city and county could work together better is affordable housing.
McKeel is running for the Jack Jouett District seat. Albemarle County Supervisor Dennis Rooker has held the position for three terms. He announced his retirement in April.
(ALBEMARLE COUNTY, VA)---Diantha McKeel, who has represented residents in Albemarle County's Jack Jouett Magisterial District for 16 years, said today she wants to expand her public service to include economic and job development for the same residents as their representative on the Board of Supervisors.
She noted that the key to Albemarle County's future quality of life will be Supervisors who can bring together an alliance of the business and environmental communities with educators and community service representatives and that she was uniquely qualified for that role.
Ms. McKeel described that alliance as a Common Ground Council and said she already has commitments from eight leaders in the county who are willing to serve on the council.
"Many people have come to think that elected officials care about someone else but not them," Ms. McKeel explained. "I think we can begin to restore that faith through a Common Ground Council and an approach that honors four values—
Thoughtful and unbiased analysis of issues before making a decision;
A commitment to searching out and listening to diverse viewpoints;
Making decisions based upon the public interest not on personal or political differences or ideologies, and
Devoting the time and effort necessary to effectively represent all residents as honestly as possible."
On specific issues, Ms. McKeel pointed to the strong academic gains made by students in the county's public school system as a solid foundation upon which to provide more opportunities for all county residents over the next four years.
"An outstanding public school system that aligns curriculum with those 21st century skills our businesses need is the first strong link in that chain of events," Ms. McKeel said. "We need to add a more vibrant and technologically advanced vocational educational program that is connected to the needs of local entrepreneurs and businesses," she added.
Also vitally important, Ms. McKeel said, is maintaining a unique natural resource that makes the county such an appealing place to live and visit—a diversity of life experiences. These include beautiful vistas, successful agricultural businesses and open, green space preserved by policies that limit growth to those areas designated for that purpose.
Ms. McKeel said one of her priorities on the Board of Supervisors will be to encourage more teamwork and synergy among Charlottesville City, the University of Virginia and Albemarle County. "Each of us can bring a diverse range of resources, energy and enthusiasm to the common hopes and aspirations of our constituents. Continuing to work in silos is not the right answer," she added
Ms. McKeel has four times been elected by voters in the Jack Jouett Magisterial District and she urged all residents to become involved in the upcoming campaign through an appreciation of the views and qualifications of the candidates, by letting candidates know of their views and by voting in November.