Q&A with Franconia District Supervisor Candidate Rodney Lusk
Franconia District Supervisor Rodney Lusk is running for his second four-year term on the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. During his first term, Lusk fulfilled his campaign promise to deliver a workforce center in an economically challenged part of his district. He also spearheaded the district’s name change from Lee to Franconia, helped establish the county’s first co-responder program and, during the COVID-19 pandemic, helped organize one of the county’s largest and longest food distribution programs. Lusk has two challengers for the Franconia District Supervisor seat in the 2023 general election. He recently answered some questions about his campaign for On the MoVe.
Q. How have your perspectives on the Supervisor role changed following the near completion of your first term?
A. Without question, the most defining element of my first term in office has been the COVID-19 pandemic and its subsequent impacts on our community. The pandemic shifted not just my perspective on what it means to be a Supervisor, but I think those expectations have now changed for the entire community.
Perhaps the most lasting impact that the pandemic has left on me personally is the massive spotlight that has been put on some of the most pervasive vulnerabilities that exist in our community. When I ran for Supervisor, I knew that access to affordable housing, a living wage and even food security were real challenges for some in our community. However, I don’t believe any of us truly realized how close to the margin that many in our community truly live, just a single paycheck away from not being able to provide for themselves and their families.
In response to this realization, I’ve made the effort to internally reshape my view of what is expected of a Supervisor. In my view, a post-pandemic Supervisor, especially when representing a district like Franconia, must prioritize proactivity over anything else. I’ve worked to meet that commitment through numerous efforts, such as opening a workforce and innovation center on Richmond Highway, protecting and improving mobile home communities, improving pedestrian safety and jumpstarting the revitalization of Springfield, in addition to a number of other initiatives of which I am extremely proud.
Q. What are some of the current challenges you hope to tackle in a second term?
A. Over the last 3 1/2 years, there are a number of initiatives that I have stepped forward to take leadership over as a member of the Board of Supervisors. Despite the significant progress that has been made on many of them, there are several that will require additional efforts if our community’s ambitions are to be fully realized. There are also several other items that I would like to jumpstart in my second term.
As chairman of the Board’s Public Safety Committee, I’ve led the effort to modernize our public safety system, fighting for increased pay for first responders, increasing transparency in both data and community access, and initiating the creation of a modernized co-responder system that embeds public health professionals with our police in order to decrease use of force and increase the effectiveness of our law enforcement capabilities. While many of these efforts are beyond their pilot phases, they will need to be monitored and shaped over the next four years.
Next, we must stay diligently focused on the expansion and preservation of affordable housing. While the Board as a whole has taken positive steps towards our county-wide affordable housing goals, there is work to be done specific to our district. I have undertaken a district policy of no net loss on affordable housing and led the effort to not just improve conditions and protect mobile home communities, but to designate them officially as affordable housing. We must continue to make progress on these goals over the next four years.
The next item that I plan to prioritize in my second term is the revitalization of Springfield. In my first term, we advanced and approved a number of much needed redevelopment projects and successfully secured funding for and oversaw a market study analysis of the Springfield market in order to better understand how to support business and economic growth beyond the current comprehensive plan.
Beyond these top three priorities, I also plan to dedicate significant time and attention to implementing the next stages of the Embark Richmond Highway Plan, improving bike and pedestrian safety infrastructure and expanding the operations of the Workforce Innovation Skills Hub.
Q. How are you measuring the success of the workforce training programs at the Workforce Innovation Skills Hub? What will be some of the next developments there?
A: Opening the Workforce Innovation Skills Hub (WISH) was my top priority in my first term. It’s a promise I made during my campaign in 2019, and I’m proud to say that it's a commitment that I was able to deliver on. For those who'd like to learn more about the WISH, you can visit: www.fairfaxcounty.gov/familyservices/employment-and-training/wish.
In terms of how we are measuring success at the WISH, it really comes down to two distinct barometers. The first is tangible data. According to Melwood, the county’s partner in operation with the WISH, the center is currently placing Fairfax County residents into new employment at the rate of 1.25 placements per week. Those jobs pay a minimum starting salary of $20 per hour, are career-oriented and designed to provide sustainable living wage opportunities that will enable graduates to not just survive, but thrive in Fairfax County.
The second standard that we are using to measure success at the WISH is more intangible than job placement numbers, but equally as important — the visible difference in activity and community engagement we are witnessing in the neighborhoods most directly adjacent to the facility. Since opening, the WISH has been the site of community meetings, public forums, food distributions, career fairs, potlucks, high school field trips, CPR trainings and numerous other community events. It has truly become a town center and an amenity whose potential is only limited by the imagination of the residents who utilize it.
Q: It’s been several months since your district was renamed “Franconia District.” Have there been any unexpected challenges in implementing the new name?
A: The transition of our district’s name has been essentially seamless. This is owed to the longevity and seriousness with which the initial community engagement was undertaken, as well as the fact that the name “Franconia” was already synonymous with our community. There are a few outlying signs that are still in the process of being transitioned, but this chapter in our history has effectively been turned.
Q. What are your thoughts on participating in a debate or discussion forum with other candidates for the Supervisor office? Are you aware of any opportunities to do so?
A. I am more than happy to participate in community forums and debates ahead of the November election. I am already slated to participate in several. As each of them are hosted and administered by different community organizations and civic associations and have varying level of access to those outside of those groups, I would be happy to share any public campaign events that I am participating in through my social media and campaign newsletter, all of which can be accessed at LuskForSupervisor.com
Q. Anything else you’d like to share?
A. As a native Virginian, 22-year resident of Franconia District and the first regular county employee ever elected to the Board of Supervisors, it has been the honor of my professional life to represent the residents of our various neighborhoods and communities. I view the role of Supervisor as a full-time job, and I’ve treated it as such since taking office in 2020. I’m incredibly proud of everything that we’ve worked together to accomplish over my first term, but there is more work ahead. I’m excited to take that desire forward to Election Day this November and through four more years as your Franconia District Supervisor.