Edythe Kelleher, who has served as the Southeast Fairfax Development Corporation’s executive director for the past six years, announced Monday that she is running for the Providence District seat on the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors.
Kelleher, 61, is the fourth person to announce their candidacy as a Democrat for Providence supervisor. The position is opening up because the current supervisor, Democrat Linda Smyth, announced in December that she is retiring. Providence District planning commissioner Phil Niedzielski-Eichner declared on Sunday, while Providence District school board representative Dalia Palchik and Providence District Council of homeowner groups president Erika Milena Yalowitz had also previously announced.
A seven-term member of the Vienna Town Council until stepping down in 2016, Kelleher is the only Providence candidate with prior experience as an elected official. She has also worked in the office of Mason District Supervisor Penny Gross, and held private sector positions as an economist with the Bureau of Labor Statistics and a program administrator for a Defense Department of contractor.
Since 2013 Kelleher has served as SFDC’s executive director. Her time with the economic development group coincided with the Embark Richmond Highway initiative and a number of smaller development projects in the Route 1 area. Kelleher said she plans to remain with SFDC through the primary, and then will begin transitioning should she win.
Kelleher said Wednesday that she has been considering a run for the Board of Supervisors for some time, and said that working with SFDC during Embark helped fuel her desire to re-enter local politics. Kelleher touted her experience and community involvement in her campaign announcement, saying the district “needs experienced leadership in these uncertain times.”
“As your Supervisor, I will work to protect and improve the quality of life in Fairfax County by creating better transportation options, supporting our world class schools, protecting our natural resources, and working to meet affordable housing needs,” Kelleher said.
New development, “when done right,” can improve the quality of life in an area, Kelleher said. Coming redevelopment in the district, including at Tysons Corner, will need a supervisor who is familiar with the process and “understands how to make development work.”
Kelleher says housing diversity is a key issue, both for the county at large an in particular in Providence, where Tysons Corner’s boom has driven up housing prices. Kelleher said she wants to find ways for more people to be able to be residents of the community that they work in.
“The point is to get more people to live, work and play in the same area, and that’s going to help with the transportation issues and many other ways,” Kelleher said. “[Tysons] is the economic engine of the county, the land is very, very valuable. To get that housing diversity is a big challenge.”
A resident of the Mosaic District, Kelleher pointed to that mixed-use project of an example of how redevelopment can improve an area and the county overall.
“The Mosaic District represents a vibrant and smart way forward, and it’s generating an extra $6.6 million in real estate taxes this year,” Kelleher said.
Kelleher’s run is part of a whirlwind of political activity at the county level, with at least four seats of the current Board of Supervisor opening up Chairman Sharon Bulova announced her retirement in December, and current Lee District Supervisor Jeff McKay’s seat will be coming open as he seeks to replace her. Braddock Supervisor John Cook is also retiring.
A native of Long Island, Kelleher became the first person to graduate from college in her family when she earned her bachelors degree from Johns Hopkins University. She later earned an MBA from George Washington University. Kelleher has lived in the county for more than 40 years, and she has three sons who have graduated from Fairfax County Public Schools.