Three seats are up for grabs on the Dumfries Town Council on November 3, and Ebony Lofton, the current President of the South Cove Homeowners Association, is running a write-in campaign to win one.
Potomac Local News asked Lofton about why she is running and what she believes she can bring to the table.
PLN: What issue in the city of Dumfries has the highest priority for you?
Lofton: After concerns with the way the proposed homeless shelter in Dumfries was handled, an increase in safety concerns in our neighborhoods and repeatedly observing youth ages 10 to 17 with seemingly nothing to do besides walking around aimlessly, I began considering running for Town Council as a write-in candidate.
Moreover, with the [Rosie’s Gaming Emporium] coming soon, I would like to see residents of Dumfries have access to financial literacy education, mental health support, especially support for gambling addiction if needed, and a police department that is strengthened with more officers who receive increased diversity training.
I think most would agree that a recreation center would be a great addition to the town. It could be a place that provides constructive activities for our youth; be a workforce center where residents can receive guidance on finding a job or gain interview skills, or be a meeting place for local organizations, or a small soup kitchen to help feed the homeless or be a place where they could take a shower.
Exploring the possibility of making this a reality would be one of my top priorities. With the uncertainty of the future and social distancing as the new normal, a recreation center may be met with opposition, but I believe pursuing this should be included in the Town’s long-range plans.
A more immediate priority would be to ensure the Town of Dumfries Police Department is fully staffed with adequately trained and competitively compensated officers who are available to serve our residents around the clock. We need and deserve a true 24-hour police force.
I strongly believe the Town of Dumfries Police Department will accomplish great things with the current acting chief in charge, but he can only be as strong as the staff he has on hand. I would support increasing the starting salaries of police officers to attract the best and retain them, more training in de-escalation, and continual diversity training to make sure all residents are treated with respect and dignity.
If elected to the town council, what steps would you take to make any needed changes?
One of the first things I would do if elected would be to seek input from residents about what they would like to see changed or improved. I believe it is important to hear their voices, not just at election time via their votes.
I would encourage the Town Council to create a community task force that consistently opens two-way lines of communication between residents and their elected officials. Even though the Town Council is responsible for making decisions and at times unpopular ones, it is often helpful to have a pulse of the residents’ needs and priorities.
The best way this can be achieved in my opinion is by remaining in contact with HOA boards, distributing at least quarterly newsletters to homes keep residents informed on action taken by the Town Council and its future plans, by increasing the town’s social media presence as a more immediate platform to receive feedback and perhaps even an annual survey that residents could complete and that could be a report card to let the Town Council know how it is doing.
What do you believe are the most important needs for business and economic development in Dumfries?
For a business to be successful it needs employees. I believe the Town Council can assist by encouraging residents to consider working closer to home. Before that can happen, there must be jobs that offer pay that is competitive for working further north and commensurate with the cost of living in the area.
Before jobs can be created, there needs to more businesses willing to set up shop here. That said, boosting economic development in the town is not possible if residents and visitors are not spending money here.
We need a greater mixture of retail shops near us such as a hardware store, a clothing or shoe store, and businesses willing to maintain administrative offices here. Without a doubt, Rosie’s Gaming Emporium will create jobs and will increase revenue for the surrounding existing businesses as people from all over the area will visit us. Increased revenue means increased growth. These all must work together.
What are your particular qualifications to serve as a Council member?
Though on a much smaller scale, I have served on various boards in several different roles before and I currently serve as the President of my HOA. A true leader like myself must be able to make tough decisions.
I have an understanding of local government and what it takes to get the public’s buy-in or to simply listen when they don’t approve of something; mainly because I have been on the other side of the table when it was necessary to not just ask, but demand from our elected officials.
Another attribute I bring to the table is my experience working in the financial industry. I would be an asset for maintaining a balanced budget and properly allocating funds to help avoid budget deficits.
What are some special features of Dumfries that make it a good place to live?
The Town of Dumfries is rich in tradition and history and has a diverse demographic of people of various socioeconomic statuses. There is a large military community as the Quantico Marine Corps Base is nearby.
There are many others like me who decided to call Dumfries home as the housing market has a much broader range than some of the surrounding areas. There is access to public transportation and commuting with the Route 234 lot close by.
Most people I talk to are proud to live here and are vested in helping to improve it. I truly believe that the only constant in the world is changing and based on the Town’s plans for expanding Route 1 and creating that old town look near Town Hall, the Town of Dumfries has the potential to be one of the best places to live in the DMV.
Quite frankly, I want to be a part of the transformation by serving as a council member.
There are three open seats on the Dumfries Town Council in the General Election on November 3. On the ballot is incumbent Brian Fields, and newcomers Tyrone Brown, and Shaun Peet.