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Gerald C.
Democrat VA 11

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  • Recognizing Paula Sampson on the Occasion of Her Retirement from Fairfax County

    by Representative Gerald E. Connolly

    Posted on 2015-01-09

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    CONNOLLY of virginia in the house of representatives Friday, January 9, 2015 Mr. CONNOLLY. Mr. Speaker, I rise to recognize and commend Paula C. Sampson on the occasion of her retirement after a long and distinguished career in public service to the residents of Fairfax County, Virginia. For the past 15 years, Paula has been the director of the Department of Housing and Community Development. She has spent her career focused on putting home ownership within reach of more people and finding more affordable options for those not yet able to purchase their own home.

    After graduating from the University of Michigan with degrees in political science and history, Paula landed a job as a local urban planner. She then relocated to the National Capital Region and accepted a position with the National Association of Counties in its Legislative Affairs Office.

    Fairfax County recruited her to become the Housing Department's Director of Real Estate Finance in 1986. In 1994, Paula left Fairfax to become CEO of the Connecticut Housing Investment Fund, a state-wide, nonprofit organization focused on affordable housing. Thankfully Paula realized her true home was here in Fairfax, returning in 1999.

    I served on the Board of Supervisors at the time and knew she would be a real champion for housing, which is no small feat. On the administrative side, you're managing public dollars, gauging the local housing market, and building community partnerships with banks and nonprofits. But there is also a human side, in which you're working to assist residents across the spectrum, from those seeking help buying a first home to those wanting assistance managing their money so they can one day afford a home to those who are homeless and simply need a warm place to rest their heads.

    Paula truly gets it and proved adept and skillful in juggling those different aspects of her duties. In describing herself, she says, ``While the complexities of real estate finance, the challenges of deal-making and the excitement of the ribbon-cutting are all fun, the real motivator for me is helping an individual have a place to call home. My own modest beginning showed me that growing up in a stable home is the stepping stone to future success.'' I had the pleasure of working closely with Paula during my tenure as Chairman of the Board of Supervisors on a successful affordable housing preservation initiative. We had identified the growing shortage of affordable housing as a primary challenge for the County. Job growth was significantly outpacing construction of new housing units, and those that had once been affordable were quickly being converted or redeveloped into condominium units to capitalize on the hot real estate market at the time.

    We convened a summit of business, faith, nonprofit, and community leaders, and from that exercise we appointed a task force, which recommended the Board of Supervisors establish a goal of preserving 1,000 affordable housing units over a four year period, which at the time we viewed as a stretch goal. As Chairman, I was pleased to champion that goal and set that course for our community, but it was Paula who seized the mission and kept the Department's staff focused on advancing this cause at every turn and through every hurdle. Thanks to her efforts, and those of our many partners, we not only surpassed our goal, we nearly tripled it with 2,700 homes preserved. We were so successful that at one point, the Board dedicated the value of one penny on the local real estate tax to the preservation effort.

    Based on the success of that initiative, we launched a campaign to prevent and end homelessness in 10 years, again hosting a summit and appointing a task force to build community support. It is because of that effort that Fairfax was able to break the mold and actually reduce its homeless population during the Great Recession while other communities struggled. Through it all, Fairfax has been blessed to have the strong support of the faith, nonprofit, and business communities, including Catholics for Housing, Homestretch, Cornerstones, Pathway Homes, United Community Ministries, Sekas Homes, Deloitte, the Fairfax County Chamber, and so many other community partners. We also worked together in advancing the concept of Magnet Housing in the [[Page E42]] County to provide workforce housing for nurses, police officers, firefighters and other young professionals serving the community.

    More recently, I was pleased to collaborate with Paula in support of the County's application to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for acceptance as a Move to Work agency. That designation provides invaluable flexibility with federal dollars to allow Fairfax to better leverage its housing and human service funds with assistance from community partners to provide homeless residents with housing and job training so they can ``move to work'' and self-sufficiency.

    In addition to her regular duties, Paula also has served on multiple regional, state, and national boards, including the National Association of Local Housing Finance Agencies, the National Community Development Association, and the Freddie Mac Affordable Housing Advisory Committee.

    Without question, she has helped make our community stronger, and helped provide other communities with the tools to model our success in Fairfax. Thanks to Paula's leadership Fairfax is moving ever close to goal of providing safe, affordable housing for all those who wish to call our community home.

    Mr. Speaker, Paula Sampson's commitment to public service has set an example that will benefit our community for generations to come. Her accomplishments are truly outstanding and deserving of our sincere appreciation. When I was Chairman of the County Board, we often joked when retirement announcements like this came before the Board that we should pass a resolution to not allow such talented and dedicated staff to leave public service, and I certainly wish that was the case here.

    I wish Paula the best of luck in her retirement, and I ask my colleagues in the House to join me in expressing our appreciation for her long and fruitful service to the residents of Fairfax County.


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