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Fairfax History Commission may get additional resources

The Fairfax County History Commission had several successes in the past year, from installing historical markers to carrying out multiple initiatives on African-American history, but its leader said the group needs additional county resources to realize its potential.

Commission Chair Cheryl Repetti, who delivered the group’s annual report to the Board of Supervisors on June 28, asked supervisors to fund a full-time staff member and allocate additional hours for county staff to assist in responding to council requests to the commission.

Supervisors commended the efforts of the commission and were willing to provide additional funding.

The county’s Planning and Development Department will have bridge funding available as early as July to fund an employee to support the commission, Supervisor Dalia Palchik (D-Providence) said. Officials will seek a more permanent financial source for the post in time for next year’s budget cycle, she said.

The 21-member volunteer commission was established in 1969 to maintain the county’s inventory of historic sites, advise officials, and promote public interest in the county’s history.

The commission’s major projects in 2021 included creating the African American History Inventory and Black/African Experience Marker Project and promoting its Confederate Names Inventory Report, which it had presented to supervisors in December 2020.

Last year, Commission members also added the William H. Goldsmith House and Pride of Fairfax Lodge 298 to the inventory of historic sites; conducted, in partnership with cable channel 16, five ethnic/oral history interviews with former county supervisors; updated historical marker at Carrolltown in Lee District; and installed a marker at James Lee Elementary School in the Mason District.

This year, commission leaders plan to release the Inventory of African American History, which was compiled by information technology students at George Mason University, as a web-accessible database. to the public hosted by Mason’s Fenwick Library, Repetti said.

The commission will also host its second annual “We Are Fairfax County” History Lecture Series which will “explore and share the untold and untold stories of the county.” This year’s events will cover the experiences of African Americans and early immigrants, Repetti said.

Infill development is putting increased pressure on more historic sites, and the county will soon have to start preserving 20th-century sites as well, she said.

“The county needs new tools to better protect and preserve cultural resources,” Repetti said.

Some new strategies being brought into play include single-property historic overlay districts, such as those used at River Farm in Mount Vernon, as well as tax credits and other incentives for property owners to preserve, rehabilitate and reuse their structures. historic, said Repetti.

The commission’s budget for the next fiscal year 2023 remains at $21,013, which pays for an annual conference, road markers, memberships, partnership support, and staff and record-keeping work, it said. she stated.

” It’s amazing. It’s a lot of work,” Supervisory Board Chairman Jeff McKay (D) said of the History Commission’s efforts.

McKay particularly thanked the commission for its recent inventory report on Confederate names, which was “done very quickly, but very carefully.”

Supervisor Rodney Lusk (D-Lee), who would receive board approval later this meeting for his proposal to begin the process of renaming his district in Franconia, thanked the History Commission for its research into the question.

“Discussing our full story is so important right now,” added supervisor Walter Alcorn (D-Hunter Mill).