If you managed to catch Phyllis Randall on one of her many volunteering runs at the local community centre or jail, you might have assumed that she’s just an ordinary, run-of-the-mill Loudoun County resident.
This certainly reflected some of the sentiments National History Academy (NHA) students had as they scuffled into their seats on the afternoon of July 17th. Yet as things would turn out, the story which Randall shared with the NHA students on that humid and gloomy afternoon would turn out to be nothing short of enlightening. Born into a military family near the Rockies, Randall became acquainted with the concept of what “it means to serve” extremely early. Despite a seemingly stellar start to life, her family would uproot themselves away from her hometown in Colorado in order to move to Virginia where she would spend the majority of her childhood. By the time she had graduated from college, Randall had transformed into a successful therapist who regularly visited jails and mental health facilities in order to assist people in need. Her life took a turn, however, when she would become a mother to two sons and as a result became acquainted with the Loudoun School Board.
For a long time she had served on grassroots-level school organisations most notably as Chair of the Ethnic Minority Students Committee, yet she would always find herself wanting to do more good for the community. Her chance came in 2003 during the elections for the local School Board, where her goal was to remove the “negative talk about educators”. As Randall recalled to intrigued NHA students, perched in their seats at the Foxcroft School Auditorium that afternoon, she “had done everything right, such as knocking on the correct doors and talking to the correct people”. Therefore, she expected to win a swift electoral victory. She would not. Randall would also attempt to run for a seat on the Loudoun Board of Supervisors in 2007 and would once again be left with another defeat. These two losses would take her into a “a long period of withdrawal” with her slowly leaving many of the grassroots level organisations that she was on.
However, all was not lost, as being a practising Christian, she would pray everyday that “God would uplift” her situation, and according to Randall, He did. Thanks to both her faith and persistence, she would soon be contacted by Virginia House of Delegates members David Poisson and Tim Kaine to serve on the State Fair Housing Board. Randall would survive in her post through an election cycle and her passion in serving the whole collective Virginian community would propel her to the position of Chairperson. It was this event, alongside a few friendly pushes from her colleagues that would finally convince her to run in the 2015 Loudoun County Supervisor election against 20 year incumbent Scott York. Randall would manage to place herself in an advantageous position by collecting endorsements from various county offices, notably the Office of Education and Policing.
These endorsements would be invaluable to her campaign, yet what was even more crucial was that she “talked about issues that really mattered to her community” including climate change, as well as the penal system. It was this palpable connection to the people of Loudoun County that would secure Randall her victory. It goes to show that what people in this country want are politicians who don’t just fit the bill, but leaders who are willing to go against the grain. We need leaders who are both fair and passionate, with Randall providing an example we can all look up to, with her amazing story of grit and resilience.