A candid conversation: Meet the real Eugene Delgaudio
Chronologically, the following narrative begins in the late 1960s, with a then-14 year old Eugene Delgaudio clinging to a tree in New York’s Central Park, shouting “THERE go the right-wing fascists!” and pointing into the distance as a mob of 5000 leftists and hippies charges past him, when all along – as he now relates – he was the right wing fascist, who had trespassed into their rally to burn an effigy of Ho Chi Minh.
To speak with Eugene Delgaudio about issues of the day is to unfold a panoramic timeline, because this is a man steeped in the history of politics and ideas. Ask him about something that happened last week or last year and the reference points might include Barry Goldwater or Ronald Reagan – or other figures from the past too numerous to mention – just as likely as Herman Cain or Sarah Palin.
He brings the past into the present because there is a consistency between what he believes, where he learned it, and what he does today. He hails from the time before principles became archaisms. And more than that, he recalls it all from the perspective of one who was there.
Eugene Delgaudio was Free Republic before there was a Free Republic; he was Tea Party long before there was a Tea Party. And as I learned in the interview, he might’ve been Capitol Steps before there was a Capitol Steps.
The reason for this interview is to give a glimpse of the authentic Eugene Delgaudio, and as you’ve probably gathered by now, it is not a “hard-hitting” interview per se. That wasn’t the point. But even if you are not currently a Delgaudio fan, stick with me for a second and you might see some value in what follows.
You are never going to get any public figure – Supervisor Delgaudio included – to really open up in the context of a hostile cross examination. That’s obvious. What is unique about Eugene Delgaudio, however, is that he really is much more honest than most public figures (this has raised controversy at times … but nothing the supervisor has ever shrank away from, either).
Even the most rabid anti-Delgaudio people must admit two things:
- Eugene Delgaudio works very hard, and
- Eugene Delgaudio does not self-censor as proficiently as some
He is not hard-wired to put on airs.
Consequently, once you get him talking, you really can get quite an unvarnished view of Eugene Delgaudio. That’s what I wanted to accomplish because, having known the man for a number of years, the real Eugene Delgaudio is not whom his opponents usually attack – and that fact is very revealing about them.
If you want to criticize Eugene Delgaudio for his conservative beliefs, well have at it. Liberals won’t care for his votes in office, and liberal voters may vote against him. But for anyone who wants to know about how he does his job, why he does what he does and says what he says, for good or ill, you will certainly find that out in what follows. For any opponents who think voters should get to know him better, be careful what you wish for, because love him or hate him Eugene Delgaudio is the real deal.
This year, Supervisor Delgaudio is facing a full-court press from the usual coterie of local antagonists, but now with significant help from outside money and union workers imported to carry the water for a candidate who actually is a union employee, a writer for the far-left Daily Kos site and recent arrival in Sterling – one of Eugene’s two opponents. The other rival for the office is a lifelong Sterling resident who is also very, very far to the left ideologically.
So there is no pretense this year of even putting up a moderate candidate to oppose Eugene Delgaudio in 2011. What his opponents are thinking, who knows? But the following is provided so that supporters, undecideds and even current critics can learn who he is, and decide for themselves whether he should continue to represent Sterling.
NOTE: This interview is long, so the following hyperlinks are provided to make for easier navigation by subject matter. I edited – believe it or not – for length, because there was even more history from the supervisor’s past and more philosophical explanation than is already presented. But for the most part what you read – what follows – is our conversation.
Quick Links To Article Sections
Why the contradictions between who Eugene is, and who his opponents try to paint him as
NVTH: The reason I’ve wanted to have a candid conversation – if you would be willing – is because for those of us who know you there seems to be a massive disconnect between who we know Eugene Delgaudio to be, and what your detractors say about you. I have seen your work in Leesburg and in Sterling, around your supporters, your detractors, and average non-political residents of the district, and I have found you to be hard-working, sensible, intelligent, caring and well-liked by those who live here. But a small, vocal group of your detractors continually tries to paint you as some sort of hater. Any ideas on why that is?
There is a patent unfairness in politics in the United States of America. There are certain people who will lie and stoop to any depths to cast aspersions on the opposition just so that they can gain public office or to get the other guy out. And in this area of Washington DC, they many years ago said some very mean things about Barry Goldwater and put Lyndon Baines Johnson in the presidency, and we’ve been paying for it as a country ever since.
Today, we know that Barry Goldwater was correct, that there were certain restraints on the government that needed to be put in place to preserve our prerogatives as a free nation, as a power in the world.
And to the degree that the country forgets that – such as Mr. Obama’s presidency – to the degree that the country is confused or lied to by our national media, that is where we have a disappointing administration.
Now there are corrections. During the Clinton administration, he responded to a change in the Congress. So people do periodically reassert their understanding of what democracy is. Democracy and fairness require balance, balance in all things.
I think the people of Sterling have constantly returned to balance by reelecting me. They look at what I say, they look at how I am, and then they vote for me based on what they themselves know to be true. There are people who are susceptible and deceived; I go to them, they change their opinion of me based on new information. So there are innocent people in this country and in this community who don’t know the real Eugene Delgaudio, they don’t know who I am, they base it on a story told to them, and some people perpetrate this lie. They perpetrate this fantasy because it’s in their self-interest to perpetrate this self-delusion that I’m a hater.
How can I be a hater if I have six children and a wife that I’ve been married to 29 years? How can I be a hater if I raise money for a sports league routinely – $35,000 this year for the Lower Loudoun Football League, $50,000 over several previous years for a variety of projects. How can I be a hater if I’m raising money for Sully Elementary School Discovery Park?
Retail politics in a diverse community, and righting a wrong
NVTH: One of your key advantages election after election is you seem to have been born for retail politics. When people meet you, they like you. What’s the secret to that in a community as diverse as Sterling?
Meeting people is critical. Seeing people is critical. There are 100 nationalities here represented by the world. Sterling is a microcosm of the world. Every nationality is represented here. I’ve always known that Sterling is minority-majority, I’ve always known that. I come from a background in New York where people were from every country and united in one purpose.
When I was in college I saw a wrong thing occurring. The majority black students were not represented by the student government by any representative – even though they were a majority at my city university, which was York College. And I decided to right that wrong, and that wrong was corrected by a young lady named Mary Lewis who I asked to be president, and another young lady, Geneva Scott, who I asked to be vice president. I served as their treasurer, and both of them were elected, president and vice president of the student government, at my college. And that was a historic first for that college. It had been a majority black college for its seven-year history at that point, but it had not elected a president or vice president or an officer of the government from the black majority population in Jamaica, Queens. So it was a great injustice.
NVTH: You went to a majority black college?
I went to a majority black college for my entire four years and that’s where my college degree comes from.
So I learned, of course, prior to going to college, to love everyone. I love everyone equally. It’s a love that’s based on an understanding of what public service is and what justice is. So the conservatism that I embraced was a coalition fusionist style of conservatism.
“For the rest of your life, you will always have been in Sterling”
My message to people when I knock on their door – in fact you’ll see that there are people who are not even registered voters with my sign, here in Sterling, on every major street. The reason is, I include them. They live here. They pay real estate taxes. Even if they just rent, they’re part of Sterling. I’m their supervisor.
But those who want to spread lies about me, the truth is, I know most people know that I will work very hard to get them a job if they’re a teenager. Most people that I will work very hard to put trees on Sterling Blvd. Most people know that I will raise money for a youth sports league here, or a sports facility or any kind of playground, they just need to ask me, I will help them raise the many dollars that have to be raised. I’ll assist them on HOW to raise money for their private group. Most people know that I will talk to anyone. I’m going to have to serve everyone who lives here.
A man says to me, “I’m not a registered voter, I’m not a citizen of this country, and I don’t plan on becoming a citizen here. Why would you represent me?”
I said, “Because you live here, and you are in this house, and while you live here and while you’re in this house, you’re in Sterling. And wherever you go, the rest of your life, you will always have been in Sterling. And that is very important to me.”
NVTH: I’ve been door to door with you numerous times and the people who obviously don’t speak English receive you just as warmly as the people who have been here and look like they’ve voted for you numerous times.
I have been …. I was with David Ramadan yesterday, and this man said his name was Mohammed Islam – and he was just as genuinely receptive and warm a man as I’ve ever seen at any door. And he of course appreciated David Ramadan as a candidate, but he told David things about me that I had done at the mosque, that he’d been there to see, and that he was very appreciative of my devotion to the people over the past 12 years, but especially since 9-11.
NVTH: You’ve been to the ADAMS Center a number of times, right?
Yes. That’s an example of my multi-ethnicity outreach. I mean, there’s no question that I have been very aggressive in defending the rights of everyone here.
It’s difficult to describe Sterling without knowing that Sterling has changed over the last 12 years. The attraction of a large house at a low price has been universal. It is the American dream for everyone in the world. And so everyone in the world has come to Sterling. And they have just as militant a loyalty to their brand of Sterling, their vision of what Sterling is … Sterling makes it possible for them to have children with a place for them to play and to go to a nice school, and to be safe. And Frank Wolf said it best some years ago, and I repeated it last week when he came here, that it was the turnaround that helped make it possible: No one should be afraid.
And so in Sterling, my motto has always been, everyone should be welcome, and everyone should be made to feel welcome.
Can you be both tough on crime, and a friend to the entire community?
NVTH: During the past six years we’ve had serious crime problems in Sterling, gang issues and ordinances that were not being followed nor, it seemed to some of us, adequately enforced. You were very out front in addressing these quality of life issues and for a period of time that required speaking plainly about illegal alien criminals, which made you a target of criticism by liberals – all situated in other parts of the county. Is there, as some try to argue, a contradiction between being a straight talker on those law and order issues and being a friend of the majority immigrant community here?
Regardless of where they are from, I’m going to expect them to participate the best they can. I do speak English, and in the event of an emergency I have staff members who do speak Spanish, and I have translated things when it’s related to a crime or emergency. Two-sided, the usual bilingual emergency messages when we’re looking for something.
Today, for instance, there was an incident which I’ll get a report on about a particular type of disgusting individual that was at Rolling Ridge, kind of dangerous to children … kind of dangerous to children, that’s the way I’ll describe it, a form of disgusting individual that would watch children and do strange things, and that’s the preliminary report.
NVTH: At Rolling Ridge, right next to the Sheriff’s substation?
NVTH: That sounds like a dangerous, stupid individual.
The deputies are really upset with this and they’re gonna put out an advisory. But this is the kind of thing that I act on, and find out about right away, because I get a phone call and I will alert others to watch for this individual once we have more information, if that’s what the deputies want. If they want a generic alarm. I will be very sensitive to things like that, I will ask about that. And the deputies know enough to tell me and they upgraded their normal alert system to accommodate the cooperation that I have encouraged here in Sterling.
The entire turnaround in Sterling, the entire 180 degree turnaround in crime and violence that we experienced some years ago, was accomplished because every person in Sterling, whether they were a registered voter or a Democrat or whatever kind of person they were, but every single person who resides here and has a stake here, whatever the stake is, turned it around together. That’s what was done: People said, “this guy’s speeding, this guy’s doing a bad thing, this guy’s doing the wrong thing, turn ‘em in.”
Whatever it was, pull together. Now, some people left, and God bless them if they left because they couldn’t take it any more, or God bless them if they left and they didn’t want the situation, the environment that they were basically in now. The environment was: A group of individuals in this majority decided that they were going to make improvements here.
NVTH: So there was more active cooperation with the police and neighborhood watches?
Yes, there was leadership, leadership from all quarters. It was a multilateral, across race, coalition, top to bottom, whether it’s neighborhood watches or homeowners associations. But everyone realized they needed to work together at some level and turn things around. The reporting was up, the deputies started doing their roll calls here, the deputies having more of a presence, deputies having more of an enthusiastic welcome on the ground, I would encourage them with flyers and leaflets, with cooperation. There was definitely a flushing out of the bad elements. There’s no question about that. And things turned around because of that cooperation.
We have neighborhood watches in every corner now of the district. We have an understanding and appreciation and enthusiasm for sobriety checkpoints and safety checkpoints. The deputies are greeted and respected enthusiastically by the population generically. The schools are safer.
There have been times when there’s been an element that is here to do wrong, and there are illegal alien criminals who are trying to terrorize, and hurt and victimize, and there are elements that are not welcome here. With those elements that are not welcome, I am very clear about what’s in store for them because they make it impossible and they were making it impossible.
And so you have a fighter. You have someone who is a welcoming person, but you also have a fighter in this supervisor. Someone who is fearless in the sense that, I’m not reckless, but I am determined, in every aspect of my administration to make up for any shortfall on the part of government.
“I come in peace; do you come in peace?”
NVTH: I want to briefly discuss the Muslim picnic last election, I think it was September 2007, at Lake Fairfax Park in Reston ….
Television aired that segment ….
NVTH: I’ve got it on video and I haven’t pulled it out yet, and I made some comments afterward how well you were received. I mean, you came in with kind of a different approach, but you were very well received. And then somehow it got out that your were “booed” by the audience, and you weren’t. You said “I come in peace, do you come in peace?” and everybody clapped. And I’ve been tempted to dig that tape out and get the real thing up on YouTube …. if I can find it maybe I will. I was really impressed. I mean, they really liked you, because you didn’t pander, and you didn’t get up there and just spout platitudes.
They know, from what I’ve told them directly – whether it’s the 500 people at that Fairfax park who I met for the first time, or 5000 people that I met in Chantilly at the Dulles Convention Center – and I spoke with George Allen one year, to 5000 at a particular event.
The message has always been that they have a responsibility as residents, whether they become citizens or not, that as long as they reside in this country they must do what they can to understand our Constitution, our way of life, and to stand with us against those who would tear down what they have.
What they have is prosperity. What they have is the ability to meet, and to meet with me. I say that I am just a lowly board member on the board of supervisors, but they must appreciate themselves enough that – if we are there in front of them and are given a microphone – that my voice would be added to their voice, only to the degree that they would be helping to preserve our collective liberties. Their liberties are our liberties. As an American, I treasure the Constitution; there is our country and the love of country; and that as long as they would allow me to have the love of my country I would certainly stand with them and the love of their freedoms as well.
I say it in as efficient a language as I can – and in the case of the Fairfax event I was only afforded a minute or two – but I’ve always been very clear. My appeal is one of traditional patriotism, and patriotism for self interest.
And so that is not a my way or the highway, my country over your country. Whatever your loyalties are you also need to respect my loyalties. That is an appeal to self-interest and coalition, coalition for a common interest: You’re here, we’re gonna work together, we’re working together right now. Let’s keep working together.
NVTH: The impression I’ve gotten from the little bit I’ve been out going door to door with different candidates over the years, and in some communities where nearly house you go to is somebody from another country, is that there’s a tremendous sense of wanting to be part of the community among the immigrants that live here, and that they simply are, especially in Sterling. Considering the diversity in Sterling, there is almost zero inter-ethnic friction.
There is a maturation process, and maturity level, that people have to reach to look beyond themselves, and look beyond their race.
Members of my staff understand that we have a diverse community. Members of my campaign staff and members of the Republican Party don’t treat each other as members of minorities, but we have the most diverse campaign staff, most diverse Republican Party here. All my staff members speak Spanish, and every member of my staff is either married to a minority or they are minorities themselves. All my supporters are the most diverse that you could possibly imagine. House to house, door to door, my philosophy is to visit every house. There is every race represented among my supporters. Every race. There is just an amazing melting pot in terms of there’s no race left out in my support in this community.
It has to be that way. I would not want to be a supervisor without support from every possible angle, whether it’s young people, old people, middle class, upper class … there’s really not a class divide in Sterling, it’s almost impossible to imagine, I mean there’s nothing like that here. It’s all working class, 100%. So all ranges of people understand that I pay attention. I go to the homes, we have the age-restricted homes for the elderly people, I visit every house, whether they’re a young couple that just moved here or an 18 year old that just became registered to vote. I have a program writing every honor roll student …
NVTH: And you’ve been doing that for years?
Been doing that for all 12 years. And so I don’t miss young people, I don’t miss old people. When we were underrepresented in the exemption program for elderly, I made sure that the elderly were included in that, and that the commissioner of the revenue went to them. So I’ve been making sure all components of the population are included here in outreach to our community.
The man who came to Sterling, and the Meatball Rebellion
NVTH: And when you came to Sterling you already had a background in politics to some extent …
My first special election for a conservative that won a U.S. Senate race was James Buckley in 1970. He was a third party candidate, of the Conservative Party, and he won election – a great victory, a model for other conservatives running without the encumbrance of the Republican Party, as independent conservatives. [Ed. note: James Buckley, brother of National Review founder William F. Buckley, served in the Senate from 1971-1977, the last third party registrant elected to the U.S. Congress.]
I continued to learn. In 1977 I helped a rabbi – Rabbi Sheldon Farber – to the state senate in a special election, in a district that was 10-1 Democrat over Republican. Again, talking to people retail.
There were no pale pastels. I’ve always been as conservative as I am today, always very expressive about my conservatism, but my outreach has always been a fusionist, coalition style, that I will include all aspects of morality, economics and justice in my vision of what America could be.
So I arrived here, and I had seen what Sterling was like, and I came here to put my name on the ballot in 1998, and I was fighting the meals tax.
The meals tax in 1998 was a generic penalty for eating food – and that applies to all who eat food, anyone who was eating food. This was going to hit hard the poorest of our population, the people who can’t afford to buy a hamburger or any kind of McDonalds hamburger or Roy Rogers or Taco Bell. So this was a tax that was going to hit them disproportionately – and any restaurant for that matter.
NVTH: So it was a meals tax that was going to go from fast food right up through restaurants and hotels and everything?
Yes, so I fought that. So I was a crusader at that time when I came here in 1998, and went door to door, and found a number of people in 1998 that were opposed to that meals tax.
That was at a time that Mr. York looked out and saw a large crowd at That’s Amore and was part of that original crowd at That’s Amore – the Meatball Rebellion. The Meatball Rebellion was – I held a meatball up, and said “We shall not allow the meals tax to pass. Long live the meatball. Let this meatball be tax-free.”
We had the original Meatball Rebellion at That’s Amore, and from there we went to get 77% of the general public in Sterling to vote against the meals tax in 1998. So I felt that that was an appropriate bonding time for me with the people of Sterling.
And then I went to them again, after that victory, because I really needed to know more about Sterling, if they were willing to fight for themselves, if they were willing to fight for what was right. And they needed someone who wanted to fight for them as well. And so by 1999 I became a candidate for Sterling supervisor.
This was an election in which Scott York crushed Dale Myers, in 1999, on May 22, 1999, for the nomination for chairman. And in that same primary, that same canvas, where 700 people came out, I got 400 votes and my opponent, Karl Hellman, got 300.
NVTH: This was a race for the Republican nomination?
Yes, and then I went on, my opponent was Ms. Munez. And the Democrats put her name out as a Democratic candidate and she wanted to run as an independent. So she ripped up her papers a few hours before the deadline, and they had no candidate, and I was unopposed. And a write-in candidate was fielded – they promoted Karl Hellman as a write-in and I got about 65% of the vote and he got about 35% as a write-in.
So there’s always been this tension here between those who are part of the establishment – people who want to keep things the way they are – and myself. Whether it’s Dale Myers or Scott York, I was not endorsed by either one of them. And these animosities, these things go on. I mean, there are still these – what do you want to call them – these grudge matches.
And to bring up to date, this year I decided not to continue the grudge with Mr. York, and have an alliance with him. And that’s typical of my commitment to Sterling. I see Sterling as benefiting from the beginning where there was a conflict between me and Mr. York. Mr. York didn’t want me, and the people of Sterling wanted me, and that was a conflict.
Here, after 12 years of me being reelected, I felt it was important the people understand that Mr. York and I work together. He has been critical of the budget and more critical and focused on transportation improvements, as opposed to catering to western Loudoun exclusively. You’ve got to be elected here, but you have to make sure you pay attention to the population at large, improvements that affect the entire county.
Enemy of the libraries?
NVTH: Related to the budget: You are accused of being against services that many residents use, such as at Claude Moore.
The Claude Moore Community Center represents one of our accomplishments on the budget which has benefited Loudoun County.
We now achieve cost neutrality in the operation because we charge a fee, and that way it’s paying for itself. And I think the people of Sterling, the people of Loudoun who use that facility, should pay for it. And I don’t think there’s anything illogical about that.
But to hear my opponents, they say I would close that facility. Well, yes, it would be closed if people don’t want to use it and pay for it, yes. I don’t think there’s any backing down on my part in that regard. If people want to use it and not pay for it, that’s called freeloading. And the people who don’t use it should not be forced pay, that’s called tyranny. And so I protest tyranny. I say this is tyrannical, to force others to pay for one’s recreation is tyrannical and wrong. And so I created a new wave of accountability, as just one supervisor. And Mr. York and the current board – by a majority, a slim majority – agree.
And as long as I keep the focus on fighting tyranny and keeping up what’s right – Mr. York is part of that, part of correcting the tyranny, part of reversing the lack of accountability if you are going to have a government service for recreation.
NVTH: It is also said that you want to close the libraries ….
It’s the same thing with books at the library. Why would someone keep a book for 120 days, or two years. Why would they keep hundreds of books for two years? That’s tyrannical. I will fight that imbalance, that unfairness, that lack of candor about what it is we’re doing here with the public library system. If we’re helping someone hoard books, that’s wrong. The collection of fees for late books might sound like a routine thing in other counties, but here in Loudoun that elite, liberal western Loudoun effete snobs felt that it was really critical that they force their ideology on the rest of Sterling and the rest of Loudoun. Their philosophy was “our way or the highway, we’re gonna have free books because that’s our brand of socialism.”
And so there you had a socialism that was, again, tyrannical, forcing people to subsidize some kind of strange habit of keeping and hoarding books so that nobody could read them and then claiming that these books were actually being circulated. So not only was there that forcing people to pay for something that didn’t make any sense, but it was really, actually counterproductive. And we reversed that. And then half a million dollars in added revenue to the libraries, so that we could actually an entire library: An entire library in eastern Loudoun could be operated with that money, from just the system collecting fees for books.
NVTH: Was that something that was corrected under the current board?
Under the current board. It took me ten years to get the board to correct that and to reverse themselves 180 degrees.
NVTH: So for the past ten years there has been no collecting late fees?
NVTH: And the fact that you finally got them agree to late fees ….
I’ve had to be uncompromising …
NVTH: This makes you an “enemy of the libraries”?
I’m now an enemy of the libraries because I forced them to collect fees. And that’s all the battle is about. The battle is not about closing any libraries. The battle is about making them collect fees, and account for those monies, and do something that is against their philosophy – so therefore I’m a threat and I have to be gotten rid of.
NVTH: So is there some liberal ideological movement that underlay that back in the 90s, that libraries should never collect fees? I mean where did this come from?
This is part of the policy of “free things for everyone, everyone needs free things, everyone must have free things.” But the fact is that if someone keeps a book, that is not a “circulated book.” If someone comes and checks the book out for two weeks and reads the book and returns it, that’s a circulated book. So there was a false circulation number, and it was in the former administrator’s interest for people to keep books for a year or two years at a time because he would count that as a circulated book. Fewer people keeping lots of books is not a success story. And he played it as a success story, that he had these high circulation numbers. So there was a philosophy in the library system that everything should be free and everything should be given to anyone who walks in the door and asks for it. And my philosophy is, if you really need it, you will keep it for a couple of weeks, and you will return it. The people who do that should be the targeted audience.
NVTH: Let’s talk about the job you’ve had in Loudoun County for the past 12 years. From all you’ve described so far, a district supervisor can have in impact in a lot of different areas that affect the resident.
The supervisor’s job is not an elected position without some serious responsibility. A supervisor has to be: an administrator; a legislator, who makes laws; a budgetmeister, someone familiar with every aspect of the budget; the supervisor has to be familiar with taxing authority; he or she has to know the Constitution and what’s fair; and has to be reaching out to the people who bear the brunt of these taxing and budgeting and regulatory policies.
So a county supervisor has to use a balance of funding, encouragement, and overarching executive management, because you’re dealing with all aspects of government that come to the board of supervisors for their funding. It is a unique governmental office.
There is only a remote comparison to town council or to mayor or to state delegate or state senator. A mayor has to report to the town council. The town council legislates and budgets. But a supervisor is the mayor, is the legislature, is the regulator, and in many cases the final authority, the judge, the appeals court. Supervisors are the people who decide zoning, the people who decide most types of governmental manifestation in the county, other than VDOT. You have VDOT, but VDOT is directed by the legislature and by the governor to report to the board of supervisors and to make sure that the board of supervisors are the people who are signing off on what VDOT is doing.
So with most of the major events in Virginia, Sterling, anywhere in the state, the supervisor is the person who makes that decision as to what it is that actually manifests itself. Whether it’s a stop sign or construction of a bridge or a hospital, firehouse and so on – we’re pretty much the ones who make government come alive in terms of what the residents experience.
The hardest-working supervisor in the county
NVTH: In addition to what you do in Leesburg, you also play a unique role in what you do on the ground – in the community – on a daily basis here in Sterling. The 24/7 attention that you pay to what’s happening actually out in the street here in Sterling is singular. I mean, I have always said on the Internet, “He’s the hardest-working supervisor in the county” and nobody has ever contradicted that – even those on the other side who have negative things to say about you. So I think it’s widely accepted that you do more than anybody else, with your regular email newsletters and your physical presence in the community. How did you step into that mold? Because I see the other supervisors filling the other components to some extent, in the way that you described the supervisor position, but I don’t any of the others come close to that level of hands-on community involvement.
There are world leaders who live here, as well as community leaders and chamber of commerce people and CEOs of major companies who I work with, and when I ask for $10,000 or $20,000 or $30,000 for a sports facility or for the Lower Loudoun Football League or for Sully Elementary School, they know that it’ll come with a corresponding commitment to help them with what their enterprise is, to help them with what they’re trying to do. And if I want big things for Sterling, like trees to be funded with private money and matching grants, that money to match the grant has to come from big people who work here, CEOs and corporate leaders who have the resources to make those big things happen.
The supervisor job is a very big job. The interest I have is to try to make a difference. When the crime situation confronted us, we needed a big response from a lot of people, and that was where you saw an increased tempo on my part.
I learned this tempo of service from Tom Davis, congressman from the 11th congressional district. I learned it from Frank Wolf, who has pretty much for 30 years been at that level of commitment and service to the average person. This is a man who will go to an African country and sleep in a tent and make sure that those individuals are heard about. This is a man who notices, on the other extreme, China penetrating our intelligence community via the Internet and challenging our technology by disrupting our Internet services. This is a man who stood up to President Clinton on corruption, who wants to correct the deficit over his lifetime and has taken on some hard tasks there. This is a man who keeps a file on individuals who need help and helps them himself personally. A man who constantly takes on some of these tough issues and articulates them for all of us, even including things I disagree with such as on the Metro issue. He’s making sure funding is secured for Metro and on transportation infrastructure. So his work model has been an inspiration to me.
Tom Davis, when he was a supervisor, when he was a chairman of the board, when he was a member of Congress, would help people. And so my work ethic has been to emulate them, to follow their performance level and to make a difference.
It is hard to describe it but I think I can make a difference and I think that people have to understand that they can make a difference. And so while I am doing my job, half of my job is having interns, having teen job fairs, half of my job is explaining to citizens who volunteer that they have a role to play – such as with the neighborhood watches – that their job is to help me become more effective so that they can be more effective with their zoning ordinance complaints, with their complaints about other issues. If they want to remain anonymous that’s fine – and they’re entitled to remain anonymous – as long as I’m supervisor they can continue to make the improvements that need to be made, whether it’s calling the non-emergency number as a neighborhood watch member, or calling me and letting me know about something that needs to be corrected.
Bottom line is, it’s not a supervisor’s job to fight the meals tax. You could make a speech, and “fight the meals tax.” You can put out a news release that “fights the meals tax” and sit it out. But is it right? Is it correct to simply issue an opinion – or is it just being political? And I have never wanted to be political. I’ve always wanted to be true to the people of Sterling. And if I do take a position of opposition to something they hear about it from me.
The most important activities in Sterling are the teen job fairs, Sterling Fest, things that bring us all together as a community. And I have enough money to send that information out in the mail in the form of a report. Zoning enforcement, those are the things that I make sure I communicate with most of the people most of the time, important things that occur here. Lower Loudoun Football League is one of the largest cultural activities in Sterling on a routine basis, nearly 1000 people get together weekly there. There are various charities here. There are ten charities, and fundraising is not the job of a supervisor. Sending letters to the honor roll students is not the job of the supervisor. Getting on the Internet and warning people about hurricanes and earthquakes and yard sales for charities and Chick-fil-A parties raising money for the band on Monday night, October 17, is not part of the job of supervisor. And none of the other supervisors, none of the elected officials, dirty their fingers in Loudoun County with such as that.
The truth is, everything is the job of the elected official, everything that occurs in the community.
This is my level of service we’re talking about, my level of service. This is my standard, what I’ve learned from Frank Wolf and Tom Davis and others like them: Elected officials should have at least a handful of things that they do every day for their constituency that have the widest possible impact. Every day. It doesn’t cost money to send notices via the Internet. It doesn’t cost money to see people every day. If you’re going to go into a supermarket, you can wear your little orange hat and make yourself visible and available, every day.
“It is very, extremely annoying to be me”
Putting out your home phone number, which I’ve done for 12 years. When someone needs help, you’ve gotta be there. Everyone has to know your email address. Everyone has to know your phone number, when they need you. That’s the level of service that elected officials have to have. Because if you do it, then maybe others will do it, and understand that that’s supposed to be the level of service. That’s the model that they’re supposed to follow: Put out your home phone number, be accountable.
Now, I can’t do this forever. I will do it for as long as I can. And it is very, extremely annoying to be me.
NVTH: I can imagine ….
Because there are a lot of elected officials who say “I will not be like that. I will only be available a certain amount of time, and that’s it. I will not put out my home phone number: Why are you calling me at home? Call me at the office.”
That’s not my level of service. It never was, and it never will be. That’s why I became Sterling supervisor. Because I believe that a person who occupies this office, or any elected official, whoever it is, who wants to take my place, or serves in another seat, could do the same thing for their people.
I’m doing it for the people of Sterling. Because it’s right. I’m doing it for the people of Sterling because God has helped me understand that.
NVTH: Yeah, it seems like the level you maintain would be hard to maintain forever, because you go completely 100%, 24/7/365, you’re always available. Do you think about, “well there’s a certain point where I’m going to need to have a few weeks off, just take a break?” Or 5 years from now, are you making plans ….?
Twelve years have gone real quick. My wife and I have been married 29 years. The commitment is a commitment on my spouse’s part, that she feels I’ve made an impact here. As long as she feels that I’m having an impact, as long as she feels that I’m the same person that she married, that I’m still the same person to my children that I was when they were born. If I can be a better person – of course, there’s always room for improvement and so I’m always looking for room for improvement. But as long as I have their approval I’ll continue to put my name on the ballot.
Ego, money, and accessibility
NVTH: To kind of continue in that same vein: My impression of you, and I think that of a number of people who know you, you’re an extremely humble person, you’re a self-effacing person, and you’re the exact opposite of an egomaniac, and I think that is reflected in your approach to outreach. You’re obviously a devout Catholic. What are the personal standards you hold yourself to, the spiritual standards, that make you who you are? And I guess the other question is, how come certain other people don’t see that?
The egocentric behavior that they talk about, is the confusion between being here in Washington and being a successful person who challenges the orthodoxy at the highest of levels. I am, in a sense, the most humble person, but I am also the most patriotic. And so I believe anyone can be president of the United States – and do a better job than Mr. Obama. I think people like Ronald Reagan who came forward and became president are still astounding to the people, and making a move like going from being an actor to a governor to president: I mean, anyone can be president, anyone can be supervisor.
It does require some ego. But the notion that that’s a fault I think is part of the lie and the misconception about a Sarah Palin or about a Herman Cain. Of course you have to have a belief in yourself: That’s the American way, as long as it’s within reason, a belief in one’s self. And I learned from an early age that you can make a difference, one person can make a difference. And I learned about it from participating in democracy.
Could Barry Goldwater overcome the 1964 juggernaut? No. But if Barry Goldwater had access to the Internet …. he had his own mimeograph machine, but if he had an army of volunteers, and a fundraising mechanism to match Mr. Lyndon Baines Johnson, he could have beat him in 1964. And that’s what you saw in 1980. You saw a Ronald Reagan who was able to communicate to people in a short amount of time, quickly. I was on the fax machine with him, sending him clippings. I was part of his traveling team in 1976. I stayed in New York City. I was out at 10 pm to get the New York Times, and I faxed it to him, and he read it as soon as he got up at 6 am in the morning, for six months in the 76 campaign. Almost toppled an incumbent Republican president, Gerald Ford. Almost. Not for lack of trying.
I also ran an independent expenditure effort for Ronald Reagan in 1976, the first of its kind, called “College Students for Reagan,” in eight states. The first independent expenditure filed with the Federal Election Commission, in eight states. So MONEY, MONEY – always been a topic. Always, to counter the Left’s twisting of information.
And in return the Left always turns around and tries to stifle First Amendment rights. That’s why we’ve had to put signs on roofs here in Sterling, because the Left wants to stifle and cancel elections. That’s what they want to do: They want to cancel the right of conservatives to get their message out. And so Ronald Reagan was the Barry Goldwater of 1980, only the difference was he had a communications ability, he had a communications network, he had the financing to get the communications out. Voila.
And so I am doing the same thing I have done all my life and what I’ve learned is: Constantly report to people, constantly tell them what I’m doing, with them, as team members, and how I need them to help us build our society.
Liberals would tear this down and say that it’s because of my ego, because I sign my name and say I am accountable for this email, done by Eugene, with my home phone number. This is an ego-driven thing, to have my picture so that they know who the supervisor is when they see him? When they see him, with my name on my orange hat, from a mile away – they say that is ego?
That is service above self. That is accountability. That is accessibility. That is democracy in its purest form, the likes of which make liberals afraid. Frightened, that their efforts at tyranny and socialism will fail – once again.
Humor as an art form
NVTH: Ok this is a perfect segue into the sense-of-humor question. Because you have an impressive sense of humor which some people just don’t get. And the understanding and keen sensitivity – better than anybody I know – for just the right amount of hyperbole to apply to a situation. For instance, I get so much junk email I don’t read any of it, but yours I always read, because it is always funny, and I can’t wait to see where you’re going with it.
“It’s a bird, it’s a plane, look up!”
NVTH: I mean, it’s an art form. It’s a form of thespian accomplishment to be able to do what you do, and some people just don’t get it.
Well, I think this is a …. again, go back to the national picture. I’ve only been doing this for 40 years. In my first incident involving … uh, humor, humility – humor is a form of humility – 5000 converged out of Central Park to beat me and my brother, who I was on good terms with at the time. August 17, 1969, a Saturday. And they were at the bandshell in Central Park, and they were coming out – because we were hanging Ho Chi Minh in effigy, he was the Communist leader of North Vietnam – and they were agitating for, they were the Mobilization for Peace, and we showed them to be violent because they were tearing us up in television.
And I learned at the time that, next time, make sure you have the cameras between you and the mob, as opposed to being down on the ground, alone, engaging the opposition without any media there. Because they wouldn’t do this in front of the media. So the only way I escaped being mauled and hurt physically, was I held a tree, tight, with one arm, and I pointed with the other and said “there go the right wing fascists.”
And so, the guys knew, that were right there, that I WAS the right wing fascist they wanted to beat, but because I was pointing, and the rest of the crowd pushed past, this group of people beating us were carried along with the 5000 people. And the rally emptied out, looking for us, so that they could go beat the right wing fascists.
So at age 14, I knew humor, but I didn’t understand until many years later how funny that could be.
That circumstance became a cornerstone for my humor. Barry Goldwater in 1964 – of course I learned from that – but I’m talking about 1969.
In 1970, I was told that Youth for Buckley couldn’t get any money. But yet I knew there were plenty of lazy Republicans who simply would not hand out Republican literature or get buttons around. They would hoard them into the headquarters.
So I just waited for lunch time. And a friend loaned me some buttons and some literature and some stickers, and we went on Wall Street – we did not occupy Wall Street, we sold these buttons and brochures and stickers, and we raised $10,000 on Wall Street, my sister Mary Ann and I. And then we turned that money around and went and had a rock band, a hard rock band, open up a headquarters in Queens. And then we were open for business for a three month period through the election, and the campaign headquarters would deliver newspapers to us that we would then deliver, hand deliver to every house in Queens. And we conducted a poll showing that Buckley was gonna win in 1970 – ourselves, every third house in Queens. We conducted that poll.
Sense of humor, timing, I learned from New York. I learned that three words, four words would be your limit. I learned copywriting. I learned that sometimes people will appreciate a message. But mostly I understood that the liberal media would never report anything unless there was something creative, imaginative or controversial about it. And the incident involving the 1969 situation was covered a little bit on the news.
It was not until 1983 that I came to Washington, and of course I was busy being president of Public Advocate, but I had a spokesman to defend the Secretary of the Interior and his name was Bob Brostrom, who was a polio victim and could not walk. Mr. Watt had recently told a joke – a bad joke – about crippled people. And Mr. Watt was being critical of the Beach Boys at the time – this was September 23, 1983 – and Sam Donaldson showed up at our new conference where we were defending Mr. James Watt. And Mr. Donaldson made some kind of remark about Bob Brostrom not being crippled. And immediately someone said some expletive, you know, “screw you, Sam.” And Sam closed up his notebook and said “I see this news conference is over.” And he walked off. And the rest of the media just stood there in awe because someone – as early as 1983, and this has never done this to him since – told Sam Donaldson to screw off.
And so the timing …. I came to Washington with this timing, and because we did this, we were above the fold in every major newspaper in the United States, defending the Secretary of the Interior.
But that was what I did in Washington … 100 times. And so I learned a sense of timing in New York, I came to Washington and orchestrated the Ted Kennedy Swim Team and 100 other things like that, with an efficiency of style. I bring that sense of humor here, as supervisor, because I have a humble understanding that wearing a scuba outfit in 100 degree heat, or something less than warm in supreme cold, or encouraging people to show up at our Clinton days – the “blizzard of lies” – where we had people “freezing” in 100 degree heat. So we always have to have a sense of humor.
John Grigsby and the Bork battle
The sense of humor is what cuts through and commands mass attention on a routine basis, and it was the savior of the conservative movement. The anger of the conservative movement was dangerous, and I was one of the few people to understand that it was dangerous, and I articulated a form of humor.
Historically, the Bork battle in 1987 was the most desperate of the battles. It was when I first met John Grigsby, who at that time was extremely funny and represented the most dynamic and spirited of all public spokesmen. He became world famous with the Criminals Against Bork in 1987. We have a video, and the bottom line was we were defending Bork using humor, and the issue of crime became the focus of the 1988 campaign when the problem of Willie Horton became news.
You could be very serious, I mean Criminals Against Bork was a very serious theatrical production which instituted a form of derision or humor toward the people who didn’t like Judge Bork for being tough on criminals.
I had over a dozen productions in 1988, including the nomination of Ronald Reagan for vice president, which astounded the world, that that could occur. It was a surprise attack at the Republican convention orchestrated by everyone at the convention, to try to nominate Ronald Reagan as vice president. It almost succeeded, but it’s force was meant to get a conservative nominated, and that was how we got Dan Quayle in 1988. But it was all through humor. That’s how the Congress changed hands: We held a mock trial of Jim Wright in 1988. Which, I did over 100 mock trials. Every concept was based on three or four words, humor, humor, humor. Executed.
Now, Grigsby was in the middle of a couple of these productions, and I give him credit for making them what they were: funny. But we had a cast of characters who also contributed to making it funny. These early political street theater productions, bringing in humor, I would like to think that they were like the Capitol Steps. I mean, the Capitol Steps would not even exist had there not been this early street theater being demonstrated in the Washington area. Humor became a big business with Rush Limbaugh. But that came after we did these productions at the Republican conventions, even at the Democratic conventions. So this humor that you’re talking about comes from many years of experience in being genuinely funny. But I did have a lot of help.
To those who say you’re a clown
NVTH: You’ve made the comment that you’re not Superman, you’re “everyman,” which really seems to fit, for me, my view of you because you seem to recognize the ludicrousness and absurdity of what our government does on a regular basis. I would think that the normal person would appreciate it. But your detractors spread the idea that you’re a “clown” – when in reality you seem to be only one who perceives the ridiculousness of so much that happens.
Well, let’s take it one step at a time. I mean, I have another job. This is headline news on a television news show, here, in Washington: Eugene is president of Public Advocate and earns $150,000 a year. That was the headline: “$150,000 a year. Headline. 6 o’clock news!” Major network news show.
Here, in Washington. Millions of people learned of this. That I have a job, that pays me $150,000 a year. [Mock horror] Huuuuuuh! And I’ve held this job! For 28 years, plus! Oh, oh! I have another job: supervisor of Loudoun County, board of supervisors, and I get paid $40,000 – the numbers appeared on the screen. “$40,000!”
And here’s what he does with Public Advocate: He has petition campaigns. He has street theater. He’s done this, he’s done that, he’s mocking homosexuals and their demands for gay rights! Huuuuuuh! And here’s what he does as supervisor: He’s fighting the institution of a “sexual orientation policy.” Huuuuuh! Should he have both jobs?
One person goes, “I don’t care, what do I care? He has two jobs. Sure, he’s earning money.”
Another one goes, “No. He shouldn’t have one of these jobs. He should give up one of them.”
Which one should I give up? And why? Should I give up supervisor because it only pays 40 grand? He decides that? Because that’s obviously that’s the logic of this: You think I should give up the lower paying job.
Or how about this: I shouldn’t be president of Public Advocate – because obviously that’s a group that shouldn’t exist. There should be no opposition to so-called federal gay rights, in the world. Wouldn’t that be convenient. Wouldn’t that be interesting. How about this: Abolish the Republican Party while we’re at it. Ha ha ha, they’re full of liars anyway.
It’s the same philosophy.
That news segment was four minutes long. It was the most ludicrous example, in the history of man, as to why I exist. Should I not exist? Should they invent me? I’m REAL. I have a public policy job.
That public policy job, everyone is jealous of that. Because: I’m an executive. That means, I administer. And I have been in it 29 years. It’s a career. It’s self-funded. It receives no tax money. It has over 200,000 supporters. Is there something wrong with that? Is there something wrong with accepting an average donation of $5 to $50? Oooh: Maybe it’s also wrong that I have 2000 contributors here in Loudoun County and the Northern Virginia area that donate to my reelection campaign.
There’s something terrible going on, that I have 200,000 contributors. Terrible that I have a $1.5 million budget, and a staff, and a mail program, and a petition outreach, and Internet communications three times a week. It’s terrible! It’s horrible!
So let me get this straight: The success is to be condemned. The administration, the accountability and the independent auditing, and the management of a major corporation that has garnered headlines for 30 years.
You go to the Washington Post, and you search on my name, there are 315 stories … and they claim that I don’t exist, every single time? 315 times I don’t exist.
How many times can you be as absurd as my opponent, as my opposition, as the liberal ideology … they’re the ones that say I’m a clown? When I know how to communicate. I know how to get their goat. I know how to elect majorities in the Congress of the United States. I know how to come up with concepts that fuel presidential campaigns, that attract candidates for president or Congress in every state. I’m the clown?
Who write policies and comes up with ideas every day, as a supervisor or as president of Public Advocate? I’m the man who signs the letters. I’m the man who’s accountable to the United States of America, and to my membership, and who holds accountable every member of Congress who crosses the line, and betrays the genuine traditions of our country. That’s a clown? Or is that humble, efficient, manager of limited resources, who is a high quality policy maker, who writes frequently and communicates frequently, to hundreds of thousands of people at the national level, and is completely accountable under every law of the United States for the longest period of time, and is faithful to his wife of 29 years, has never done, you know, whatever it is you do in Washington, which is be distracted by power. That’s the clown?
Or how about this: The supervisor who writes over a dozen laws to change the quality of life, to reverse the downward trend of the quality of life, using zoning, focusing on health, focusing on garbage, focusing on things like abandoned cars and cracked sidewalks – the Giuliani method – of watching every single aspect of society, and administering and initiating policies that are intuitive. But you cannot perceive the magnitude of a teenage job fair, people can’t see the magnitude of the collective accomplishment when people work together … That’s the clown?
Or is the clown the person who pretends that they’re serving the people, by pulling the rug out from under men or women like me. Hmm?
Is the clown the person who is actually so foolish so stupid to think that the more informed people are the more power they have as individuals? That the more informed and involved they are in making things happen, the greater the community interest and the greater the community accomplishment is?
There are thousands of men and women in Sterling, there are millions in America, who get no credit, who get no recognition, for the sacrifice that they put in helping others. I’m here for them. I’m here so that they know that I don’t need the recognition, I’ll take the arrows, it’s for them, who get no credit, that I take those slings and arrows, that I take those barbs. It’s for those who spend many years being a mom and their kids are still struggling. It’s for those people who do things for the sake of their family or the sake of their country that I would take these libels and these slanders against me, my intelligence, my commitment, my abilities.
NVTH: Well, that is inspiring. And just to clarify as we finish up: The money you raised was $35,000 this year for the Lower Loudoun Football League, and $50,000 is an aggregate figure for various projects in past years?
Yes. You know, raising money is important but, but just as important is making sure that regulatory oversight of the government works in concert with the work of the people … I mean, that Discovery Park would not have been built had there not been 1000 volunteers helping out, and had there not been the maximum cooperation from the school authorities and everyone allowing permits and things of that nature to allow things to happen in a public place.
I mean there was a lot of cooperation from a lot of people, same thing with the trees. The applications and the process took years and years and years, where they missed deadline, missed deadline – but it happened as a result of constant coaxing and talking to people and getting Loudoun Water to contribute.
I’ve only given you some examples here, but in almost every block of Sterling, every major road and some of the minor roads, something had to be done over the last 12 years. Whether it’s vultures on the top of the water tower, or vultures hanging out at Bottom Dollar, or somebody doing something related to stop signs, or signs being down, or cracks in the road – practically every corner has something that I made sure got corrected.
Whether it’s a school or a gymnasium that needed to be funded or built, or a lobby for Park View High School. I mean, every little thing. I mentioned the trees on Sterling Blvd., but there’s a row of trees by a development over by Augusta – if you look on Rt. 7 there’s a bunch of trees there. Whether or not the retaining wall gets painted, little things.
Whether or not somebody lost a contract for improving Sterling Blvd. and Rt 7 for $2 million. They lost it. They never awarded it. I’m reminding them that they have to award it, in order to build it. $2 million of money sitting around to improve that intersection for thousands of people. Noticing that golf carts are being treated as more important than making road improvements. Clown? I’m the one that noticed they have assigned the staff member – who should have been awarding the contracts for the intersection – to golf carts, making them legal to ride? The 50 people who ride golf carts on public roads, they have that right because the House of Delegates and the legislature said “all those in favor say aye.” It took them five minutes to do that. It took our staff member the entire third term – my entire third term – to write an ordinance to allow golf carts. And I said, “Um, when’s the contract for Sterling Blvd. and Rt. 7 going to get awarded?”
“Oh, we have been directed by Susan Buckley and the board majority to work on the golf carts.”
I said, “well they just made it legal.” They made it legal, and our ordinance is irrelevant. It’s an ordinance that had to be written so that it fits some county 200 miles to the south, and it had to apply to Loudoun. And it took all of this man’s time.
I’m the clown? When 50 people with golf carts now have the right to do it, because the legislature said, “all those in favor say aye,” couldn’t we have gone that route? And couldn’t I have road improvements at Rt. 7 and Sterling Blvd. with dedicated turn lanes, that I funded six years ago, with the help of everybody in the county, wouldn’t that have been more intelligent?
NVTH: Thank you for your time, Supervisor Delgaudio, and for all you have done for Sterling and the county.