Editor’s Note: Herndon Patch will be publishing a profile of Republican incumbent Tom Rust in the coming weeks as well.
Jennifer Boysko may be a new face to the Delegate race, but she is no stranger to Herndon.
An aide to Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust for the past five years, Boysko has often been at the center of many local issues.
With the election only a few months away, Boysko has been meeting and talking with as many residents as she can – she has already walked on foot the entire length of the district once, knocking on doors, and is now on her second loop – and finding out what “kitchen-table” issues are most important to them.
It is precisely those “kitchen-table issues” – meaning, the challenges local families face every day that has them talking around the kitchen table at home – that inspired her to run last year, she said.
“The divisive issues the Republican party has focused on the past few years really trouble people, and that’s one of the reasons I decided to step up and run,” she said. “I’m not going to let my hands be tied by people that don’t care what’s going on in my neighborhood anymore.”
“I’ve spent my whole life standing up for people. I was raised with a strong sense of social justice and standing up for others,” she said, describing how she grew up the daughter of a priest. “I’m running because I feel we deserve better. I want to focus on kitchen-table issues that affect you and me on a daily basis; working for the people and not the political parties."
Boysko said some of the main issues she has been focusing on are transportation and land use, health and human services, housing, and education.
When it comes to transportation, Boysko said, since it is not always possible or desirable to widen some roads, she has worked for years with local municipalities to identify smaller road connections that can be made to help ease traffic and congestion, rather than building enormous new thoroughfares.
As for the ongoing challenges with getting the Silver Line up and running, Boysko said, “Phase 1 was good, and is coming in close to budget. But I am very concerned, and voters are too, that toll road users are going to be paying for the brunt of [Phase 2], and that’s really unfair.
“We need to get our fair share from the federal government and from Richmond. We need to be sure we’re not bearing the brunt of that here in this neighborhood,” she said.
She added, she thinks it is unfortunate the original contractor did not win the bid award for Phase 2, and she hopes the new contractor will implement a similar Project-Labor Agreement.
“We want to make sure the people who are working on it and doing the actual construction are qualified and well protected,” she said. “They’re risking their lives.”
When it comes to healthcare, Boysko said she wants to work with local healthcare providers to help ease them into the process of working with the Affordable Care Act.
“Doctors, dentists, healthcare professionals – they feel confused about what’s going on. There has been no cohesive planning process that they’ve been included on,” she said. “These are kitchen-table issues – I want to make sure people like my daughters and our most delicate local residents have insurance.”
Boysko said, along that vein, affordable housing is another big issue she wants to continue to support locally, not only for the elderly – she has long supported efforts and organizations like the Village Movement and the Affordable Housing Coalition - but for other public servants as well.
“College graduates, teachers, firefighters – I think it’s a shame they can’t afford to live where they’re working,” she said. “The state could do more as well.”
As the mother of two teenage daughters, naturally Boysko said education is one of her most passionate issues – and there are a lot of things she wants to do in that regard, she said.
“Early childhood education is something I’m very passionate about,” she said. “As a mom I served on the PTA for many years.”
“I think critical thinking and problem-solving are more important than standardized tests. I want to work with families and education experts to address that and make a plan starting at the youngest ages to make sure they’re really getting a well-rounded education,” she added.
When it comes to secondary schools, she said there are changes she would like to see as well – such as, pushing the first day of school earlier so that advanced-placement students get more instruction time in before their exams.
“The exam dates are set nationally, so the schools have no flexibility with that,” she said. “Schools that start earlier have an advantage. Our students, they’re at a deficit; they miss several weeks of instruction, and it puts them at a handicap. As a mom of a daughter that really pushed herself [for those exams], the stress these kids are under is amazing.”
Another change she thinks can be made to address student stress is pushing school start times later in the morning.
“My daughter gets on the bus at 6:40 a.m.; in other neighborhoods some students are on the bus at 6:15. Teenagers need their sleep,” she said, describing a parent education program she organized for Herndon High School's PTSA with a sleep expert last year, who showed there is actual science that proves that teenagers are physically incapable of putting their bodies to sleep earlier in the night.
“However, I realize it’s not a cut-and-dry issue when you take into account those that have after-school jobs or activities like sports and the arts," she added.
For that and many other reasons, Boysko said she respects autonomy of school board members and teachers in classroom.
“We put an awful lot of stress on them,” she said.
Boysko said she also supports more workforce development initiatives in secondary schools, as well as adult education.
“There are jobs out there – but many students aren’t coming out of school well trained enough,” she said, in areas like problem solving, critical thinking and vocational skills. “We need to invest more in secondary schools, at a much higher rate. It is investing in the future workforce of our society.”
Most importantly, Boysko said she wants to be a “consistent voice” for local residents, and she said it is important to her to work with everyone, regardless of party affiliations.
“The day I’m pushed to do something I don’t believe in, is the day I say ‘this job isn’t for me,’” she said. “You and I can disagree on something, and that’s OK; I will respect you. But, I’ll let you know where I stand.”
For more information, visit www.jenniferboysko.com.
What do you think of Jennifer Boysko's positions? Tell us in the comments.
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