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Monday, August 15, 2022
FairfaxBuh-bye, 'Lee District'; hello, 'Franconia'

Buh-bye, ‘Lee District’; hello, ‘Franconia’

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Of the nine Fairfax County magisterial districts that could be renamed to suit modern sensibilities better, Lee District springs to mind as an obvious choice.

Lee District was one of two (the other being Sully) that the Fairfax County Redistricting Advisory Committee this spring suggested should be renamed and Supervisor Rodney Lusk (D-Lee) on June 28 proposed giving the district the new name of Franconia.

“The name Franconia has always been central to our identity,” said Lusk, citing Franconia Road, the Franconia-Springfield Metro station, Franconia Governmental Center and Franconia Museum.

“It’s a name that makes sense, it’s a name that our community has embraced and it’s a name that memorializes a place and not a person,” he said.

Supervisors unanimously approved Lusk’s motion to have County Executive Bryan Hill formally begin the process to change the district’s name from Lee to Franconia and report back to the board on any administrative changes necessary and possible financial impacts, plus a timeline for the renaming’s adoption.

Supervisors also directed Hill to have county staff conduct public outreach to community groups and businesses that might be affected by the planned renaming and recommend strategies for helping the affected parties during the transition.

The School Board earlier had stripped the name of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee from a high school in Springfield, renaming the facility John Lewis High School.

For many, the name Lee District “evokes visions of the old gravel pits or the sound of footsteps on the boardwalk at Huntley Meadows or pride in the history of Laurel Grove School or so many of the other things that make our community what it is,” Lusk said.

“However, for many, the name Lee District evokes another set of imagery,” he continued. “Whether design or by accident – and we may never know by which that it is – the name stands as a lasting monument to the most recognizable Confederate figure in history.”

While no one on the Board of Supervisors, or likely anyone in the community, reveres Lee District’s name because of that association, “simply not celebrating the connotation does not erase the echoes of slavery, racism, segregation and discrimination that it evokes in many of our neighbors,” Lusk said.

Lusk attended three town-hall meetings that drew hundreds of residents and discussed the district’s history and etymology, what it meant to the public and possible alternative names. Each meeting kicked off with a presentation by a Virginia Room historian from Fairfax Library.

Lusk said he was impressed by the civil manner in which community members expressed their opinions on the subject and listened to others’ viewpoints. The public overwhelmingly supported changing the district’s name to Franconia, he said.

Supervisor Penelope Gross (D-Mason) called Lusk’s renaming proposal a “very elegant solution.”

Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay (D), who long has lived in Lee District and formerly represented it on the board, said the district is highly diverse, opening and welcoming.

The proposed renaming is “recognizing a geographic area that is at the root of the history of that community, instead of tied back to a specific person or something much more controversial,” McKay said.

McKay said he expected the county would come up with a grant program to help those affected by the name change, especially non-profits.

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