First-time candidate Sarah White (R) said she is seeking the 53rd District seat in the House of Delegates this fall in order to build consensus and accomplish goals that benefit everyone.
“Politics is getting uglier and uglier,” she said. “It’s very divisive. I’m very moderate. I like to bring people together. I’m from a family with people on both sides of the aisle.”
White is the lone Republican candidate seeking the 53rd District seat. The district, which ranges from Merrifield to West Falls Church and north to the Pimmit Hills neighborhood in McLean, has been in Democratic hands for decades and currently is represented by Del. Marcus Simon (D).
White said she is running because Simon is not as involved in the local community as she would like.
“I think that he follows a lot of [the] party line,” White said. “He votes with what he’s told to do and how he’s told to do it. I want to see somebody who’ll branch out, think differently from the party line and be an independent person.”
Simon, a former Army lawyer who runs a title business in McLean, first was elected to the post in 2013, succeeding retiring Del. James Scott (D). Simon did not respond before deadline to the Sun Gazette’s e-mailed request for comments for this article.
If elected, White said one of her key objectives would be simplifying and clarifying the language of legislation, especially bills pertaining to businesses.
“These things come out of nowhere,” she said of the regulations. “We don’t really know what you’re asking of us. All we want to do is follow the rules, take care of people, run our businesses and support our families and our communities.”
Another key objective: ensuring Virginia’s public-school children are back in class five days per week starting this fall.
“There’s no substitute for a teacher being in front of a child, helping them learn,” she said. “I’ve watched that with my own two nieces, how they’ve really struggled for education this year.”
The situation especially is dire for parents who cannot afford to hire people or take time off from work to educate their children, she said.
White also supports law enforcement and favors holding additional community engagement to win rapport.
“We need to make sure that the first time you ever interact with a police officer, anywhere in our state, that it is not the worst day of your life, that it is not an emergency situation with tensions running high,” she said.
White favors continuing the use of school-resource officers and bringing counselors to de-escalate incidents in which police are interacting with people experiencing mental-health crises.
White has spent more than two decades in the restaurant industry, starting as a host and server and working her way up through management. She now is chief operations officer for YHR Holdings, and manages Cowboy Cafe and three of five Lost Dog Cafe locations.
“I love the job,” she said. “I love seeing people walk in hungry and walk out feeling better.”
White lives in Falls Church with husband Bryan and their two cats. She grew up in the small town of Parkersburg, W.Va., near that state’s border with Ohio, and is a Pittsburgh Penguins hockey fan.
White attended college for a time, but left without earning a degree.
“I decided I really loved what I was doing and wanted to continue in the restaurant industry,” she said. “There’s nothing wrong with college degrees, but I also think that there’s a lot to be said for people who just go out into the world and do a job.”
White is a member of the Fairfax County Republican Committee, Daughters of the American Revolution, Fairfax Rotary Club, DCFempreneur and the Arlington, Dulles and Tysons Regional chambers of commerce.
She also serves on the policy board of the National Association of Women Business Owners, is president of the Virginia Restaurant Lodging and Travel Association for Arlington and Alexandria, and an ambassador for the Central Fairfax Chamber of Commerce.
White admires the example of her mother, who went to college later in life and now works as a hospital’s laboratory supervisor.
“She loves her job. She takes care of patients day in and day out and she really takes an interest in their life,” White said. “I find that inspirational, because all I want to do is care for the people around me, too. It must just be genetic.”
Olia Legoshina, an e-commerce entrepreneur in Alexandria, said White is honest and aims to serve others, not her own agenda.
“Sarah is also a hard worker, and has a background in the restaurant business, which is one of the hardest out there,” she said. “She doesn’t come from money or politics. She’s someone who wants to make a difference and is very passionate about it, and we need that, especially right now.”
White has improved the performance of the restaurants she manages and is cooperative and professional, said Jim Barnes, owner of YHR Holdings.
“If you want to get something done in an industry, like politics, that experiences a lot of gridlock, you need a go-getter, you need somebody who’s an executor and gets along with people and can get the job done,” he said.
Darren Marquardt, a Realtor based in Alexandria, got to know White through a group he hosts, the Business Roundtable. White provides helpful insights in those discussions, challenges the status quo and pushes everyone in the group to achieve more, he said.
“Even though Sarah and I are not in the same political party, I always feel that Sarah listens to me and is genuinely interested in what’s best for the community,” Marquardt said. “Regardless of political affiliation, Sarah will work for win-win solutions. [She] has a beautiful, collaborative approach to community and especially business.”