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Lobbyist confirmed for Loudoun health post

Despite an aggressive campaign to get her kicked off Loudoun's chief advisory health board, a lobbyist who worked against autism legislation last year in Richmond was confirmed Tuesday to a third term.

On a 5-4 vote, the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors approved the reappointment of Mindy M. Williams, a lobbyist with Fairfax-based Access Point Public Affairs, to the Loudoun Health Council.

Her lobbying work against autism legislation during last year's General Assembly session caused Supervisor Stevens Miller (D-Dulles) to call for her ouster. The Loudoun County delegation to the Virginia General Assembly supported bills that, if enacted, would have required insurers to pay for therapy for children under the age of 6 who have been diagnosed with autism-spectrum disorders.

"Parent after parent of autistic children have come to me, asking for us and the Chamber to some gesture of compassion and send someone else to Richmond," Miller said Tuesday before the vote. "In my view, this person had a conflict of interest...It's an egregious insult and, if this person is confirmed, I will seek to have this seat removed from the Health Council."

Miller said he met with Williams as a supervisor last year to discuss autism legislation without her telling him she was a paid lobbyist against the bills.

"Had I known that, I would have chosen my words very differently," he said.

Miller has also used autism legislation as a chief component of his campaign for House delegate.

Supervisor Kelly Burk (D-Leesburg) said Williams's re-appointment to the volunteer position was "being used to raise an issue that's not there." She bluntly said Miller was using the debate as a political tool.

"This item uses the autistic community in a cruel and selfish manner," she said.

Supervisors Miller, Jim Burton (I-Blue Ridge), Andrea McGimsey (D-Potomac) and chairman Scott K. York (I-At Large) voted against Williams's re-appointment.

The legislation Williams lobbied against would have helped parents pay for often expensive therapy for their children, including applied behavior analysis. The Loudoun County Board of Supervisors, the Loudoun County School Board and the Leesburg Town Council supported it. Williams was lobbying on behalf of the Loudoun County Chamber of Commerce. Opponents, including the Chamber of Commerce, said such a mandate would bankrupt small businesses.

Several parents of autistic children have spoken out against Williams, calling her appointment to the board a "slap in the face" and a "hindrance" to their cause.

Her supporters, including Tony Howard, executive director of the Loudoun County Chamber of Commerce, said Williams is well regarded among her colleagues and is a leader in crafting the county's disease outbreak policy. He likened her lobbying work to that of a lawyer, saying that her critics were unfairly trying to connect her professional work with her personal views. Her other lobbying clients include the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, the Dulles Chamber of Commerce and the Virginia Business Council.

The council has six permanent members from county government agencies and at least 12 members representing health-care groups, businesses, churches and nonprofit organizations.

By Derek Kravitz  |  October 20, 2009; 5:10 PM ET
Categories:  Loudoun County  
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Miller did more than call for her ouster.

Grandstanding as usual, he vowed to block her appointment.

His fundamental lack of understanding of the health panel and its components were on display; the Chamber of Commerce has a seat on the panel, and Ms. Williams was the Chamber's choice for representative.

It was presenting the position of the Chamber in Richmond that put her in Miller's grandstanding crosshairs.

Good for five members of the Board to disallow Miller's attempted use of his new position as a board member to create campaign soundbytes for his attempt at a newer, more powerful position.

His ads are still running, lying about Rust's votes in the House.

Miller isn't doing his existing publicly funded job, and does not deserve a state-funded one.

Posted by: barbara_munsey | October 21, 2009 8:01 AM | Report abuse

What Barbara Munsey, Supervisors Lori Waters, Eugene Delgaudio and Kelly Burk fail to understand is that Mindy Williams lobbied against Autism legislation that would have helped parents pay for often expensive therapy for their children, including applied behavior analysis. The Loudoun County Board of Supervisors, the Loudoun County School Board and the Leesburg Town Council all supported this legislation, which Loudoun’s chief lobbyist Mindy Williams did not. Supervisors, Steven Miller, Jim Burton, Andrea McGimsey and Scott York were correct to both question and vote against Williams’s re-appointment.

Posted by: NoraBett | October 22, 2009 12:07 PM | Report abuse

Norabett, what Stevens Miller and Andrea McGimsey fail to understand is that the composition of the panel gives a seat to the Chamber of Commerce, and Ms. Williams is the Chamber's representative.

Ms. Williams was not personally lobbying against autism therapy in Richmond. She was the representative of the Chamber presenting the Chamber's position against ANY mandates on businesses.

Miller has been shameless in exploiting this issue, and I say exploit because he has lied about his opponent's actions and votes to do so.

Obviously it is a sensitive subject which ensures quick and passionate response from people directly affected.

Which is why Ms. Burk called it cruel for Mr. Miller to exploit it for personal political benefit.

Posted by: barbara_munsey | October 22, 2009 12:18 PM | Report abuse

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