When asked about how he became chair of the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority, Marty Nohe said there is one thing he’s known for: You don’t come to Marty Nohe for short answers.
The authority was created by the General Assembly in 2002, but voters didn’t approve a referendum to fund the agency through taxes.
“The referendum failed and the reflexive instinct was to eliminate the NVTA,” Nohe said, but the organization persisted.
The NVTA is composed of each jurisdiction’s chief elected official, either the mayor or the chair of the board. He isn’t the chair of the Prince William Board of County Supervisors, but Nohe was asked to be an alternate to the meeting.
“I was told that the meeting won’t be particularly controversial,” Nohe said. “Because at the time the NVTA didn’t have any funds by which to actually do the kind of work we’re doing.”
Before voting on a long-range transportation plan, Nohe said, he decided he had nothing to lose if he argued for a project in Prince William to be included.
“It’s my first meeting at the NVTA but thinking that it’s probably my last meeting; I’m just here as a one-time alternate. I decided to stand my ground,” Nohe said. “I got in a big fight with a state senator; a screaming match that got a little heated. Then when I won the vote, the state senator stormed out of the room, angry.”
Nohe said he thinks other NVTA members were more impressed with his “moxie than my argument.” Either way, he became the county’s representative on the NVTA board and has served as chair of the NVTA for nearly a decade.
Through the years, state leaders have worked toward figuring out how to fund the authority, eventually settling on raising taxes in the region. “Now the bigger challenge is allocating [funding] in a responsible manner,” Nohe said, noting he’s proud to lead an organization that became more than an advocacy group.
Transportation issues affect where homes and jobs are in the community, Nohe said. In June, the authority’s board approved funding 44 projects in a six-year plan totaling $1.285 billion in fiscal 2018 through 2023.
The NVTA has allowed Nohe to carve out a spot to serve regionally. “First and foremost I’m a Prince William County supervisor,” he said. “It’s important for Prince William County to think regionally.”
Still, as the southern-most jurisdiction represented in the NVTA, “if we don’t think regionally, we’re setting ourselves up to be steamrolled by the rest of the region,” he said.
Next year, Nohe is set to serve as the chair of the National Capital Regional Transportation Planning Board, which is the federally designated planning organization for metropolitan Washington, D.C. Nohe has learned that when planning transportation projects, focusing on just the locality you’re in can mean you miss “bigger opportunities to solve bigger problems.”
Nohe thinks the NVTA regional model could be replicated for issues such as the opioid epidemic.
Nohe is also the president of Appliance Connection in Woodbridge.
“My life is about balancing,” he said. “I feel like I have three, full-time jobs [as president of his company, as county supervisor and as chair of the NVTA]. I do it by choice.”
As a Prince William County native, he works in different capacities because he loves his community.
“I want this to be a great place to raise a family,” Nohe said.