Welcome!

I am in my thirty-fifth year of service representing the 36th District in the Virginia House of Delegates. I am a retired teacher and school administrator, having been employed by the Fairfax County Public Schools for nearly 30 years. Serving as your delegate is now my full-time focus.

This website is intended to assist us in communicating with each other. I hope that you will subscribe to my electronic newsletter, Virginia e-News, that is emailed every Wednesday. Each week I share my thoughts on a pressing issue or human interest item in the form of a commentary. Read this week’s commentary below. In the newsletter you’ll also find a bulletin board of local information and a calendar of events happening in our community.

Please let me hear from you on your needs and interests. I am honored to represent you and here to serve you as effectively as I can.

Ken Plum.

Delegate Ken Plum’s Commentary

Being Among the Happiest

June 22, 2016

Photo of Delegate Ken Plum and his wife Jane Plum in Prague

Jane and I had a wonderful time exploring Prague and other parts of Eastern Europe.

Technologists have applied their big data and computer-crunching to determine where in the world and where in the United States are the happiest places to live. “The Happiest Places in America-2016 Edition” was released last month by Smart Asset, a firm that uses technology to help consumers understand finances (smartasset.com). Since my constituents reside in what this study rated the second happiest place to live in America and next door to the happiest place, I thought it would be interesting to examine how Loudoun County as number 1 and Fairfax County as number 2 got those distinctions.

While I am certainly a happy person surrounded by many happy people, I believe the methodologies employed while useful in understanding the communities in which we live can also create a false sense of community satisfaction.

Loudoun and Fairfax Counties are the two happiest counties in the U.S. when you limit your study to counties over 50,000 in population. The only other counties in the top ten in happiness located near us are Howard County in Maryland at number 7, Chester County in Pennsylvania at number 4, and three counties in New Jersey; the rest are in the Midwest. No county west of Douglas, Colorado (number 8) made the list.

Eight factors determined happiness in the study. On the positive side, marriage rate, the ratio of median income to cost of living, life expectancy, and physical activity rate (the percentage of the population getting adequate physical activity each week) were considered. Negative factors were poverty rate, unemployment rate, divorce rate and personal bankruptcy rate. The factors considered together created a score for each county. Loudoun County for example has a median income that is more than twice the cost of living. Its unemployment rate and poverty rate are both under 4 percent. Fairfax County bolsters its score with a life expectancy rate over 83 years and a median income that is almost twice the national median income. At the time of the study, both Loudoun and Fairfax Counties had an unemployment rate of 3.2 percent.

Looking at an extended list of the top 25 happiest counties in America adds York, Virginia at number 15, Montgomery County, Maryland at number 19, as well as counties in Texas and California. Nearly a thousand counties were considered in the study.

For persons working in social services in Loudoun and Fairfax Counties, the list may cause some consternation. A 4 percent poverty rate is low but when applied to a population of 1.2 million in Fairfax County represents a very large number of people. The same is true of low unemployment rates when applied to a high number of persons living in an area with a very high cost of living. Even in the happiest of places, some among us struggle. We clearly have strengths in Northern Virginia that we can build on to extend health, wealth and prosperity to those who may not share those characteristics now.


For previous commentaries, visit the Virginia e-News archives.