HOTSEAT- Natural history: Mallek runs roots campaign for BOS

Ann Mallek

A visitor driving across a cattle guard and a meadow, and up a hill to the shaded house on top spies a sprinkler going on the very day the Albemarle Board of Supervisors declares a drought warning forbidding lawn watering. Wow.

Could it be that supervisor candidate Ann Mallek is defying watering restrictions?

Nope. All the irrigation on Mallek's Earlysville farm comes not from public supplies but from water from a lake her parents created on the 187-acre spread in 1959.

Which explains why Mallek's garden is lush with sunflowers, corn, tomatoes, and peppers. A deer fence installed last year assures survival of sweet potatoes through the fall harvest. And you can bet it's organic.

When she first started gardening in 1973 in Amherst, Massachusetts, Mallek was advised to grow only Lincoln peas. "Grow something you can't buy," she recalls a faculty member at U-Mass instructing her. Oh, and be sure to befriend 10 non-gardeners to offload the bounty.

Mallek still remembers that advice, but it wasn't her first foray into country living. The Albemarle native, whose father, Dr. John Huckle, started the Hydraulic Road Animal Hospital, grew up on a farm near Ivy Creek before it became a natural area.

"I guess I was destined to be a natural history teacher," muses Mallek, who serves as an outreach teacher and coordinator at the Virginia Museum of Natural History, still in existence despite losing its building on the corner of University and Emmet a few years ago.

Mallek's challenge to incumbent David Wyant for the White Hall seat on the Board of Supervisors isn't her first run at elective office. In 1974, the same year her mother, Jacquelyn "Babs" Huckle, was appointed to the Albemarle Board of Zoning Appeals, Mallek was appointed to the zoning board in Amherst.

She went on to be elected one of 235 town meeting members in Amherst, "true government of the people," she says. "Politics is not a dirty word there."

Mallek and her dentist husband, Leo, returned to Albemarle in the early 1980s, built their house on family property and raised cattle– and two daughters. She says she's been urged to run for office for the past 10 years.

So why now?

"I didn't think we could wait four more years," she answers. "The changes are so big." And she notes the "huge amount of power" invested in the supervisors.

Mallek didn't expect to enjoy going door-to-door, which is on her agenda this particular afternoon and pretty much every afternoon through early November, and she's surprised at the response she gets.

"People are so grateful to have someone ask them what they think," she says. "They're very concerned about water." She describes meeting a retiree who's lived here all his life and who asked why he has to conserve water when new houses keep getting built.

"The rights of current residents seem to take second place to those of new residents," Mallek says, mentioning Biscuit Run and Crozet, two areas projected for major growth. 

What would she have done differently from the current BOS? "When Old Trail came up, not make the number of units two-and-a-half times what they were in the master plan," she says.

Growth is the issue in the supes' race, and protecting the rural area is the board's mantra. Both White Hall candidates are natives who grew up in the rural area, and they'll both be touting their rural creds. 

Mallek, a Farm Bureau member, distributes campaign literature that features her on a tractor loading a bale of hay. Even if she weren't running for supervisor, her car would still sport the "Buy fresh, buy local," and "No farms, no food" bumper stickers. 

Age: 57 

Why here? I returned to my native stomping grounds. 

What's worst about living here? Loss of remembered places  

Favorite hangout? In the tree house with my grandson 

Most overrated virtue? Being perfect 

People would be surprised to know: I make lists about everything. 

What would you change about yourself? I'd be a better listener. 

Proudest accomplishment? Bringing Earlysville people together to fight for their community 

People find most annoying about you: I believe that the impossible just takes a little longer.

Whom do you admire? Charlotte Humphris 

Favorite book? High Hearts by Rita Mae Brown 

Subject that causes you to rant? Soil erosion and sediment in waterways 

Biggest 21st-century thrill? Receiving a video of my grandson via email 

Biggest 21st-century creep out? Those little tracking chips in everything 

What do you drive? Subaru Outback, full of cow feed 

In your car CD player right now: Soundtrack to the Gilbert and Sullivan musical The Mikado

Next journey? Costa Rica in February 

Most trouble you've ever gotten in? At age five I climbed from the fence onto our old horse and galloped around the field without bridle or saddle. Messing with the horses without supervision was a second offense, as earlier I had showed up in the bath with a horseshoe-shaped bruise on my backside. 

Regret: Never lived abroad 

Favorite comfort food: Chocolate chips 

Always in your refrigerator: Yogurt 

Must-see TV: Tour de France 

Favorite cartoon: Pogo 

Describe a perfect day. Rowing in an eight on Beaver Creek on a cool, breezy day 

Walter Mitty fantasy: Riding high-level dressage 

Who'd play you in the movie? Katherine Hepburn  

Most embarrassing moment? Introducing a friend and using the wrong name

Best advice you ever got? Be polite but stand your ground. 

Favorite bumper sticker? Roads: If you build them, cars will come