ASHLAND -- Eight Hanover citizens gathered at Randolph-Macon College last week for a polite, but focused discussion of issues on the collective minds of county residents.
All are seeking positions on the Hanover County Board of Supervisors and are candidates in the four contested races in the upcoming Nov. 2 election. ChamberRVA sponsored the candidates’ forum and Randolph-Macon hosted the event at Birdsong Hall.
Angela Kelly-Wiecek, Faye Pritchard and Canova Peterson are unopposed in their bids for re-election to the board.
The group fielded a variety of questions from R-MC professor Richard Meagher that covered the gambit of pressing issues.
Crystal Robens said she is running for office because it’s the right time in her life for such a pursuit. “I chose to run now because the time is right for me,” explaining that her daughter and son have graduated from high school.
Robens is a process improvement and efficiency expert for the federal government and has lived in Hanover all of her life.
Her opponent in the Beaverdam District hardly needed an introduction. “I will say that I’m running on my record. I’ve been here a few years,” Aubrey “Bucky” Stanley said. “I’ve never voted for a tax increase and I’m pro-business,” he said before emphasizing the low crime rate and excellent schools.
Stanley reminded voters he made the motion to hire current county administrator Rhu Harris.
Democrat James Doran is hoping to defeat Michael Herzberg in a bid for the Cold Harbor District seat being vacated by outgoing supervisor Scott Wyatt who is running for the House of Delegates in the 97th District.
Doran, a Democrat and 15-year resident of Cold Harbor, is a budget planner and manager for the state and said those are valuable skills to have on the board. “I bring budget management and experience to the table,” he said.
Doran has a son and daughter in Hanover schools and is involved with events in their schools.
Herzberg is the Republican candidate seeking the Cold Harbor seat, and said his occupation also prepares him well for public service. “One good thing about heating and air conditioning is that you go through hard knocks. I have spent three decades listening to people and solving their problems,” he said in an opening statement.
“One of my biggest assets I will bring is the ability to work together and bring people together as a team to get things done for the people,” Herzberg said.
Daryl Chesley, an Independent running for the Henry District seat currently occupied by Sean Davis said he is running “to make sure that all ideas are heard.”
Chesley citied his experience in the U.S. Navy and at both state and national levels of small and large organizations and said he also is a process and efficiency expert.
Chesley also served as an administrator for Hanover County Public Schools.
Davis cited his seven years of experience on the board that includes two chairmanships and his commitment to public service.
With a record of strong support for public safety, Davis has been endorsed by Col. David R. Hines, sheriff of Hanover County, and the Hanover Professional Firefighters.
Davis is a strong supporter of Hanover schools and endorses smart growth for the county.
Sue Dibble, current Hanover County School Board member from the South Anna District, is running for the supervisor’s seat in that district. She said she “welcomes the opportunity to continue to serve South Anna.”
Dibble, a Republican and South Anna representative on the school board, is a small business owner and wife/mother who said she treasures the rural nature of the county. “In the past six years, I’ve had a great and unique opportunity to meet and get to know our students and their families,” Dibble said.
Clara Scott is a former principal and said she’s running because “the county is running in the wrong direction” and “it’s time for me to give back to the community.”
Scott serves on the board of Hanover Habitat for Humanity and works with other civic organizations.
All candidates were allotted one-minute periods to answer the same questions that included education and schools, infrastructure, economic development, and affordable housing.
Regarding education and how Hanover schools can best prepare students for today’s workplace, the candidates expressed similar concerns, but there also were differences in approach.
Robens said she supports an elected school board and stressed the need for improved broadband internet service in the Beaverdam area.
She said schools need to prepare students through training programs as well as college preparatory disciplines. “We need to prepare our students for the future whether they choose college or not,” Robens said.
Stanley noted the excellence of the county’s schools and said technical programs are offering options for those not interested in college educations.
Doran also stressed the need for high speed internet access upgrades and said the failure to provide Hanover students with the latest technology is, in his mind, a “handicap for future generations.”
“We need to make sure all students have equal opportunity to access their school work, or do research for projects,” he said.
Herzberg said he views public safety on county campuses as a major focus of attention, and supports continued efforts to make salaries competitive.
Chesley, a former high school principal, said infrastructure is a mounting problem in Hanover’s aging campuses. “We can’t just continue to patch older buildings.”
He also committed to a system that fully supports the teachers.
Davis said he’s focused on making sure Hanover schools are preparing students for today’s work place, and cited expanding CTE (Career Technical Education) programs.
“It’s important that we identify the skill-sets needed for the future,” Davis said.
Dibble said, “Hanover schools are strong. We want to make sure every student is prepared for the life ahead of them.”
She identified the need for more counselors and enhanced safety measures in the system.
Scott acknowledged that the county has great schools, while noting “there’s always room for improvement. We can do better.”
She stressed the need to address non-academic issues such as behavior, and cited a need to prepare our students for the next century and make them globally competitive so “every child is successful.”
When asked the most important or pressing issues facing the county within the next one to two years, candidates offered a variety of replies with many centered on schools.
In addition to supporting elected school boards, Robens said teachers’ salary compression is forcing some teachers to leave the system and seek positions in neighboring counties. She noted that some teachers who have 10 to 15 years experience are making little more than new hires.
Stanley said keeping the growth and development equation balanced is a big challenge. The 36-year incumbent said commercial development is often accompanied with more rooftops to support the venture. “Rooftops don’t always make it work.”
Doran cited school facilities as a major issue facing the county and said the 10 schools identified on a recent renovation/replacement study was accompanied by a $300 million price tag.
“We need to find creative ways to upgrade facilities,” he said.
Herzberg said controlling growth and development is the number one issue in his mind and said people in Cold Harbor don’t want large developments in their district. “I would scrutinize every project,” he said.
He also cited the need to maintain top-notch public safety and said he would always “put Hanover citizens first.”
Chesley said he would search for ways to eliminate waste and improve efficiencies throughout the system. “There are opportunities,” he said.
Davis cited the burden that unfunded mandates place on local governments, pointing out a federally mandated wastewater plan that is slated to cost the county $30 million.
He said mandated teacher raises from the state only include a portion of Hanover teachers and funding falls to the locality to make up the differences.
Davis said in a politically charged environment such as the one experienced today, there’s a real danger of “political legislation.”
Dibble said maintaining excellent schools and managing and balancing growth are major issues for her. She is committed to maintaining Hanover’s rural nature while providing excellent schools and public safety.
Hanover Business Council member Todd Rogers said he was pleased with the results of the forum.
“Any time voters can come out and hear the candidates makes them better informed when they enter the polls, so I think we had a successful evening tonight.”