By Joe Beck -- firstname.lastname@example.org
FRONT ROYAL -- A crowd of about 175 got a close-up look at candidates in three contested local and state campaigns at a Tuesday night forum organized by the Front Royal-Warren County Chamber of Commerce.
None of the candidates showed much interest in challenging the opinions of the others. The differences tended to be more in the emphasis they placed on certain issues instead of outright disagreement.
In the Board of Supervisors campaign in the North River District, two of the candidates, Republican Dan Murray and Independent Victor "Tory" Failmezger, said in their opening statements they were committed to preserving the scenic beauty of Warren County while Democrat Chris Holloway spoke of the need to attract businesses to support schools and expanded sports and recreation facilities.
Murray said he moved to Front Royal six years ago from New Jersey, where he was dismayed at the urban sprawled that blighted much of the once picturesque countryside.
"That should never happen here. We have to preserve what we have," Murray said.
Failmezger said he also supported efforts to maintain Warren County's rural and small-town character. "That's the very thing that brought Patricia and I here," Failmezger said, referring to his wife.
Murray, who works as a maintenance engineer with Interbake Foods, said he disagreed with those who believe Warren County has hindered economic development with an anti-business attitude. Instead, he said, the bigger problem is a lack of workers trained as electricians, welders, mechanics and other skilled blue-collar occupations.
Holloway also defended the town's image by noting that he voted twice against tax increases as a member of the Town Council. He also praised the Economic Development Authority for "doing great things right now to bring business to our community."
Failmezger said he would like to see property in the North River District that is currently zoned for commercial purposes to be rezoned for industrial uses.
The forum also brought together the two candidates for the only contested countywide race, Sheriff Danny McEathron, a Republican, and challenger Robbie Seal, an independent.
McEathron said he and his department have delivered a high level of service to the county, offering as proof the department's recent reaccreditation by the Virginia Law Enforcement Professional Standards Commission, one of 49 sheriff's offices to earn the designation out of a statewide total of 123.
McEathron also touted his deep roots in the community, and 29 years working in the Sheriff's Office.
Seal, who was born in Honolulu and moved to Luray in his childhood, also spoke of his commitment to the community and his background on the Front Royal police force, where he is currently a sergeant.
Seal said he would emphasize cooperative efforts between city and county law enforcement agencies as part of an overall effort to bring police and the community together.
Both candidates answered a written question about what they regard as their greatest weakness.
"I have a weakness for taking on a lot personally and professionally," McEathron said.
Seal described his greatest weakness as "loving people too much."
"I've always been a people person," he said, adding that he has trouble getting to appointments on time because he spends too much time listening to others.
In the campaign for the 18th District in the House of Delegates, which includes part of eastern Warren County, Republican Michael Webert and Democrat Robert Zwick said they would defend the interests of farmers and small towns in Richmond.
Zwick praised the youthful Webert as someone who may be a good leader in the future. "I just think he needs more experience," Zwick said, offering to make Webert his legislative aide in a remark that drew laughter from the audience.
Webert earlier touted his own experience as a farmer in Fauquier County.
"I come from a rural district," Webert said. "I myself am a farmer. I run the farm like a diversified portfolio."