By Alex Bridges
FRONT ROYAL - Action by town leaders to move local elections to November ends two years of debate and failed attempts at a change.
Town Council voted 5-1 on Monday to approve an ordinance on first reading that switches the elections from May to November of the even-numbered years. The ordinance applies to elections for council and mayor. The ordinance as approved also keeps elections nonpartisan by not requiring the ballot to feature a candidate's party affiliation. Likewise, the ordinance allows for a six-month extension of the terms for some members.
Councilman Daryl Funk reiterated his opposition to the ordinance and questioned whether the town could even legally require its elections remain nonpartisan.
Several residents spoke in favor of moving the town elections from May to November. Tim Ratigan blamed two of the town's state delegates for delaying the process and said council would have already switched elections to November. David Means noted he felt "quite disturbed by the antics" of the delegates. Means said that, as a business owner, he found it inconvenient to have to take time out twice in an election year.
Before the vote, Councilman Thomas H. Sayre sought to change the language of the proposed ordinance by moving elections to November in the odd-numbered years. Sayre's motion failed after some debate
Ratigan spoke at the beginning of the meeting and advised council he plans to seek information on "what went on behind the scenes" after members in November voted to move forward with changes to the town charter. Ratigan said he plans to file requests for emails and other correspondence via the Freedom of Information Act to find out what council members may have communicated. Ratigan claimed meetings took place between Councilman Daryl Funk and Del. C. Todd Gilbert, R-Woodstock. Funk and Gilbert work for the same law firm in Front Royal.
Gilbert made the motion in the Virginia General Assembly in the recent session to kill the charter amendment bill after council protested language that some members said went against the town's wishes. Del. Michael Webert, R-Warrenton, sponsored the bill.
Also at the meeting, council held a public hearing on an agreement between the Boisseau family and Royal Plaza that gives the town an easement needed for a proposed trail project. Council voted 6-0 to approve the agreement.
Resident Sandra Wilson spoke in favor of the trail effort. Wilson said a landscape architect crafted part of the plans for the trail in 1989. The design lay shelved for a few years until revived in the early 90s.
The trail, if constructed, would give residents a way to walk to Samuels Public Library, Wilson said. She encouraged leaders to move ahead on the project and to approve the agreement.
Means also spoke favorably of the agreement and easement for the trail. Means lauded the Boisseau family for their generosity to give the town the easement needed for the trail. Means also commended the town and county for their efforts to build trails in the area.
Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or firstname.lastname@example.org