Front Royal council candidates seek seats

By Alex Bridges

Front Royal holds its election for seats on Town Council on Tuesday and hopefuls weighed in this week on issues they felt important.

Seven candidates are running for three positions, terms of which expire Dec. 31. The candidates provided answers to a series of questions asked by the Northern Virginia Daily. Election Day is Tuesday.

Linda J. Allen
Age: Did not provide
Family: Children
Time in community: Since 1992
Political/community organization experience: None/board of Downtown Front Royal
Occupation: Retired educator

What issues would you first address if elected to council?

“The economic development: We’ve got to get more, better paying jobs. We gotta do it. We can’t drag our feet, which is what you see happening. You could say we’re thinking our way through it but not very satisfactory. It’s an old problem.”

What solutions would you offer to address the issues?

“I’m interested in a housing and redevelopment authority that would have a director and that way we could have public and private partnerships and a property code would go with it. A business plan has to be written first to guide the director of this authority and that authority’s actually capable of doing economic development and it certainly would be complementary to the EDA. Now we need a marketing plan, too, because you’ve got two prongs there: Not only do we need more, better-paying jobs but we also need to do everything we can to maintain and even increase that tourism traffic here.”

What is your stance or position on government spending?

“I think what’s necessary. That would be it.”

Alford Carter III
Age: 64
Family:
Married, children
Time in the community: Five years
Political/community group experience: None/elected commander of Leesburg American Legion
Occupation: Owner of Home Repair Central

What issues would you first address if elected to council?

“No. 1 is economic development, and I’m dead serious. We just lost 88 jobs last week, which drove me absolutely up the wall. Nobody seemed to hit the panic button and the council wants to write Kmart and, I guess, ask them to stay, but it’s a little too late. You guys saw this coming. I’m a little infuriated by the fact that we [weren’t] on top of our job as a Town Council. In terms of economic development, we should have at least had a similar amount of jobs available for people in this town by virtue of working in that area of economic development. The second part of that is that they haven’t bothered to invest their time and their money on the 340 Corridor going toward Skyline Drive into that area where tourism could really be a real boost to this town and that’s a part of what I’m concerned about and nobody’s really jumping on that. That’s a gold mine.”

What solutions would you offer to address the issues?

“To address that issue, number one is [something] even I had to do for the businesses downtown, even if the town had to get involved in the negotiation of a lease. Sometimes people can’t afford it because it costs too much and that’s how they do business. They’ve already got the struggle of opening and running and planning for a business. Then you’ve got to struggle with the rent that jumps up on you every year. Not subsidizing. Just negotiating. Help with people negotiate with the lease. Number one, that would help with some longevity and a change for the business to grow and create, within the existing infrastructure, jobs that will carry for a while.”

What is your stance or position on government spending?

“Well, number one, I don’t believe that we have spent enough by virtue of looking at the buildings downtown that are empty, by virtue of watching 88 jobs walk away from the town. That’s not really a help for the town. You lose 88 jobs and nobody pushed the panic button. Come on now, something’s wrong. I mean we’re celebrating what we’re gonna do on the Avtex site and what we’re gonna do on [U.S.] 522. All that’s great. That’s future, man. They really need to pay attention to now. Right now. We’ve got three, count them, three title companies in this town. Title loan companies. Man, if that don’t tell you something’s wrong with the town nothing else will.”

John Connolly
Age: 29
Family: Married, children
Time in community: 10 years
Political experience: None
Occupation: Librarian at the National Sporting Library and Museum in Middleburg, Virginia

What issues would you first address if elected to council?

“Something important to remember is that council always works together as a body, so I can’t promise that I am going to do X or Y on the council because there are six people that need to work together. The things that I want to see done, the things that I want to see focused on, largely have to do with making Front Royal a better, more attractive place to be. My main reason for jumping into this race is I perceive some very big decisions coming down the pike for our town and they’re going to influence our town as a whole, not just in the town boundaries but in the county and throughout the region, and that I want the town to be a place where there are career opportunities for the people that live [here]. I don’t perceive that we’re doing a terribly good job and there’s a lot of room for improvement there and I want to focus mainly on those issues.”

What solutions would you offer to address the issues?

“I think, first and foremost, the town is in desperate need of auditing and overhauling its town code. To my knowledge it’s never been done before in the history of the town… you start to see issues emerging from outdated language or ordinances that no longer serve the community and it’s incumbent on the town to make sure we’re doing a better job of crafting ordinances [for] today’s community. We want a modern economy with modern career opportunities. We need modern ordinances to match, and right now I think it’s a perfect time for us to work on that. I also want the town to really focus on setting funding aside for future infrastructure upgrades.”

What is your stance or position on government spending?

“I think that government needs to be responsible with its spending. I think that there’s always going to be some outlays for your government, but I think the town has a responsibility to be prudent when it is spending the citizens’ money and that the town has a responsibility to be transparent in how it’s spending the citizens’ money. I am in favor of any measure that’s going to increase the transparency and the communication with the citizens to make it easier to know how their money is being spent and to keep them informed, to house avenues [to] understand what the money is being spent on so that way they can keep their government accountable.”

Bebhinn Cecilia Egger
Age: 27
Family: Single
Time in community: Lived in town since 1991
Political/community group experience: None/volunteered for various groups
Occupation: Violinist, violin teacher

What issues would you first address if elected to council?

“I think, overall, I would like to address just fiscal responsibility, so that rears its head in many different ways. But, I think, in general, that … my main concern as councilman is the money that’s been put in the hands of the council, and that’s taxpayer money and spending that wisely.”

What solutions would you offer to address the issues?

“I think, in terms of spending taxpayer money, you really have to ask, ‘Is this something that the government should be involved in or not, and if it is something that the government should be involved in, then you have to sit back and think how is this going to benefit the town citizens? So I think there are some things that people want the government to pay for that it’s not really the job of the government to pay for, and then there are other things that [are] the government’s job to be doing but you just have to make sure you’re doing them in the most responsible way possible, that’s going to have the best results for the town and the people in the town.”

What is your stance on government spending?

“So my position is that there are definitely things that the government is going to have to spend money on. We rely on our government to pave our roads and to build sidewalks and to provide us with sewer lines and clean water. So there’s obviously things that the government has to spend money on and spend a lot of money on those things in some cases. But I do think that we often expect the government to pay for things that the government shouldn’t be paying for and then that creates a spending problem because the government takes on these responsibilities of spending and then the taxes have to go up, whereas if we sort of had more of a focus as to what really is the role of government we wouldn’t have to be spending money on unnecessary things.”

N. Shae Parker
Age: 42
Family: Married, children
Time in community: 35 years
Political experience: Six years on council, past two as vice mayor
Occupation: Self-employed, owns Hanna Sign Company

What issues would you first address if re-elected to council?

“We need to continue looking at economic development within the town as well the [water] looping system for the corridor that still needs to be planned and funded. I mean, I would say those are the top two priorities. I was actually a little surprised that got lost during the election but, I mean, only half the funding is there and we still don’t know the route it’s going to be, which will dictate how much it costs.

What solutions to would you offer address the issues?

“We need to work with the [Economic Development Authority], with the county, with the Small Business Development Committee. As far as economic development, I mean, that’s going to take community involvement. The town can’t solve that issue on its own. As far as the loop, that’s something that the council needs to make a higher priority. As far as finding the route, we need to work with the county to help identify that route as well as the EDA and we need to find out where the additional funding will come from for it. That’s the biggest one. Dominion paid for about half of it but that’s only going to cover, well, half the cost. So we’re talking about a roughly $8 [million] to $9 million project.”

What is your stance or position on government spending?

“It should be no different than how you spend money in a business or a household. Every penny, nickel, dime needs to be accounted for and, when possible, local government should spend locally to keep that money back into the community.”

Robert M. Tennett Jr.
Age: 47
Family: Single
Time in community: Lived in town all his life
Political experience: None
Occupation: Private contractor delivering newspapers for the Northern Virginia Daily

What issues would you first address if elected to council?

“To try to get more tourists in here and more people to move here.”

What solutions to would you offer address the issues?

“Just bring more tourists and bring people to live here in Front Royal and encourage people to come here.”

What is your stance on government spending?

“Right now, it’s pretty tight so we can’t really spend too much on anything.” So we gotta just be careful for the next two years.”

Hollis L. Tharpe
Age: 63
Family: Married, children, great grandchildren
Time in community: Lifelong
Political experience/community groups: Two terms on council
Occupation: retired, owns Tharpe Novelties ice cream trucks

What issues would you first address if elected to council?

“Working with the Board of Supervisors and the EDA to bring living wage earnings. The very first thing is to make sure that your good working relations with the county and the EDA pays off for the town because they are partners. Both the board and the EDA are looking for the best interest of the town.

What solutions to would you offer address the issues?

“To actually address it, you would have to work as a team member with the rest of the council members to go in a direction that you could have a good relationship with the EDA and the board because when we have perspective, clients that may locate here we’ll have more of an understanding of the working relationship for that company, so that when a company chooses the possibility of locating here … we would be able to initiate some type of welcoming committee per se so that they would feel that we were working together, not pulling apart, so that they would be a good fit here.”

What is your stance or position on government spending?

“We survive as a town from government spending. I shouldn’t say we survive. We contribute, through the Board of Supervisors, School Board and the town. We probably have somewhere in the neighborhood of 1,000 employees that work for the county, the School Board and town, so we contribute a lot of tax dollars for road projects. The state they contribute a lot of money through taxes. For example, they’re doing the bridge — a $43 million contribution to the town coffers by way of workers. The workers stay at motels. They eat out amongst our restaurants and spend dollars and, that in turn, turns into tax dollars through the meals tax. We rely heavily on people spending money and paying taxes. If it wasn’t for taxes, we wouldn’t have the nice roads, parks and recs. Even though the town doesn’t have anything to do with the parks and recs anymore, we are part of the Warren County community.”

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com