Warren County hopefuls consider questions at forum

FRONT ROYAL – Candidates seeking local offices in Warren County took part in a forum on Tuesday.

The Front Royal-Warren County Chamber of Commerce hosted the forum to a packed boardroom in the government center. The chamber received questions from the public, some media outlets and its legislative committee. Questions were limited to those based on issues. Jim Eastham asked the questions and each candidate had one minute to answer.

The forum began with candidates running for commissioner of the revenue. Republican Party candidate François Flippen is challenging Commissioner Sherry Sours for the post. Sours is seeking re-election and her first four-year term.

Candidates responded to the following questions:
What can the commissioner’s office do to help facilitate, establish and maintain small businesses in the county?
• Flippen said the office should be as accommodating to customers as possible.
• Sours said business owners still need to go through a process to obtain licenses and can come to the office with questions.

What untapped sources of revenue, if any, exist in the county?
• Sours said she would like to concentrate on auditing that could uncover revenue through unpaid taxes.
• Flippen said he would advocate no increase in taxes.

Daryl Funk and Rhonda North are seeking the clerk of the circuit court post. Funk is an attorney and member of the Front Royal Town Council. North works as the town clerk for Middleburg.

What are three skills most important for the clerk of the court to possess?
• North said the clerk needs to have skills in organization, personnel management and people skills to provide customer service.
• Funk said the clerk needs to have skills in customer service, fiscal responsibility and personnel management.

Describe the biggest challenge you think you will face in the first year of office.
• Funk said technological advancement will pose a challenge and the office will need to decide if it should go with what the state provides or use a third party.
• North said the loss of institutional knowledge, with the retirement of longtime Clerk Jennifer Sims and four other employees, will pose a challenge.

Why should people give more thought to the constitutional offices?
• North acknowledged that people don’t give much thought to the offices. North noted that the clerk has numerous responsibilities that affect people’s lives.
• Funk said people don’t think about the offices because they are so well run. Funk added that it’s important the offices are run well.

Shawn McClosky and Donna McEathron are seeking the South River District seat on the School Board. Candidates gave responses to the following questions:

What is the greatest challenge facing the school system?
• McEathron said the system needs to improve teacher retention and salaries, particularly for more experienced educators.
• McClosky also said teacher retention, noting that the system suffered a 15 percent turnover rate with some leaving for better pay and benefits.

What do you feel should be the next building project for the system?
• McClosky said the county needs to expand the Blue Ridge Technical Center, citing a need for skilled laborers.
• McEathron said the county needs to make improvements to Ressie Jeffries Elementary School, the oldest facility in the district.

What do you see as the school system’s role in alleviating the problem of a lack of skilled laborers?
• McEathron said this is where the Blue Ridge Technical Center comes in, wherein students can gain an education in the culinary arts and other areas.
• McClosky said the system needs to instill not just skills but also the drive to give everything they can to their employer.

Candidates running for seats representing the Shenandoah and North River districts on the Board of Supervisors also participated in the forum. Their questions and responses will be published Thursday.

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

An earlier version of this story should have identified the moderator in the Warren County candidates forum as Jim Eastham.