Outgoing supervisor reflects on service

Richard Traczyk, chairman of the Warren County Board of Supervisors, addresses the crowd during a ribbon cutting ceremony for the Warren County Health and Human Services Complex earlier this month in Front Royal. Traczyk's tenure as supervisor ends effective at midnight Thursday. Rich Cooley/Daily file

FRONT ROYAL – Richard Traczyk says he’s proud of the progress Warren County made during his more than a decade on the Board of Supervisors.

Traczyk steps down from the board Thursday as the supervisor for the Shenandoah District. Traczyk reflected Tuesday on his three terms as supervisor, during a time that saw the county embark and complete major projects while withstanding economic troubles.

“The reason I ran for office, I saw a lot of needs in the community that weren’t being fulfilled particularly in the infrastructure,” Traczyk recalled. “You know people came and said our schools are in deplorable condition. They said our kids don’t have anything to do. There are no soccer fields. There’s no activities for them.”

Traczyk served on the Planning Commission for 7½ years before joining the board. While he was on the commission, the panel created a Comprehensive Plan that included a list of capital improvement needs. The Board of Supervisors approved the plan and began to put the initiatives into effect after Traczyk joined, he recalled.

“The interesting part, it was kind of the perfect storm,” Traczyk said. “Basically all the other supervisors had the same feelings about what needed to be fixed. The economy had pretty much tanked and we had opportunities to take advantage of low-interest rates. Contractors were looking just to stay alive versus make a big profit and all those things came to fruition about the same time and we began our infrastructure build-out.”

Richard Traczyk

Traczyk said he wanted the county to address the needs for the school system first. The supervisor said the board knew they wanted to build new facilities that would allow the county system to move students out of the aging structures.

“It did cost us some money but I think by far my constituents and the town and the county have all been very satisfied with how that all that turned out over the years,” Traczyk said, citing the school improvements, new library and athletic fields.”

Traczyk said he expects the next board to work more on how to maintain the infrastructure improvements made thus far. With new schools comes the need to pay teachers as well as to heat and cool the buildings. The county also needs to maintain the library.

“I think (the board) felt the same needs and desires for our community,” Traczyk said. “It was always a community thing – what made our community a better place to live and we’ve always been there and I think we’ve succeeded.”

Traczyk’s district also saw many changes during his tenure, especially in the Shenandoah Farms subdivision. The county took over the maintenance of the neighborhood by creating a sanitary district and embarked on a program to improve the subdivision’s roads and hand many of them off to the Virginia Department of Transportation.

The supervisor admitted that his support for the replacement of the Morgan Ford Bridge did not go over well with some constituents in his district who fought the project. Traczyk backed the approved plans, citing the need to replace the bridge that has been the site of at least three deaths in the past few years.

Raising taxes to cover the cost of the county’s capital needs didn’t always go over well with at least some residents, Traczyk said.

“The criticisms that we got, to me anyway, were pretty low key because this board and myself tried to be completely transparent as to where the money was going,” Traczyk said.

The county’s plan outlined the needs and the costs for those improvements. The board made taxpayers aware of how much the needed improvements would cost and how that related to their tax rates, Traczyk said.

“The outrage that happened in previous years didn’t occur during my term I feel because they knew what the money was going to be used for,” Traczyk said. “I got very little resistance to any of the tax increases that we’ve had and keep in mind most of the increases were miniscule in comparison to surrounding communities.”

Traczyk’s support for higher taxes when he felt necessary often didn’t sit well with his fellow, yet more fiscally conservative, Republicans. Traczyk has since left the local Republican Party because he did not support their candidate for his seat, former Front Royal Town Councilman Thomas H. Sayre.

“I’ve been accused of being more liberal than I should be as a Republican,” Traczyk said. “I never really worried so much about the Republican Party as I worried about my community and how the community was moving forward and how the community reacted as a whole to what we did as a government.”

Traczyk added that the Republican Party pushes for no tax increases, which then prompts him to ask “what do you do then?”

“Do you keep things the status quo and never move forward, which is kinda where the Republicans are today, and I would like to see us move forward as a community and enjoy the things that are available to us … and you can’t do that without some investment in the future, and investment in the local government is politics, is taxes,” Traczyk said.

Traczyk, 72, doesn’t foresee a return to politics.

“I think my political career will end this Thursday night at midnight and I’ll sit in the seats in the back and maybe make a statement or two before the microphone on the other side this time,” Traczyk said.

Asked if he had any regrets, Traczyk said he wished the county, during his tenure, had done more to help employees, especially those who work in the school system. Traczyk noted that the division continues to lose employees to other jurisdictions seeking higher pay.

Traczyk and his wife have put their Warren County home up for sale and plan to move into their house in the Frederick County subdivision of Lake Holiday, he said.

“My future, I guess, will be having a beer on the lake with fishing and seeing how things go and see how the last few years of my life go,” Traczyk said. “Now I can go see my grandkids without having to come back for a board meeting. I think traveling will be in my future, relaxing on the lake, seeing a lot more of the countryside.”

Traczyk said he would remain connected to the county and the community.

“I never will leave Warren County,” Traczyk added.

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