Warren County GOP backs council candidates
FRONT ROYAL – Local Republicans heard from five hopefuls running for Front Royal Town Council before endorsing three on Thursday.
The Warren County Republican Committee held a forum for the candidates during its regular meeting weeks ahead of the Nov. 3 general election. Town elections are non-partisan, meaning that candidates are not required to identify themselves by political party on an election ballot.
Councilman Eugene R. Tewalt is seeking re-election to another term. Councilman Jacob “Jake” Meza, appointed by council earlier this year to replace Daryl Funk, is seeking his first full term. Funk was elected last November as the clerk of the Warren County Circuit Court. William A. Sealock Jr., Michael D. “Mike” McCool and Robert M. Tennett Jr. also are seeking election to council.
Each candidate had two minutes to give an opening statement. Committee member Matthew Tederick then read questions and each candidate had one minute to give a response. Questions included what parts of the town’s budget would they as council members cut; do they feel town taxes are too low, high or are right; do they support a rental inspection program and, if so, how would they pay for it; should town elections stay in November or revert to May; and how would they bring business into Front Royal.
In response to the first question about budgets, Tewalt said he would push to cut spending on unnecessary vehicles and equipment. Sealock said he questioned why departments didn’t have a vehicle pool or allow employees to use their own cars and he also voiced concerns about the town’s spending on health insurance. Meza said his struggle going through the budget was a lack of revenue projections. McCool said he would cut all new hires and he echoed Sealock’s concerns about spending on employee benefits. Tennett said he’s seen council tighten the budget in some instances but concurred with Tewalt and Meza on the need to cut some items.
As to the second question, Sealock said taxes are about right but the town needs to figure out how to find the funds to cover future costs such as the new police department headquarters. Meza said he felt taxes are comparable to those of other localities but the town should forecast its needs. McCool said the town needs spend within its means but also should set aside funds for the future. Tennett said the town has a low tax rate but needs more taxpayers. Tewalt said the tax rate remains low compared to that of other localities but he could reduce the levy more by cutting the budget.
Most candidates voiced support for a rental inspection program. Meza said that if the town can spend $100,000 on a ditch digger, it could fund an inspection program. McCool said the town and county have ordinances that aren’t enforced. Tennett pointed out that the town needs a program soon given that some properties are in bad, unsafe condition. Tewalt said he’s still considering his position on a program but he couldn’t support one that targets only part of the town. Sealock said he would support a program as long as it could be enforced.
All the candidates except McCool said they would rather keep elections in May.
Each candidate then had two minutes to provide closing remarks.
After the forum, voting members of the committee in attendance at the meeting voted for which candidates they endorse in the election. Voters endorsed Meza, Sealock and Tewalt. The committee also endorsed Vice Mayor Hollis Tharpe, the sole candidate running for mayor. Mayor Timothy Darr decided not to seek another term.
Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or firstname.lastname@example.org