Board hears critics of surprise vote

WOODSTOCK – Shenandoah County residents criticized some supervisors Tuesday over the board’s vote to pick officers last month.

The Board of Supervisors also heard at its meeting from many residents who urged members to fully fund education and other county needs in the next budget.

At the beginning of the meeting, District 3 Supervisor Richard Walker said he would accept County Attorney Jason Ham’s counsel that the board’s election of officers Feb. 16 was not legal given the nature of the meeting. Supervisors voted 3-2 at the end of a joint meeting with the School Board to elect Walker as chairman and District 6 Supervisor Conrad Helsley as vice chairman. Ham advised the board that this vote was not proper.

Helsley remains chairman and Walker the vice chairman as elected by the board last year.

At the end of the meeting, many of the people in the packed boardroom took turns venting to the board or urging members to set aside personal vendettas and work toward fully funding the county budgets.

Dan Walsh, president of the Parents Alliance for Strong Schools, recalled his shock at the action that supervisors took. Walsh said the action wasn’t civil or legal and compared the vote to a coup d’etat. Eugenia Kimble serves on PASS and recalled feeling “appalled” by the actions at the meeting.

Ken Cruise spoke in support of the board, specifically three newer members who he claims were “shut out.”

Gerald Talley called out the supervisors for failing to uphold the board’s rules such as a prohibition on disruptive activities during its meetings.

After people spoke, District 4 Supervisor Cindy Bailey thanked people for coming out and told the audience that while she and Walker do not agree with the attorney’s legal counsel, those who supported Walker as chairman would not stand in the way.

Bailey then read from a statement criticizing the School Board and the division for its decisions on how to spend its allocated funding. When Bailey told the audience to direct its criticism to the School Board, many people spoke out of turn and interrupted the supervisor.

Walker explained that the action at the Feb. 16 meeting was taken because the board lacked an elected chairman. Bailey said the vote was legal, a statement that again spurred noise from the audience.

Walker said he became involved in local politics after the board “shut the gate on the county” in 2008 and 2010. The county has lost businesses since 2010, Walker said. The supervisor said he lost property rights. The county’s median household income has fallen, Walker said. Older residents with declining incomes suffer financially, Walker said.

“We have to have a balance and in that balance we can work together,” Walker said.

The county doesn’t need ordinances telling homeowners what they can do with their property, Walker added.

Walker and Bailey offered to meet and speak with audience members after the board meeting.

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

An earlier version of this story should have identified Dan Walsh as the president of the Parents Alliance for Strong Schools.