District 1 candidates offer insight before election

Karen Kwiatkowski

Shenandoah County voters in District 1 hit the polls Nov. 7 to pick their Board of Supervisors representative.

Candidates running for Districts 1, 4 and 5 responded by email recently to a series of questions ahead of Election Day. District 1 Supervisor John R. “Dick” Neese is running for a fifth term while Karen Kwiatkowski is seeking her first. Kwiatkowski is running as the Republican Party candidate. Neese, a longtime Republican, opted to run as an independent candidate in this election.

District 1

Full name: Karen Kwiatkowski.

Age: 57.

Dick Neese

Family: Husband Hap of 35 years, four adult children, eight grandchildren.

Education: Bachelor of science in zoology, master of science in science management, master of arts in Government,  a doctorate in world politics.

Length of time in county: Bought farmland in 2000, lived and farmed here for nearly 15 years.

Occupation or, if retired, most recent job: Farmer, adjunct instructor at Lord Fairfax Community College and University of Maryland University College, retired lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Air Force.

How would you prioritize the county’s spending of its tax dollars?

The fundamental role of government is to protect life, liberty and property. That’s my priority: protecting our personal safety and security, our houses and property, our jobs and our economic growth, our emergency preparedness and fire support. I’d also like to protect all of us and our property from too much government interference and taxation. Our schools already get around 60 percent  of the annual Shenandoah County budget, and I expect that level to be maintained and wisely spent.

When would you authorize salary increases for county government employees and would you support across-the-board raises or adjustments based on merit?

After county government’s financial house is in order, and we can see the effectiveness of our precious taxpayer investment, we should look at any necessary changes to our county employees’ employment packages. To conduct a workable merit pay program you need metrics on government performance, and I don’t believe we have those rigorous metrics in place at this time. Given several years flat Social Security payments and local business pay, and noting that the upcoming Social Security increase of 2 percent for 2018 is already completely negated by planned increases in Medicare, this question on pay raises across the board may be premature. Certainly, as our county begins to grow economically (something I intend to help make happen), local government employees who energetically contribute to that growth and helping all their customers thrive should and will be rewarded.

Where do you feel the county should spend the money collected through rollback taxes?

Rollback taxes are intended to accommodate and fund the new demand on public services when land is moved from a farm or forest use into a more intensive housing, business or development use. Any money collected via rollback taxes is meant to cover expected increases in local government expenditures relative to those services. It should not be seen as “new money” for fads or stop gaps. I’m already on record opposing tax dollars being spent to purchase development rights.

Would you give up your annual stipend paid to each supervisor to help cut spending and, if so, where would you recommend the county allocate the money?

A part-time job entailing 20 or more hours a week should be compensated (even if only at three dollars an hour), because time has value, whether you are in your 20s like Dennis Morris was when he was first elected, in your 50s trying to get your kids through college, or retired on a limited income. I would not want to leave Shenandoah County government only to volunteers, agenda-driven do-gooders and the upper classes. Further, if you pay nothing, some supervisors could get very lazy, and when asked about why they aren’t doing much, they could easily justify their laziness by saying they are “just volunteers” or “I don’t work for you” or “I’m too busy making a living.” Because we do work for you! On the other hand, I do think any health insurance provided to supervisors should be paid for via a salary reduction, if opted into that program. Think about it! One hard-working and conscientious supervisor could save the county well over $60,000 a year (the price of the whole board!) while attracting another $100,000 in new small business, annually, just through personal efforts! I intend to try and be that kind of supervisor for District 1.

Full name: John R. “Dick” Neese.

Age: 68.

Family: Divorced, two boys, both married, six grandchildren.

Education: Graduate of Stonewall Jackson High School and Triplett Tech.

Length of time in county: Lifelong, except three years in service and eight years with Rocco in North Carolina.

Occupation or, if retired, most recent job: Retired from Bowman Apple Products as traffic manager; several part-time jobs while retired.

How would you prioritize the county’s spending of its tax dollars?

Three very important departments, not to say the other department are not, but the bulk of the money: education, emergency services and economic development

When would you authorize salary increases for county government employees and would you support across-the-board raises or adjustments based on merit?

They should receive cost-of-living every year.

Where do you feel the county should spend the money collected through rollback taxes?

Up $50,000 per year in easements as originally agreed to.

Would you give up your annual stipend paid to each supervisor to help cut spending and, if so, where would you recommend the county allocate the money?

Yes, if everyone agreed to it, although it is not a lot of money. Back into the general fund.

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