Limiting choices and ignoring alternatives lead to bad results. A farmer planting only one species in his fields makes his whole harvest vulnerable to failure. When we take a course of antibiotics we run the risk of killing beneficial bacteria that work together to regulate our systems. Failing to examine all available options can lead to poor decision making. In the Warren County ecosystem, one party rule has resulted in corruption and confusion. Groupthink and blind acceptance have led to financial disaster. New revelations of wrongdoing are practically a daily occurrence. Clearly this county needs a new perspective and new ideas about governance.

It is noteworthy that no current county official identifies as a Democrat or as Independent. Current Republican dogma downplays the vital role of informed citizens and responsive government in civic life. They prefer government to be obscure and its workings hidden from sight, but this has not served Warren County well.

The current dilemma began when 24-year incumbent 6th District Congressman Bob Goodlatte (Republican) promoted the claims of an entrepreneur coming to town with promises of 6oo jobs and the ripple effects of job creation. Goodlatte pushed for a $10 million dollar loan for the venture. Several years later, Warren County is left footing the bill with nothing to show. When the ITFederal episode began, many questioned why a technology company did not present an informative website. Upon searching for information about the company, job seekers were unable to find anything of substance. Was it too much to expect the supervisors or Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority members or Town Council to fulfill their oversight function and at least ask the most basic questions?

The Board of Supervisors is responsible for the oversight of the EDA and governing the affairs of the county. Something is amiss when the leaders of the county fail to work for the interests of the taxpayers. As the resignations climb and the suspicion and lawsuits cascade, there is little clarity. The circle of suspects widens, with little visibility on who is responsible and who is merely gullible. It is time to break the chain of deceit and deception. One lone voice on the Town Council was berated and attacked for questioning other council members about falling into lockstep behind the EDA with little more than promises.

This county’s tradition of one-party rule is responsible for the blind faith that led to the current situation. Dissenting voices or differing perspectives could have prevented the almost certain tumble into a financial crevasse that the county’s finances will experience.

Three years on this saga worsens. Questionable county expenditures have squeezed out other needed improvements such as increased wages to help retain county teachers. Other projects have amounted to nothing but a black hole for taxpayer money. Important files have disappeared. Investigations go nowhere. Audits turn up nothing. Rocks and recriminations are thrown. Now the county tosses more money after the missing funds with the $260,000 allotted to uncover the mystery now tripled to $760,000. Millions of dollars are unaccounted for and likely gone. The FBI and state police are involved in the investigation.

Perhaps some soul searching and honesty from the county leaders would spare the expense of a forensic search to reveal exactly those parties at fault. Couldn’t some of our leadership decide to work for the citizens they’re sworn to represent instead of upholding the “good ole boy network” and working for large business interests like Valley Health? A new hospital planned on favorable terms for a county health care provider lacks facilities for obstetrics. Why should expectant mothers and new parents bear an additional burden of enduring road trips to ensure children’s health?

At the next opportunity, Warren County should elect Independents or Democrats to leadership roles and not trust to business as usual. It is obvious that this county is in dire need of fresh ideas and new approaches. A viewpoint tied to a narrow range of options is not a base to build on. Whether the underlying responsibility is a result of greed or incompetence, county residents want to know where the money went. We see the results of the failure to hold leadership accountable, but we are reclaiming our responsibilities as informed citizens and voters. Anticipating needed improvements should be part of the vision of county leadership. Surely the taxpayers of this county owe it to themselves to look for new leaders to create the environment this county and its hard-working citizens deserves.

Steve Foreman is a semi-retired long time Warren County resident, an occasional fisherman, runs a network cabling and project management company and has served as chair of the Warren County Democratic Committee since 2017.