Editor’s note: This is one in a series of question and answer articles about local candidates running for office. The Northern Virginia Daily asked candidates three questions. The unedited responses are below.
Walter Mabe is running against incumbent Tom Sayre for the Shenandoah District seat on the Warren County Board of Supervisors.
What actions will you take to regain citizens' trust in public officials in the wake of the embezzlement scandal at the Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority?
I will immediately take two actions to regain public trust in local government once I am elected: One is to announce I will hold quarterly meetings with my constituents. I will encourage citizens to ask questions on anything they want. Why is there is virtually no communications between Warren County citizens and the Board of Supervisors? I will change that! I suspect many items, many involving taxpayers money, are being discussed behind closed doors when they should be discussed in a public area. I will vote to ensure closed sessions are exceedingly rare!
The second action I will take is to announce that I will always keep campaign promises. My opponent does not. When campaigning for the Board of Supervisors in 2015, he promised to “hold frequent public meetings with constituents.” He has not initiated a single one since elected! Why? My opponent also promised during the 2015 campaign that he would “never raise taxes.” Yet in 2018 he voted for a big tax increase. I will always do what I say I’m going to do.
I want to compliment former Front Royal Town Council member Bebhinn Egger — in the strongest terms possible — for raising serious red flags in December 2016 about the I.T. Federal and workforce housing projects. Why didn’t my opponent and the Board of Supervisors listen to her and take action? Why did they do nothing? If I had been on the board at that time — and unable to get the Board of Supervisors to request a “forensic audit” or “criminal investigation” of the EDA — I would have used every tool at my disposal to alert Warren County citizens about the red flags Bebhinn raised. I would have called a public meeting of my constituents, conducted special press conferences, and written “open letters” to the media and government officials. Why did my opponent take none of these actions?
Do you believe that any officials who were in office or employed as the embezzlement scandal unfolded should remain in their positions and why?
Warren County needs to completely clean house! All elected or appointed members of the Board of Supervisors, Front Royal Town Council, and EDA board at the time of the scandal must be removed for cause. They may be decent people. They may have tried to do a good job. But the bottom line, at the end of the day, is that $20 million of taxpayer’s money was lost through ignorance, apathy, or incompetence. They must be held accountable! During my five years in the U.S. Marines (1971-1976), I saw officers and non-commissioned officers relived for doing far less than has occurred in Warren County. We need new civic leaders.
My opponent served for eight years on the Front Royal Town Council before being elected to the Board of Supervisors in 2015. He has had 12 years of observing the EDA board, Front Royal Town Council, and Board of Supervisors up front and personal. Now, he is trying to claim that “he did everything he could to stop the EDA scandal but all his initiatives were rebuffed by the board as a whole.” I don’t believe him for a minute. Nor do many Warren County residents. A considerable number have told me, it’s time for him to go.
I have the skills and experience to help clean house on the Board of Supervisors and EDA board. I know how to hire and develop people. For 21 years I was a high-profile, well-respected project-manager in the private sector, I can help get to the bottom of the EDA scandal. I understand budgets. I can ask penetrating questions. I can detect unstated assumptions. I can manage risks and minimize uncertainty. I can develop open communications with customers. I can develop plans, schedules, and estimate how long tasks will take.
Outside of the issues at the EDA, what is the biggest issue facing the community and how will you solve it?
The biggest issue in Warren County at this time — outside the EDA scandal — is that our community is fractured and desperately in need of leaders with vision and a strategic plan to lead us. Why is morale so low in Warren County? Why don’t religious groups talk more to each other? Why are political parties so divisive? Why are longtime residents not welcoming to newcomers?
With inspired civic leadership, Warren County could be an economic giant in the commonwealth. Warren County has so much to offer Virginia. It is home to:
Shenandoah National Park.
Two nearby interstates.
The confluence of two forks of the great Shenandoah River.
A great inland port that would be even better with improved rail service.
When is the last time Board of Supervisors talked — passionately and with conviction — about smart growth, tourism, and pride in the community? Almost never.
My opponent is an example of this uninspired leadership. He works hard to get elected but accomplishes virtually nothing once in office. What has he achieved after eight years on the Front Royal Town Council and four years on the Board of Supervisors? Almost nothing. Does he have a record of promoting smart growth, tourism, and pride in the community? No. He simply puts his ambitions ahead of the community. Even his friends say he spends more time on his lawsuit with Jennifer McDonald than on promoting Warren County.
We need new persons in charge who can set well-thought-out goals, provide resources, reward good employees, and eliminate poor ones. A wise old sage who once said, “You show me a good anything and I’ll show you a good person in charge” would not be impressed with the quality of Warren County’s current civic leadership.
I have the leadership skills, work ethic, and private-sector experience to form citizens committees to address issues that divide us — then listen to what citizens say – then recommend solutions.
My name is Walter Mabe. Vote for me on November 5th.