A letter expressing opposition to Lord Fairfax Community College’s decision to abandon its name failed to gain majority support on Tuesday evening from Shenandoah County supervisors, who were split on whether or not to issue such a document to Virginia’s State Board of Community Colleges before that body votes on the matter next week.
Supervisors voted 3-3 on a motion to send a written statement expressing the board’s opposition to the proposed name change and will not join local state legislators in issuing such a document. District 3 Supervisor Brad Pollack, who made the motion to issue the letter, as well as Josh Stephens (District 1) and board Chairman Steve Baker (District 2) voted in favor of the motion, while Karl Roulston (District 4), Dennis Morris (District 5) and Tim Taylor (District 6) voted against.
The result brought to an end a topic that supervisors had been mulling since their April 13 meeting.
Pollack, who eventually amended his motion to include a simple one-sentence letter on Tuesday, initially moved to issue either a letter or a resolution expressing opposition to LFCC’s decision that a new name was needed. Stephens seconded the initial motion after a 12-second pause yielded no other responses from fellow supervisors.
Taylor opened the ensuing discussion by stating that despite being an agenda topic three times since April, he’d heard very little opposition to the proposed name change from his constituents in District 6 and joined some of his colleagues in questioning whether LFCC’s decision to change its name was the county’s business. He added that Shenandoah County’s two representatives on LFCC’s advisory board, who the Board of Supervisors appointed, voted in favor of a name change.
Morris, who said he was in LFCC’s first graduating class and was the president of the school’s first alumni association, also said that he’d heard minimal opposition to the school’s decision — as did Stephens — and that while he personally doesn’t find issue with the community college’s name, he’s always tried not to “insert my personal thoughts into board business.” Morris questioned whether the LFCC name change was a “hot-ticket item” among county residents.
Roulston, who pointed out that it was determined during a discussion with LFCC President Kim Blosser during the Board of Supervisors’ April 27 meeting that no county funds would be used to pay for a potential name change, stated LFCC’s decision was not the county’s business “by any stretch” and that the county shouldn’t hinder what the school has determined is a solution to a branding problem.
Even Stephens, who voted in favor of issuing a letter in opposition to the name change, questioned what such an action had to do directly with supervisors’ doing their jobs and said the board in the future needed to look at how much time it spends “weighing in on issues that have zero bearing on conducting the business of this body and of this county.”
Stephens could throw his support behind a simple letter in opposition, he explained, because he personally disagreed with the school’s decision.
Pollack argued that the proposed name change was Shenandoah County’s business because the Board of Supervisors helped form LFCC over 50 years ago and played an “integral part” in the college’s foundation. He added that, since the county, like other localities in LFCC’s service area, provides funding to the school that the Board of Supervisors should have “more influence” on the State Board of Community Colleges — which still needs to approve the name change before it becomes official — than LFCC’s advisory board.
Pollack asked his fellow supervisors to consider how their constituents felt about a name change when casting their vote on a letter of opposition.
Baker said he didn’t feel the process that led to LFCC’s February decision was “handled properly,” noting that as a graduate of the school, he knew nothing about the situation until after the decision was made.
Baker, who is also a graduate of Stonewall Jackson High School, which is undergoing its own name change process, called LFCC’s decision “disheartening.”
Blosser told supervisors last month that LFCC’s six-month research process that examined names associated with the college was performed in response to a state resolution passed last summer, and that the process revealed that the “Lord Fairfax” name doesn’t resonate with students or the college’s targeted demographic.
Thomas, the 6th Lord Fairfax and the school’s namesake, was a colonial-era slave owner, though Blosser said LFCC’s decision was not politically motivated and was instead made after it was determined that the “Lord Fairfax” brand was a weak one.
Prior to Tuesday’s discussion, County Administrator Evan Vass read four public comments that were submitted, all of which stated opposition to LFCC’s decision.
Also on Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to appoint Beverly Butterfield to the county’s Industrial Development Authority and Olivia Hilton to the Tourism Council.
All six supervisors attended Tuesday’s meeting.