March 9 Further Consideration of District 2 BOS Appointment

Board of Supervisors again takes up consideration of district 2 interim appointment …

The BOS will again consider the interim appointment of a District 2 Supervisor tonight at 6:00 p.m,  to fill the seat left vacant when Henry Parker died in late February.  Parker had been on the BOS 36 years and for many embodied the way Prince George should remain …

Now enter 13 Prince Georgians some African-American, some women, some professionals, some tradesmen …

Of the 13, two women and one man were nominated by the divided Board,   but none could garner the three votes necessary to receive the appointment.  The matter was then tabled to be considered tonight, March 9, in the budget work session at 6 p.m.

The only committed Parker protege on the Board, Alan Carmichael, secured only his one vote for his nominee Reid Foster.  Though a past Supervisor it is unlikely that Foster will receive two more votes.  The only vote Carmichael may have been able to persuade toward Foster during the week-long interim is Jerry Skalsky but Skalsky has a nominee of his own, Marlene Waymack.  Switching the Skalsky vote to Foster would not result in Foster’s appointment which would still be one vote short.

If Foster is a non-starter that leaves two questions … will Waymack or Minor be able to garner the one more vote needed to secure the nomination?  Or will the Board reach into the remaining pool of 9 to find a compromise candidate?

So will Skalsky switch his vote to Minor allowing him to be part of the majority and result her appointment?  She is formerly the Finance Director of  Prince George County, a professional financial consultant to many local governments, and a recognized leader in the field of local government financial governance. This may be scary for Skalsky. Minor would not be a Supervisor in the mold of Parker.

Though unlikely, Waymack may be the compromise of the three nominees if Skalsky doesn’t forsake his support for her candidacy.  She is well connected, old Prince George, and would likely be a Parkerite. Carmichael could vote for her if Foster has no chance of securing the nomination.  That would leave only needing a vote from Robertson or Gandel to secure her appointment.

If Waymack cannot be compromised upon by Gandel or Robertson and if Foster is out then the Board could reach into the remaining pool of 9 candidates to find a compromise candidate.

Attend the meeting tonight and see what happens.

The Future of Prince George After Henry Parker

When we moved to Prince George in 1986 Henry was already on the Board of Supervisors.  We didn’t know it then, but he had already been on the Board for 7 years, plus or minus.  As we drove around the county looking for a place to rent until our Oklahoma house could sell, Bob stepped into Parker’s grocery to make inquires of possible places for lease.  Parker’s Store was not the only “country” grocery in which we made inquiries, but for Bob this was a particularly interesting experience.

Upon making some small talk and asking some questions about the county, etc., Henry asked Bob … “Who are your people?”

Was this a way of saying ‘You’re not from around here, are you?”  Of course, I suspect Henry had already surmised that.  Bob was not in uniform that day, so I doubt that question would have been asked had he been, because Henry, a veteran himself, seemed to always have a warmth for the military, except when the County was in negotiations with Ft. Lee for one reason or another.

Many years later while serving on the Planning Commission I had the opportunity to have a number of conversations with Henry and with his allies on the Board.  We had very different visions about the future of the County and how to prepare for it.  He was singularly polite almost to the point of gentlemanly proportions, but he didn’t forget or forgive my divergent views. My tenure on the Planing Commission was short lived.

My interactions with Henry were few in last five years or so and I don’t know how the growth of the county, the expansion of Ft. Lee, or the coming of Rolls Royce and the Manufacturing and Research Consortium might have changed his views about the future of Prince George, or if they had any impact at all.  What had to be apparent to him, though, was that the county would never again be ‘his’ county of the 60s and 70s.

I am glad to have known Henry Parker.  He was an institution and will be fondly remembered by many.

On February 24th (tonight as I write this) the Board will discuss filling Henry’s now vacant District 2 seat.  Likely the person will be appointed, but will persons of color and/or a woman be sought to fill that vacancy until the General Election in November? Open questions at this point.

In preparing to write these thoughts a week after his death and reflect on Henry’s 36 years as a local elected official,  I had planned to clip his official photo from the county’s web siteCounty Seal to add to this post.  It was no longer there.

Firehouse Fiefdoms

The Prince George  Fire Chiefs lost their battle last week to keep total control over their own firehouse volunteer personnel.  Now the Chiefs will serve as an advisory board to the Director of Fire and EMS.  The Director will make all decisions about staffing the six houses.  This move on the part of the Board of Supervisors has been in the works for well over two years though it has been talked about far longer.

The change was prompted by objective statistics on emergency response times, the untimely death of a Prince George woman waiting for a crew to arrive, and recent underwriting standards which resulted in exponential increases in fire insurance for residents in certain sections of the county.  No need to mention the difficulty recruiting and training volunteer firefighters and EMTs  who otherwise work full time jobs and must meet the same state certification standards as paid professionals.

The Director, who will also have budget decisions about acquisition, equipment management, and other management functions in this critical county function,  is seemingly well liked, even respected, by the Chiefs, but it is still a blow to the traditions of given fire house communities and a bitter bill to swallow for some.  While we may have sympathy for those grieving over the loss of tradition, we must consider that the move to professional management of a critical county function is necessary for a county of about 270 square miles and 37,000 residents.

That’s how I see it.

How do you see it?

Xena Attends Board of Supervisors Meeting …High Drama and Low Expectations

Until three years ago Xena frequently attended the Prince George County Board of Supervisors (BOS) meetings.  The meetings were often boring or highly charged emotionally … or both.

The March 27, 2012, meeting was much of the same.  She expected that the character of the meetings would have changed with a newly elected Supervisor, and different County Attorney and County Administrator.

Three of the five Board members have been on the panel for many years with the Chair having served for over thirty years. One member is just beginning his second term and the other was elected in November to his first term.

The meeting began with the carefully orchestrated order of invocation, pledge of allegiance, adoption of consent agenda, awards, recognitions, commendations and little self-deprecating jokettes.  The pleasantries soon ended, however, when the pubic hearings began.

One, a rezoning application, had packed the meeting room with unfamiliar faces from other localities and a purported NAACP firebrand from Richmond.  Included in the mix was a large extended family who would benefit financially from the proposed development because the property in question is landlocked and the family holds the acces to his property.

Not spoken … the elephant in the room … was that the Board was all white.  The developer and the extended family were black.  The opposition to the project were all white (well mostly so …one young man of color spoke in opposition to the rezoning  but didn’t appear to have much conviction behind his prose.)

You know the outcome.  The rezoning was denied… 4 to 1 … because of traffic safety concerns and the articulation by the Chair that the BOS was inclined to give preference to the wishes of the “neighborhood.”   Hmmmmm.

Xena had found herself among and admidst the members of the extended family who, while behaving in a perfectly dignified manner, whispered all sorts of juicy gossip, allegationss and sardonic retorts under their breaths. 

The applicant’s second request for special exception became moot when the rezoning request fell to the traffic safety and neighborhood concerns of the BOS.

Xena was surprised that Reid Foster, recently defeated Board member, spoke about his concerns for traffic safety.  Is he attempting a come-back in four years?  He did it once before.  Just asking.

The public hearing on the personal  property tax rate increase was anticlimatic.  No member of the public spoke pro or con, though the undercurrents in the exchanges among the BOS members was palpable.  Motion carried …4 to 1.