New candidates to challenge incumbents
With all the board of supervisors and school board seats being voted on this November, challengers are weighing their options to get elected. All the incumbents, except Bermuda School Board member Marshall Trammell, are standing for re-election.
Chesterfield Registrar Larry Haake says three candidates for supervisor have already filed statements of organization, but no one for the school board has yet. Those statements allow candidates to begin raising money for their races.
“The statement of organization is an intent to run but not a commitment,” said Haake. “Others have called, but I advised them to wait until the General Assembly has finished its work. They have, and the candidate packages are ready.”
Trammell is stepping down after 20 years, and that’s attracted three possible candidates vying for his seat: Carrie Coyner, Stella Edwards and Jack Wilson.
Coyner runs the Rudy Coyner & Associates law firm, specializing in zoning law. She is well-known to county staff and members of the planning commission and board of supervisors. Coyner serves on the board of directors for the Chesterfield County Chamber of Commerce as vice chair and will be chair next year. She is also active in the Chester United Methodist Church.
“I have a passion for schools, and I am considering it,” said Coyner. “I’ll have to weigh my other civic duties because you can’t do everything well.” She and her husband have three young children.
“I am exploring the idea so that means I have interest,” said Stella Edwards.
She declined to provide additional information because she isn’t ready to declare her candidacy. Edwards currently serves as president of the Chesterfield County Council of PTAs/ PTSAs.
Jack Wilson is a Chesterfield attorney, who served on the Chesterfield Planning Commission in 2004-07, including being chairman. He is an active member of the Chesterfield Republican Committee. Four years ago he sought the Republican nomination for Bermuda supervisor but lost to Dorothy Jaeckle, who was later elected.
“I have been flattered to be asked to consider running for the school board,” said Wilson. “I have not made any decision yet and might wait until the redistricting process is finished before I do. I have enjoyed serving the county before. I will need to see if I can be of benefit to the school system and plan to talk with people and groups to see whether I think I can before I make a decision.”
No one has surfaced yet to run against Jaeckle. One of the two Republicans on the board, she is finishing her first four-year term as a supervisor.
Incumbent Dan Gecker is seeking re-election after winning his first term in 2007. Neither the Republicans nor the Democrats have fielded a candidate yet. Gecker won as an Independent, but the CRC considers him to be a “Democrat disguised as an Independent.”
Some Republicans in the mostly Republican district begrudgingly give Gecker credit for being a fiscal conservative and driving down the cost of county government during the past three years of declining county revenue.
“There’s no sense in running a nominal candidate who will get his tail whipped,” said one CRC member.
Patty Carpenter is running for re-election to the school board without opposition yet.
Mike Harton has “toyed with the idea” of running for the school board, but in an e-mail Friday wrote, “I am not a potential candidate.” He is an education consultant and served on the Comprehensive Plan Steering Committee.
As it stands now, incumbent Marleen Durfee has two potential opponents: Dr. Kevin Al-Mateen, who is seeking the CRC nomination, and former Fire Chief Steve Elswick, who no longer belongs to the Republican group.
Al-Mateen, 52, is a pediatrician and neonatologist. He currently works at Mary Washington Hospital in Fredericksburg, but that will end next month. He also owns Swift Creek Pediatrics on the St. Francis Medical Center campus. In 2000 he moved from Brandermill to Woodlake.
He wants more emphasis on improving the business climate in the county and ensuring that high school students are prepared to go onto college or get a job upon graduation. His daughter attends the specialty center at Manchester High School.
Elswick served 31 years with Chesterfield Fire and EMS, being chief for six of those years. He retired in 2004 and has since relocated to the Lake Chesdin area.
Elswick is deciding whether to run. Asked what will be the deciding factors, he said, “Time and money…I want to do what is right for the citizens and not be beholden to someone because I was given [campaign] money.”
Wayne Bass, the Matoaca planning commissioner appointed by Durfee, said he has been approached “by some people” to run against Durfee. He has decided not to run, saying, “I’m going to be 71 [years old].”
Durfee is an Independent who, according to two supporters, is running for re-election. There is some Republican speculation she might be eyeing a seat in the General Assembly. Durfee did not return calls or e-mails from this newspaper asking about her political intentions.
On the school board side, two opponents who faced off four years ago are going to have round two in November. Republican Omarh Rajah defeated Independent and former incumbent Tom Doland, and now Rajah is the incumbent. Doland is hoping to take back his seat.
In his four years on the school board, Doland served one year each as chair and vice chair. He is a licensed psychologist with a master’s degree from the University of Richmond and is semi-retired. He teaches some classes at John Tyler Community College.
“Leaders have to do more than dissent,” he said in a reference to Rajah. “You have to have the respect of the people you work with in order to be effective.”
In 2007 Democrat Jim Holland upset the incumbent Republican, and now a regional manager for BB&T Bank wants his seat. Cliff Bickford, a well-known businessman, has filed his intent with the registrar and is seeking the endorsement of the CRC.
Bickford still serves on the county’s Sustain Our Communities Committee, which helps revitalize older neighborhoods, after being its first chair. He has also been very active on the Chesterfield Business Council and is the past chair of its Government Relations Committee. He previously represented his district on the School Growth Task Force and is serving for the third time as president of the Salem Woods homeowners’ association board.
“I want to provide better board leadership for Dale District,” said Bickford.
Pete Bush, a general contractor with some 40 rental properties around the Virginia Commonwealth University campus, is also considering running. He hasn‘t decided if he would run as an Independent or rejoin the CRC. He is the brother of former Matoaca Supervisor Renny Humphrey.
Bush has an accounting degree from VCU. He has been the president of the Gates Youth Athletic Association for the past six years, a board member of the Chesterfield Quarterback League and has coached youth football for 25 years.
“I’d like to get the county to be more responsive to the needs of people as opposed to the political process,” he said.
On the school side, incumbent David Wyman said he has decided to run for re-election. Wyman considered running for supervisor and even joined the CRC earlier this year. No other candidates have announced their intentions for school board.
Clover Hill District
Roy Wallace has moved to the Clover Hill District and is considering running as an Independent. In 2007 he ran a distant third in the Bermuda race for supervisor. He is a retired railroad conductor and a Marine Corps veteran.
Dianne Pettitt, the current school board chair who has served since 1993, is the only announced candidate for the school board in her district.
CRC Chairman Donald Williams has his sights on electing Republicans as supervisors in the Dale, Matoaca and Midlothian districts. Four years ago, all five supervisors were Republicans. Candidates for school board are considered to be nonpartisan, but the four incumbents are CRC members who will likely be endorsed by the CRC.
Bill Brown, chair of the Chesterfield Democratic Committee, has only one announced candidate – incumbent Holland in the Dale district. He said a number of potential Democratic candidates “were exploring the idea of running” for supervisor and the school board, but he declined to name them.
“Some of them are waiting to see how the district boundary lines are redrawn,” he said. Using the census data from last year, the current board is scheduled to vote on boundary changes in May.