2018-01-17 / Front Page

County boards diverge on leadership


John Erbach John Erbach Chesterfield made history in 2017, when women were selected to fill both of the leadership posts on the Board of Supervisors for the first time.

Dorothy Jaeckle (Bermuda) and Leslie Haley (Midlothian) will remain as chairwoman and vice chairwoman for another year, respectively, following a vote by the five-member board last Wednesday. But this time it wasn’t unanimous.

Dale District Supervisor Jim Holland, the board’s lone Democrat, voted against Jaeckle’s nomination for a second consecutive term as chairwoman. Holland, who was first elected to the Board of Supervisors along with Jaeckle in 2007, declined to discuss the reasons for his vote following the conclusion of last week’s meeting.

Asked if Holland was interested in being chair this year, Jaeckle insisted he never brought it up.

“I was asked to do it again,” she said. “When your fellow board members want you to serve, it’s only right that you step forward.”

Dorothy Jaeckle Dorothy Jaeckle The School Board also convened last week to choose its 2018 leaders. John Erbach (Dale) was chosen to succeed Javaid Siddiqi (Midlothian) as chairman, while Rob Thompson (Matoaca) takes over from Erbach as vice chairman.

“I’m humbled, deeply appreciative and will work diligently to continue the strategic work of this board,” said Erbach during last Tuesday’s meeting.

Erbach thanked his fellow board members for their service, calling them “the most talented group of people I’ve ever had the privilege of working with.”

Erbach also thanked his predecessor, touting initiatives like the Early College Academy, CodeRVA, the Phoenix Academy and the plan to change school start times next school year as signs of progress during Siddiqi’s tenure.

“A public education leader at the local, state and national levels, you’ve guided this board through a year of exciting progress and challenge,” Erbach said of Siddiqi. “We’ve certainly benefited from your leadership this past year.”

Haley likewise touted Jaeckle’s leadership during a year that saw the county hire a new police chief to replace the retired Thierry Dupuis, create a new Community Enhancement department to coordinate the revitalization of aging neighborhoods, and make significant improvements in the management of Social Services caseloads.

“It has been an honor and a privilege to serve with you,” Haley said. “We need to commend you for your leadership, your commitment and the collaborative approach you have used to bring us all together to further our mission to serve our citizens.”

Haley also said she and Jaeckle work well together and there was no need for the board to “rock the boat.”

The past year hasn’t been completely smooth sailing for Jaeckle, who was roundly criticized last March for her comments about a significant increase in the number of non-English speaking students and the impact it is having on Chesterfield’s public school classrooms.

An official with the county’s branch of the NAACP called on Jaeckle to resign from the Board of Supervisors at a meeting last March.

She also has faced mounting political pressure since the county announced last August that it plans to acquire 1,675 acres of residential property in south Chester and develop it as an industrial megasite.

More than 1,200 people have signed a petition opposing the megasite, concerned about the impact of a large-scale industrial manufacturer on nearby neighborhoods.

While Jaeckle acknowledged that the Economic Development Authority’s request to rezone the property from residential to industrial likely will be the most controversial item the Board of Supervisors tackles in 2018, she didn’t think it was the reason her fellow board members chose to keep her as chairwoman.

“I’d be the face of that issue either way,” she said. ¦

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