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Buckingham Candidates Forum Board Of Supervisors

BUCKINGHAM – During the Farm Bureau Candidates Forum on Saturday night, voters had an opportunity to listen to local candidates running for contested seats on the board of supervisors.

Moderator Henry Wood said the candidates would begin with self-introductions. Later, they would have an opportunity to respond to several questions prepared by the Farm Bureau. He added that they would have a time limit of three to four minutes.

Wood explained, “I know there are a bunch of you who would like to ask questions but that is something that we can't allow because we can't control the time.”

Board of Supervisors

E. A. “Bill” Talbert, the incumbent representing District 3, which includes the New Store and Curdsville precincts, expressed his appreciation for having the honor to serve on the board for the last eight years.

He shared, “I have supported the school system 100 percent and I am going to continue to support it.”

Talbert continued, “This is a good county. We want to keep it as sovereign as we can.” Noting that the county has an excess of $3.5 or $4 million, Talbert stated, “We are in good shape. We are in better shape than a whole lot of counties.”

Talking about the school renovation/expansion projects on Route 20, Talbert stated, “And the power plant is going to pay for all of it-a million dollars coming in.” He added that the county was saving approximately $15 million by renovating instead of constructing a new facility.

He explained that Mary Hickman and her staff at the Commonwealth Regional Council put together an excellent economic development plan for the county. He noted that the document is available at the county administration office.

Stressing the importance of supervisors working with the county administrator and assistant county administrator, Talbert said the process takes a unified effort.

Talbert's opponent Pete Kapuscinski began by saying his opponent is a fine man. However, he said, “We see a little bit differently the economic needs of our county-which is the reason I am running.”

Referencing comments made earlier in the forum by Pete Gowin who said the future of the county is dependent on its young people being educated, Kapuscinski stated, “I think you have to take that a step further. I think the future of this county depends on our young people having jobs in this county. And I don't think we have enough of them.”

He continued, “It's going to take some energy and it's going to take a neighborhood-a group of people and a group of supervisors working together, together with their constituents, all of us in this community, to bring businesses into our communities so that our young people can stay here.”

“They want jobs. I'm sure all of you know people who want jobs,” he continued. Noting the difficulty and frustration with bringing in business, Kapuscinski said he spent the last 20 years of his career building corporations.

“It's solid project management. The same project management that goes into running big farms. It's the same project management that goes into running a county,” stated Kapuscinski. “It takes a lot of work and it takes supervisors who are willing to get up off their chairs and go and hunt down these businesses and convince them that Buckingham is a good place to have work-to have business.”

He added, “I will tell you that we have the human resource talent and the educational system to put those young people to work. I don't want to see those young people spend our tax dollars learning something and then paying those tax dollars back to some other community that they have to move to in order to get work. That is not a return on our investment. We need those people to stay here.”

Continuing, he said, “I think our supervisors have done very well providing us the services…but I can tell you that those services will cost us more every year. There is not a teacher who wants to earn less; there's not a sheriff's deputy that I know that wants to take less just because our homes are going to worth less next year. It will not happen.

“Our taxes will eventually increase and if we don't have those outside sources of revenue to help pay for those taxes then our taxes will have to go up. The question is how much can they go up before our farmers are forced to sell their property to developers; before our homeowners decide it's better to live somewhere else.

“The object is to stay here in Buckingham; to keep our rural community of heartland values and our people with incentives to stay here; to keep our farmers farming; and to keep our homeowners from getting taxed out of their homes.”

Kapuscinski stressed, “We need economic development.” He added, “And one business in five years, although it was a great effort, does not constitute economic development.”

He offered, “I am thankful for the tax money that Dominion will bring here but I can tell you we need more jobs. We need to bring outside revenue into this county so that we all can prosper.”

I. Monroe Snoddy, an independent who currently represents District 1, New Canton and Georgia Creek precincts, shared that he has been on the board for about 18 years and served as chair for five years. “I believe that gives me the experience for reelection,” he shared.

Adding that he was on the school board for 12 years and during that time the Vocational Center and Buckingham Primary School were built and the High School was renovated and expanded. “But this is not about me, it is what you did,” he told the audience. “It was your tax dollars that did these things.”

Continuing, he talked about more recent and on-going projects including the HVAC installation at Gold Hill Elementary, the elementary school renovation/expansion projects on Route 20; construction of the county administration building; and the renovation of the current administration building for the health department and social services. He added, “And both will bring in what I think is a good rent.”

Snoddy offered, “I don't see of any tax increase that I could support.”

His challenger Robert C. “Bobby” Jones, a former supervisor who like Snoddy is running as an independent, shared that he lost his seat on the board four years ago by 17 votes.

Jones said he was born and raised in the county and four of his five children reside in the county. He worked for Solite for 44 years, spending the last 15 years as a division administrator responsible for 300 employees and a $45 million budget. “I had to make that budget every year and had to live by it,” he stated.

Jones said he agreed with the other candidates that county youth deserve the best education they can get.

Jones offered, “It does not make any difference how many times you are elected or how many times you've been on a certain board, it is what you accomplish when you are on that board.” He added, “It is important that we speak-up; that we believe in what we want to do; and live by it.”

Noting that District 1 includes the new Georgia Precinct, Jones said there appears to be some confusion about the changes in that district. He encouraged its residents to make sure they know where they are supposed to go to vote.

“We are going to have a lot of new people coming on the board. We need people there that have been business people that know what a dollar is, know how to save it, and know how to spend it,” said Jones.

“We have, as it was stated, a good reserve-which is great. And we want to keep it that way,” he said. Referencing the annual influx of requests during budget time, Jones offered, “We can't give this money away when we are in the financial end of it like we are, although we are doing an excellent job with the budget.”

District 4, Maysville Precinct, has three independent candidates vying for the seat currently occupied by Kitchen.

Henry P. “Hank” Hagenau began by sharing that the reason he is running was his commitment to community service, which began when he was 12 years old and joined the Boy Scouts. While still in high school, he joined the Navy. He added that as an instructor with National Rifle Association, he has instructed youth and adults in the safe handling of firearms for over 15 years.

“I've owned my own business for over 25 years and have managed to survive through the ups and downs of the economy,” said Hagenau. “Sometimes it hasn't been easy but I have enough business experience that I think I can help the county, too.”

He talked about his service for over 10 years on the Buckingham Planning Commission. He currently chairs the Industrial Development Authority and also served on the Resource Conservation and Development Council.

Hagenau said he serves on the board for the Chamber of Commerce. “And I am currently serving on the finance-fundraising committee for the new public library,” he stated.

In his introduction, Morgan Dunnavant shared that he owns a grading and excavation company he started some years ago; and, prior to that, he was a “bureaucrat” with VDOT.

“I am running for the board of supervisors with the intention of sharing my business knowledge and experience that I have earned over the years through the school of hard knocks; and, making sound, prudent business decisions for Buckingham County.”

The lifelong Buckingham resident said he currently employees nine citizens of Buckingham “And I am working as hard as I can to keep them employed, which is quite a challenge right now,” he stated.

Sharing that he is one of the contractors working on the school project on Route 20, Dunnavant stated, “And I am the only local contractor on that job.” He continued, “As far as economic development, the fact that I am the only local contractor on that job speaks well of me and speaks well of Buckingham but it also shows the shortcoming we have in Buckingham that there weren't any other trades here that could tackle a job like that.”

He continued, “Now what does it take to have those other people here? I don't know but I would like to believe that you need to have an environment that's conducive to businesses locating here.”

Dunnavant offered, “Apparently, we've got a labor pool.” Noting that a great deal of county residents work in Charlottesville, Lynchburg and Richmond, he added, “So we need to foster an environment here that will make businesses want to locate with us.”

According to Dunnavant, that could be done in several ways including tax base policies, employment policies, and some type of revenue sharing.

Noting the disadvantage of not having interstate or four-lane highways, Dunnavant stated, “We are going to have to have something like that if we want businesses that produce products.”

After introducing himself, John Staton told the audience, “The rich, handsome, smart one sells insurance-I'm the other one.”

Although his family is from Buckingham, he shared that he was born and raised in Northern Virginia but moved to the county in 1962. Staton said he ran a general merchandise business, farmed, cut timber, did construction work, and retired from the telephone company after 37 years.

Describing himself as a youth oriented person, Staton said he has devoted a lot of his time to youth-working in scouting, youth league baseball, and teaching hunter education.

He talked about the long road ahead in the tough economy. Explaining that a county does not have the taxing authority of a town, he said he would like to see that changed so that there is parody between the two and more options for counties.

Staton called for re-evaluating revenue and expenses. “We have a lot of debt service on the books. Suppose we have a catastrophe, what do we do then, how do we handle it?” he asked.

“The only thing I can promise you is I will do an honest job and I will give it my best shot,” stated Staton.

Next up were the three independent candidates vying for District 5, Glenmore and Wrights precincts, Robert L. “Fooey” Anderson, Joyce Kidd Smith, and Cassandra L. Stish.

Robert Anderson began, “We definitely need to find jobs here in Buckingham County. I don't know why we can't get them here.” Noting that the county has Route 60, 20, and 15, he stated, “I don't know whether we need a bigger road or not. We need to find a way to get those people to feel that they can do business here in Buckingham.”

He continued, “But we haven't addressed the serious problems in Buckingham. Some of the serious problems in Buckingham right now are drugs.” He questioned how long it would be before something was done about the drug problem.

“Maybe we can get supervisors in here who can address some of these problems and work with the ones who are still going to be with us here to try to improve our county,” stated Anderson.

He talked about the need to share the maintenance work on county vehicles among local businesses. “Let's share the business. Let's find a way to make these people interested in Buckingham. Let's get them in here for jobs,” he stated.

Anderson said he was a youth director in the military in Germany and was in the furniture business for 38 years. “I was CEO and president of my own company. I had two stores, one store next to the University of Maryland and one store next to Gallaudet University.”

Noting one store was in a “heavy, heavy crime” area, he stated, “I never got robbed, I never got threatened.” Anderson added, “I worked with the schools with the youth programs through job training.”

He stated, “We can cross train our kids and get them out away from drugs.” Anderson continued, “What is our responsibility to those kids? What is our responsibility to our residents here in Buckingham? How can we get the businesses here? We haven't talked about that but we need to put a plan of action in place.”

Cassandra Stish shared that she moved to Buckingham in 1981 and is a 1983 graduate of BCHS. “This place has become my home,” she stated.

Addressing what she called the elephant in the room, Stish said she is from Yogaville. Because of that, she said she has been asked if she was anti-hunting.

“I am pro second amendment, I am pro dog hunting, and I am pro hunting in general. As a matter of fact, my sons and my husband are avid sportsmen. I'm usually on the other end of the game involving the skillet.”

Stish explained that she was appointed by Brian Bates to the planning commission. “He put me there because I am an activist. I have a million ideas every second of how to help this place," she stated.

“We want economic development. Well, we are going to have economic development but it's going to be on our terms,” she stated. “If it is one thing that I've learned on the planning commission is Buckingham is not just like every other county in this commonwealth. We don't want cookie-cutter development. We don't want Powhatan, we don't want Fredericksburg, Chesterfield and all that mess. That's what I've learned. I've learned that we like it rural.”

Continuing, she explained, “The one thing that runs through the entire comprehensive plan is we want to preserve our rural character.” She added that she has fought to ensure that the language in the zoning ordinance protects the rural character and protects the farms to make sure they can be effective and remain as farms-not developments.

According to Stish, instead of bringing in strip malls and housing developments, Buckingham can turn to its farms and each other. “We can buy our farm products. We can bring in biomass energy,” she stated, noting that the school they were in could be heated with biomass energy at an enormous savings to the county.

“I have experience, I have proven leadership, I have a proven track record of integrity-I say what I mean and I do what I say,” said Stish.

Joyce Kidd Smith began by acknowledging her mother Mary Kidd, who was seated in the audience. “She's the firewood lady.”

Smith, a lifelong resident of the county, said she had owned and operated Finer Things, a boutique in the county, and opened the first video store in the county.

She shared that her sister, Kitty Fette, who she said is now with the Lord, was the founder of Straight Street.

Sharing her love for the county and its people, Smith stated, “I would like to give back to my community. I would like to work with the fellow members on the board of supervisors.”

She added, “We need to work together to bring in industry. We need to love each other and still be neighbors and care for the people around us.”

Smith said, “I feel that I can work in harmony and peace with the other board member but most of all, I do have that desire and I do care about you.”

The Questions

If elected what would be your major goals and objectives as supervisor?

Talbert shared, “My major goal is to keep the county sovereign, keep us where we pay our bills and not be like the federal government and borrow money to pay bills. We have got to keep our tax levels to where people can afford it.”

Snoddy said, “My greatest concern is having to do a reassessment next year and how are we going to come out and where we are going to be with finances?” He added, “Everybody knows that property values have dropped so what are we going to do when we get into this reassessment?”

Hagenau offered, “We can create a lot of jobs here in the county. We can nurture people to start their own business or to increase their business.” He continued, “Even on a small plot of land you can raise produce and sell it to supplement your income.”

Referencing Routes 15 and 60, Jones stated, “If we could get a hold of enough politicians to give a little bit of that highway money to us and four-lane those through Buckingham, it would do a tremendous amount of good to help bring business into our county.”

Anderson said, “One of my main goals would be to take a look at what is being spent in the county, how the money is being spent…and how that money is being approved.” He added that he would also look at snow removal. “We need to pay attention to these secondary roads a little more, these people are paying their taxes,” he stated.

“Accountability and transparency-those are two of the main things I stand for,” stated Stish. “I want all of the business to be conducted in front of the people so they understand what happened. I want people to speak-up to explain their vote.”

She stated, “I want to see us expand more into a local food system. Being able to have our local farm products, whether it's beef, chicken, eggs, cucumbers, sausages, whatever it is-I want them to be able to be here, purchased by us so our food dollars actually begin to stay home and the farmers capture a retail premium.”

She added, “And biomass energy. I really want to see this come to the county.”

Stish said that before Buckingham could go “big game hunting” for business, there needed to be a plan to put things in place like a trained workforce, housing, and recreation. She stated, “But an economic development plan is just that-it is a development plan. We have to take stock of where we are today and move forward from there in a strategic and meaningful way, understanding who we are as a community and what is it we want to gain and where is it we want to go.”

She added, “I am a trained planner. I understand how to create a plan and how to implement it and that is what I would like to see happen during my time on the board.”

Smith offered that she would serve the people of her district and always look out for them.

“My personal agenda would be working together with the board to increase business in the county, to come together as a county and see it grow,” said Smith. “I just have a heartfelt desire to serve the people and I feel the only way to do that is to see your wishes and your concerns.”

Dunnavant said his two main objectives would be to share his experience and knowledge that he has obtained as a very successful local small businessman.

“But one thing that I would specifically look at every time it came up is are we getting the best value for that tax dollar of yours that we are spending,” said Dunnavant.

He shared that he worked on the middle school, the renovation of the courthouse, and the school project on Route 20. “And a great deal of these projects are very valuable, very necessary-we have to have these facilities,” stated Dunnavant. However, he said so many projects include what he described as architectural frivolousness.

“We need to institute some level of value engineering into our projects. And I believe I have the skills and sophistication to review those plans in the future,” he said. “And quite possibly when a project comes up that we absolutely, positively have to have that we can sit down and look at that project and before we go to the bid stage trim out all of the fat-not a little of the fat but trim out every bit of it.”

Dunnavant added, “Our public buildings need to be frugal, efficient, and as Cassandra said, possibly look at biomass heating, and they need to be durable.” He continued, “Aesthetically pleasing and ornamentally attractive should be a very low priority item. We need to get the best value out of that dollar.”

He said his other goal would be to generate jobs and make the county conducive to attract businesses.

Kapuscinski stated, “I think Bill said it exactly right. He wants to keep taxes affordable and pay bills. And I agree with that. The problem is I don't know how you do both of those at the same time.”

He continued, “The fact is that those bills are going to increase every single year.” Reiterating that the county must find an outside source of revenue, he stated, “My focus, my entire focus if I am elected, will be to find businesses that will bring outside revenue back into our county to help us stabilize that tax bill.”

Staton offered, “I would like to see a better degree of transparency than we have now.” He talked about going to board meetings and action is taken on a matter without any discussion. “I would like to see it discussed before the audience so that you all could make up your mind,” he stated.

“One of the things I pledge to the Maysville District is that I am accessible,” said Staton. “I want to hear what you have to say.” He added, “I don't care where an idea comes from. If it's a good idea I don't have to own it but I can work with it.”

With agriculture and timber being the largest industries in the county and paying the majority of local taxes, how do you plan to support those industries?

Staton led off this round. He stated, “I plan to do everything in my power to help them. We need to support them in everyway we can.” He continued, “But it cannot be done at the expense of everybody. It has to be fair and even-handed.”

Offering that he does not have a plan, Staton said that he would like to have the opportunity to work on one.

Kapuscinski shared that probably 75 percent of Virginia counties have some sort of land use. “It was proposed back in what 2007 or 2008 here in Buckingham and what we found out was that we didn't have enough money to pay for it,” he stated.

However, referencing the approximately $1 million revenue from the Bear Garden Power Plan, Kapuscinski said, “Maybe it's time for the county to take a look at that revenue to see how it could help some of our farmers out.”

He stated, “I know a lot of that money has been earmarked but when we bring in outside sources of revenue into our community, we need to take a look at how we can save our farmers from paying excessive taxes.” He added, “And our other land conservation people, our timber people-the people who use that land but do not develop it.”

However, he stated, “We have to find a way to achieve a tax rate that is fair for our farmers and still keep a tax rate that is fair for our homeowners.” Kapuscinski concluded, “There's only one way I know how to do that and that's either to cut our services, which I'd hate to see happen or find outside sources of revenue to pay for it.”

Dunnavant shared, “I plan to do them no harm what-so-ever.” He added that his father was a professional farmer so he'd been involved in farming all of his life.

“As far as to save them, to do them some benefit, the state does have some programs in effect now that they can take advantage of. They can apply for a conservation easement to their land,” he said, noting a commitment is made that the land will not be developed. “So there is a method they can use but it's kind of like getting married-you've got to be fully committed,” he added.

Dunnavant suggested that the county may be able to look into a modified conservation easement to protect farm and forestlands.

He explained that he would not allow conservation easements on company-owned land. “It would have to be private individual land,” Dunnavant added.

Smith, sharing that her father was a pulpwood cutter and lost his life doing so, stated, “I would in no way be against anything that would harm any of the pulp wood cutters in Buckingham County.”

If elected, Smith said she would educate herself on the issue and research what is available and what could be done to help agriculture and forestry.

Stish offered, “This is an opportunity for direct-to-market from the farm retail options for our farmers. For your grocery dollars to directly benefit the farm next to you, that's how land use becomes affordable. It's a closed loop option. We give it over here but we are returning it back here.”

She continued, “If you are making products that are being sold directly to Buckingham, Buckingham is spending their grocery dollars with that farmer-it's a no loss thing on the balance sheet. So now you've got the tax break paid for in a different form-it comes back to the county in a different revenue stream.”

Stish explained, “It makes our farms valuable as farms. They are more valuable as producing farms than they are as development. I think that is what we want as the long term goal here.”

She talked about farmers growing switch grass that can be used for ethanol. Stish added that switch grass could also be used for manufacturing biopolymers.

“We could bring high-end biopolymer manufacturers here off of our grass,” said Stish, noting that the switch grass crop would be one that hay farmers already have the land and equipment to raise and harvest it.

Anderson offered, “Farm use is very important here.” He added that many are finding that they can supplement their income with farming and growing things at home.

He expressed concern about property left in family estates and the need to let those people know their taxes are past due and inform them that they need to make a hunt of the heirs of that property so that they can keep it and pass it on to their kids.

“We need to do a better job at follow up and try to save some of these farms and save these people's property and work together for them,” stated Anderson.

Jones offered, “If today we had land use for agriculture I don't believe it would have a big impact on our tax burden.” He added, however, that he did not agree with doing land use for the forestry companies. “I think if we did include forestry, I think the county would go broke,” concluded Jones.

Hagenau reiterated that forestry and agriculture use less of the county's services. “We need to encourage the landowners to keep their land in forestry and agriculture,” he stated. He added that if the land was not development, Buckingham could perhaps see orchards in the county again.

Snoddy stated, “I would be willing to listen and to study that issue as the board sees fit to investigate that issue.”

He offered, “I think all of us are certainly proud of our timber people and our farmers. We couldn't do without them. This is who we are and I hope we continue to be.”

Talbert shared, “Ladies and gentlemen there are two things that you better protect in this country. One of them is your military…the second is our farmers.” He added, “If you want something to eat, you don't want to buy it from China, you want to buy it from America.”

He continued, “I am for land use when we can do it and do it like it's supposed to be done.” Talbert added, “It's the way you do it.” He concluded, “I'm for land use. Let's protect our farmers and our military.”

At the conclusion of the program, Wood thanked the candidates and the audience. He shared, “We certainly hope you vote for someone or something on November 8.”