Interview with Hartwood Supervisor Candidate Tracey Bell (D)
In anticipation of the upcoming election on November 7th, BTW has reached out to all Supervisor and School Board candidates to answer some questions about their candidacy. Today, we present the responses from Tracey Bell, challenger in the Hartwood Supervisor race. We thank Mr. Bell for his time!
BTW: Tell us about yourself
My name is Tracey Bell Jr., born to Tracey and Gwendolyn Bell in the sunny state of Florida, however, my family transferred to Virginia when I was two years old. My father is a retired Navy Chief and my mother is a retired Sergeant with Fairfax Sheriff’s Office. I was raised by parents who have the utmost respect for people and the community. I hold these same values and principles they raised me with.
I attended several schools during my elementary years in Prince William County, which compounded some of the struggles a youngster already must face when adapting to new environments. However, my parents raised us with strong values and morals which assisted me in adapting to the challenges of new environments. I went on to complete middle school in Prince William, but not without challenges. I suffered from Attention Deficit Disorder which can put a young person in an awkward position, once your differences are detected; for me that’s what happened, I was bullied quite a bit during those years. Kids can be tough on one another. Although, bullying is not discussed much, it is something that needs to be dealt with and one of the reason my parents moved to Stafford: greater success rate academically and safety.
I enrolled at Colonial Forge in 2002 and successfully graduated in 2006. The years I attended Colonial Forge were the most rewarding academically and memorable. Stafford County offered me the best opportunities to grow as a student and build my confidence. I contribute a great deal of my success as a graduate to the valuable education I received, concerned teachers, and the Individualized Education Plan afforded me. Although, I struggled at times, I had teachers who were willing to assist me if I was willing to work hard. Because of those dedicated teachers, I have received my Bachelor of Science, M.B.A, and I’m currently working towards my Ph.D. in Administrative Health Care. I started my career in Emergency Room health care at INOVA Fairfax and I’m currently an Emergency Room manager in Washington D.C.
BTW: What drove your decision to enter the Supervisor race this year?
After serving as Precinct Operation Chair, I began to learn about the issues and concerns of the citizens related to the quality of public water and well water, as well as the decline of the quality of our schools in Stafford County. The future of Stafford County is important to me. Stafford County served me when I needed services and I want to return the favor. Therefore, I began to attend the board meetings and the few town hall meetings held within the Hartwood District. I felt a passion to try and give back to the Stafford County community; as Stafford County School Systems has invested a lot in me, which is in part due to the successful young man that I am today. In addition to the issues related to our water and school systems in the county, there are other issues related to transportation and economic growth. These are areas of concern our residents raised and what concerns the community concerns me.
BTW: What differentiates you from the incumbent in your race? What, if any, mistakes do you think said incumbent or the board in general have made that you would not have?
I feel that Mr. Gary Snellings is a good guy with a big heart, who wants to do his best for the people of Stafford County and Hartwood. However, I do feel he is a little out of touch with the reality of Stafford County. As a young adult that has graduated from Stafford County Public Schools a little over ten years ago, I feel that I am in touch with the people in Stafford County. I would first start by ensuring “transparency” in the county is the number one focus. In addition, I would work with teachers, parents, and the school board to ensure students receive a quality education. Some of the expedient areas to focus on are class room sizes; teachers’ salaries, the ratio of schools per student count, improving our special education programs, and ensuring every child feels valued regardless what their learning level. I also would like to help repair the relationship with our School Board and Board of Supervisors. It’s necessary that we work together for our school system to thrive.
I would also support the school board in ensuring that all Stafford County schools become International Baccalaureate (IB) certified. Falls Church City Public School is the only school division in the state of Virginia to become a K-12 IB Certified World School Division. This certification would not only improve opportunities for our students but help to expand our student’s minds. I remember when I first graduated there were some things I just did not know. I believe that becoming IB Certified would help assist some of the unknowns for graduates of Stafford County.
Another objective is to implement regulations requiring all new homes built in the Hartwood District be placed on Public Water. I know those residents who aren’t on well water may not understand the needed urge for this, however, many current homeowners in Hartwood currently utilizing well water are suffering from issues with water supply and the quality of the water. Although this is something that has been brought to the attention of current board members time and time again, they continue to approve home developments in the Hartwood District without adapting regulations for public water use. A simple solution would be to implement a clause in the county policies requiring developers building in Hartwood to place all new homes on public water. This would shield the problem until the issues is resolved. The county is currently compounding the problem for the currently homeowners. I spoke to several local homeowners in the Hartwood District utilizing well water and each stated that their neighborhood is also on limited supply of well water. One homeowner stated, “a new homeowner in our neighborhood with no prior knowledge of the water issue, moved in and decided to fill her pool, causing the surrounding neighbors to run short of water until wells were filled back up.” This is something that has gone unnoticed for quite too long now.
Economic growth in Stafford has not been great, over the years. I think this is an area the current board is lacking in. Rather than attracting more businesses the focus has been to attract more home developers, with little thought for dining and entertainment. I feel that many developers would be glad to bring their business to Stafford County and with the many empty store fronts not been utilized we have the space to occupy these businesses.
Transportation is something that has been improving, however very slowly. I believe that there are ways we could try to accommodate the automobiles that travel within and through Stafford in addition to Route 1 and Interstate 95. I would like to see Celebrate Parkway to Central Park project move forward, which would assist the traffic congestion on Route 17. I would also like to work towards widening some of the back roads for safer travel; and to work to try to create another commuter lot further down Route 17 and/or Mountain View Road.
BTW: What skills do you think you bring to the table that make you a particularly good choice for the job?
As a business major and with my experience as a hospital manager I bring a great deal of knowledge in relating to diverse groups of people. I have a great deal of expertise in interpersonal and communication skills. I’m empathetic towards what others are concerned with. As a hospital administrator, I have been and currently responsible for reviewing, evaluating, and approving departmental activities, proposals, policies and expenditures for specific areas in the Emergency Department. Responsible for managerial aspects including providing direction and support to Emergency Department Operations Coordinator, assuring specific areas operate in an efficient and cost-effective manner, enhancing quality of service provided to patients, and maximizing income to hospital service provided within guidelines, policies. Participates in projects as assigned by the Director of the Emergency Department. Participate in Board meetings with senior staff members. These skills and experience I currently possess are applicable to the job as a Board of Supervisor. The most important attribute that I possess is the heart and passion to role my sleeves up and get the job done.
BTW: What are the most pressing issues that you feel face Stafford County?
I feel that all issues are important, however, I believe that addressing the issues facing our education system is the most pressing. If you look at many of our great counties you will find some of the finest schools. Education is the major factor for any county to remain successful. Our students are our future and investing in the best qualified teachers will assist in producing the best students with a bright future and in return will determine our county’s legacy.
I remember working for INOVA Health Systems, which is one of the best health care systems in the Northern Virginia Region. One of the things that help mold our image was the training and education provided by the organization. Although many staff employed had all sorts of degrees, it was the continuous education and training provided by the Company that sustained our image.
BTW: How do you plan to utilize your skills to address the issues in the previous question?
As a current manager, I am accustomed to resolving issues and problems within the departments and amongst staff members. I plan to utilize these management skills to aid and listen to teachers, parents, and the school board members. I also plan to work with the other board members to establish an equitable pay scale and benefits package for all county employees that will be adhered to. Our county is ranked at the top as one of the fastest growing counties in Virginia. Our primary goal should be to support, recruit, and retain the best qualified applicants throughout the county that supports the county infrastructure.
BTW: The relationship between the School Board and the Board of Supervisors has long been a rocky one. Are you willing to work hand in hand with the School Board to deal head on with some of the major problems others have left for you?
Yes. I want to work with the School Board and help repair the fractured relationship with the Board of Supervisors. As stated above, I believe that this is the only possible way for us to grow effectively and increase our stability.
BTW: Any final thoughts?
Stafford is currently at the peak in growth and the investments we make today will determine the future success of our community and of our future generations. Let’s work together to make our community the best. I believe you have asked the right questions. I look forward to working with the People of Stafford County in 2018!
BTW thanks Tracey for his time! If you would like to contact Tracey Bell or learn more about his campaign, you may do so by visiting his Facebook page.