New Supervisor Tom Coen, shown here in between two former supervisors;
Susan Stimpson, who looks like she doesn't buy your flim-flam for one minute, mister, and HD 28 Rep Bob Thomas, who looks like he's trying to remember if he left the gas on
It is official, Tom Coen has been selected as the new interim supervisor for the George-Washington district and I, for one, couldn't be happier. I can now admit that I have been a big supporter of Tom's selection to the board ever since Bob Thomas won the primary in June. Nothing against any of the other folks who applied, I didn't know any of them and I am sure many would have done a great job. But Tom has been been actively involved with the welfare of Stafford County in so many ways for a long time: as an educator at SPCS, as chair of the Planning Commission and as co-host of a local issues show on CCTV. He genuinely cares about this place we call home and I know he will do everything he can to serve his constituents and Stafford County well.
With the addition of Mr. Coen, we now have the entire compliment of our new BoS in place but what does it mean for you and me? What does our fair BoS have in store for Stafford County?
I am going to put it all out on the table here and say that I think we are going to see some big shifts in direction by this new board. We have new members in Cindy Shelton and Tom Coen who seem to have the ability to use common sense in decision making, always a plus, and aren't completely jaded by political games. Couple that with fellow newcomer (although it's really a return engagement for him) Mark Dudenhefer, whose experience and connections in Richmond as the HD 2 Rep could really help projects Stafford needs to happen get off the ground. Meg Bohmke is coming into her own as Chair, she has always been a researcher and is determined to get to the bottom of things before any decisions are made. Of course, my home slice Wendy Maurer is sharp as a tack and will be keeping an eagle eye out for fiscal waste and general skullduggery (great word, no?) Not that all of them will agree at all times, on the contrary, I hope they don't. Disagreement produces debate and healthy debate is what brings forth the best ideas. But I am holding out a whole lot of hope that this group will keep shady business and the typical political nonsense out of their process so they can focus on steering Stafford in a healthier direction.
For me, that means a few keys things:
1) Enacting a plan to address the growth issues in our county: In spite of what some choose to think (cough, Ms. Sellers, cough), the vast majority of people I speak with feel that Stafford's growth is out of control. Even if people don't speak of it in those terms, they often discuss it's symptoms when they complain about school over-crowding or traffic. The first step towards fixing the symptoms is to address the underlying cause. This BoS seems to have a majority that understand growth management is an issue that can no longer be ignored.
2) Show a dedication and commitment to transparency towards the public: There have already been movements in this direction by the previous board but I think the new board needs to emphasize this crucial component more than ever. The exposure of the shady, behind closed doors deal struck by the BoS with the ATC developers back in 2015 proves that prior boards have not always been open or honest about how they managed our county and it's funds. This new board needs to make transparency a priority to help mend some of the mistrust that has been sown in the past.
3) Finding new ways to address old problems: Even if this board can manage to stave off the tide of new growth in Stafford, we still have to deal with the new homes that are already here OR have been previously approved and are on their way. Stafford's infrastructure is sorely lacking in many areas. We need some inventive ideas and out of the box thinking that focuses on funding the infrastructure improvements we desperately need. I don't envy the BoS here, this is a huge challenge but it's one that I think a relatively drama free BoS could actually have a chance at tackling. Maybe this is an outbreak of wild optimism on my part but hey, it's better than an outbreak of bubonic plague. Besides, a little optimism never hurt anyone, right?
Sue me, I am feeling pretty good about this board and the potential it holds. I know it's politics and it can all go south on a dime. But these public servants, who dedicate their time and energy to the county and their constituents while Monday morning quarterbacks like me whine on the sidelines, deserve to know that we have faith that they can affect change. That the infusion of new blood to the team will give them strength and fresh perspective. That we the public, despite what may have happened in the past by others in their position, believe in them and their ability to lead our county into the future. For this bright shining moment as they pick up the torch and start to move forward as a group, we have faith that they can do something good. I ask only one thing of this board: let me keep my warm fuzzies please, don't screw it up.