WE ARE LOCAL News in Prince William, Virginia

46°

Menu

Politics

News
Prince William County’s bellwether status will bring Britain’s Sky News to Manassas Thursday. But is the county and state losing its ‘swing’ election status?

jirnai

MANASSAS, Va. — The eyes of the region and Great Brittain will be watching what voters in Prince William County do at polling booths next week.

Sky News will broadcast from Jirani Coffeehouse in Manassas on Thursday. The 24-hour British news network is traveling the U.S., visiting bellwether counties in noted swing states.

From Sky News Producer Kenneth Stewart:

For your questions, essentially Prince William County came to my attention through a piece of university research which identified 15-20 ‘swing counties’ which the professor believed could determine the whole election, i.e. the counties which could tip swing battleground states one way or the other.

We selected a handful for our two weeks of pre-election coverage with senior news anchor Jeremy Thompson. We have already covered three days in Hillsborough County, Florida – where we went to a Hillary Clinton rally and interviewed voters there, plus public along the riverfront and in the historic Hispanic district. We are now in Cincinnati, Ohio (Hamilton County), and plan to visit Philadelphia, then Raleigh, North Carolina (Wake County) before reaching Manassas.

Our style is based on speaking to regular Americans – the man or woman on the street – whose lives are most affected by these elections, and we would certainly hope to continue that on the streets of Manassas, and at Jirani coffee house. We feel that our viewers can relate more to their counterparts in American towns, rather than simply being fed an endless loop of Clinton and Trump events.

Jirani Coffeehouse is promoting the event with this flier: 

IMG_6718

Prince William County established itself as a “swing” county in 2008, and again in 2012 when it helped to elect President Barack Obama. Four years prior, the county voted overwhelmingly Republican and sent George W. Bush back to the White House for a second term.

In 2009, the County went red again voting in Robert McDonnell for Virginia Governor. In 2013, the county flipped back to blue when a majority of residents voted Terry McAuliffe into the state governor’s mansion, snubbing one of their own — Prince William County resident and former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli.

The presidential campaigns stopped multiple times in Prince William County in 2012. Then Republican nominee Mitt Romney campaigned in Manassas on August 11, 2012, after stops in Norfolk and Ashland.

President Barack Obama campaigned at Pfitzner Stadium on September 21, and at Jiffy Lube Live on Nov. 3, 2012.

Virginia has taken a backseat to other swing states like Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania during the 2016 election cycle. While this may be good news for some residents who don’t like those annoying political robot calls or a constant barrage of political advertising, it’s not good news for business.

“Virginia has suffered this year for not being a swing state,” said University of Mary Washington Professor and Director of the Center for Leadership and Media Studies Steven Farnsworth. “The campaigns are not buying ads, they’re not staying in hotels, and they’re not eating at restaurants. Neither is the media that covers the campaigns.”

Diversity among Prince William County’s population remains a core interest for those who live, work, and visit the region.

“The county is so diverse, and not just racially economically diverse, but also economically diverse,” said Prince William County Board of Supervisors Chairman At-large Corey Stewart, the county’s top elected official. “The eastern end of the county is concerned about jobs, while the western end concerned about better schools and education. It’s an encapsulation of America, itself.”

Stewart was first elected to the Board in 2007 as the Occoquan District Supervisor on a platform of slowing residential development in the county. Later elected to the Chairman’ seat, Stewart has championed new amenities like a school swimming pool, and improvements to busy Route 1 in the name of economic development, to attract new businesses, and their CEOs who buy a home here and put their children in schools.

Stewart said he’s just back from a five-stop tour of Southwest Virginia where he continued to campaign for Donald Trump. Stewart once held the title of Trump campaign Virginia Chairman until last month when the campaign removed the title after an unsanctioned protest outside GOP headquarters in Washington, D.C. Stewart never stopped supporting Trump despite the move.

It is possible that no amount of campaigning will put Virginia in the win column for Trump. Polls have the state leaning toward a win for Hillary Clinton. Her running mate, U.S. Senator, and former Virginia Governor Tim Kaine is expected to increase her numbers in the Old Dominion, added Fuller.

News
Williams says her priority is to get all Manassas schools fully accredited

 

Robyn Williams is seeking a seat on the Manassas City School Board.

We sent a questionnaire to Williams, and her responses are below: 

Find your polling place 

PL: What are the top three major issues facing Manassas residents?

Williams: 1. All schools must be fully state accredited 2. Every child deserves a great education from Special Ed to our most academic achievers 3. Consistent communication.

PL: What concrete solutions do you propose to address these issues?

Williams: Every school must be fully accredited. It is my first and foremost priority to ensure all the schools in Manassas City are fully accredited. All of the Manassas City Public Schools are fully accredited except for Metz. There is a tremendous amount of work that needs to be done. We are too small of a district to have a school-of-choice program, but I envision grouping more of our same skilled set students together to obtain the greatest impact and excel our passing rates, not just to the minimum requirements, but to higher levels. I would like to see a working partnership with teachers. Teachers are who touch our children on a daily basis and have the most impact on our success as a district.

 

Every student deserves a great education. I truly believe our schools are unique serving a small community providing opportunities for each child to be the very best they can be. From special education to our highest academic achievers. Our community demands it; I demand it.  Focusing on safety and student achievement both inside and outside of the classroom, using a comprehensive approach including: rigorous academic curriculum, high expectations and positive reinforcement for both students and teachers, efficient use of resources, school-community partnerships, staff development, leveraging of technology, and increased communication is how I will ensure each student receives a quality education.  

Consistent communication. Efficient parent-teacher communication is vital. Our school system must make use of cutting edge digital communication methods, in addition to written and personal communications, to see that parents are aware and involved in their student’s academic journey. 

PL: From your perspective, what is the job description of the office you’re seeking?

Williams:
From my prospective, it is the job or our School Board to always be cognitive of what changes are coming about by paying close attention to our community as a whole, what our society needs from our student body as they transition into being productive happy citizens, and to what the future trends are in our public education system from federal and state levels, so that we can predict correctly.

PL: What expertise will you bring to the office?

Williams:
I founded Redstone Realty in January of 2013, and before Redstone Realty, co-founded Williams Realty in 2004. As president and principal broker, I have direct management and supervision of the brokerage firm and its practitioners.
 
My responsibilities include developing policies and procedures for the firm, education, and enforcement of the policies and procedures set forth, as well as, ensuring compliance with federal and state mandates.  In addition to supervisory duties, my role as a Realtor requires me to develop and maintain relationships through personal interaction and extraordinary customer service while paying close attention to numerous details.
 
Negotiating and problem solving are skill sets crucial to me as a real estate practitioner. The experience and knowledge I have gained through so many experiences have prepared me for the task of being a strong school board member caring for our students, our teachers, and our community.
 
PL: Do you feel that the average citizen is well informed and understands the workings of the Manassas City School Board? If not, how do you intend on improving communication with your constituency? 
 
Williams: I think it is difficult to have a real understanding of the workings of our government because it does take time and involvement, particularly at the school board level. Too many of our citizens in today’s society are simply stretched too thin when it comes to the time they have. I would personally reach out to our community through the various clubs we have, through homeowners associations, and events throughout the city, not through school events alone. The schools affect our community as much as our community affects our schools, a concept that needs to be recognized.
 
PL: Have you ever made any mistakes in your public life? How have they affected you?
 
Williams: I have made many mistakes throughout my lifetime, and I am quite sure I will make much more. The mistakes I have made in the past have helped me deal with any mistakes I will make in the future. To make mistakes it to learn from them. I rather learn from a mistake I have made and take one step closer to being a better human being than make no mistakes at all.
 
PL: Our readers want leaders in local government. Why should they vote for you?
 
Williams: I have a vision, families wanting to send their children to Manassas City Public Schools. I have two children, both attending Metz Middle School, and I know we have some challenges to overcome, but the students we have in our classrooms are capable of meeting higher expectations should we provide them. 

Read more Project: Election 2016 candidate profiles.

News
Seaberg seeks first full 4-year term on Manassas City School Board

Suzanne Westre Seaberg is running to keep her seat on the Manassas City School Board. 
Seaberg was appointed to the Board in June following the resignation of Ellen Purdy.
 
We sent a questionnaire to Seaberg, and her responses are below: 

Find your polling place 

PL: What are the top three major issues facing Manassas residents?

Seaberg: Community engagement, school environment, advancing student success.

PL: What concrete solutions do you propose to address these issues?

Seaberg: We can foster communication, engagement and leadership in the community with clear and accessible information, additional outreach measures to the families that need it most, and continually working to build more leaders that are representative of our community.

Expand the culture of caring with programming throughout the division to foster positive mental health for our students and staff and to elevate respect for self and others.

Expose all students to a variety of career opportunities. Expand CTE options for students and working partnerships with businesses through internships and externships.

Build the community’s confidence and trust by listening, responding, demonstrating fiscal responsibility, accountability and transparency while working toward positive solutions.

PL: From your perspective, what is the job description of the office you’re seeking?

Seaberg: As a school board member, I bring a unique perspective to a seven-member team. We work together to set policy, approve a budget, and evaluate the superintendent. Overall, I am an objective and collaborative decision-maker. I balance the needs of community stakeholders while remaining focused on serving the children in our Manassas City Schools family.

PL: What expertise will you bring to the office?

Seaberg:
 Seventeen years of business experience (primarily escrow officer) and 15 years of volunteer experience in our community and our schools.
 
PL: Do you feel that the average citizen is well informed and understands the workings of the Manassas City School Board? If not, how do you intend on improving communication with your constituency? 
 
Seaberg: In our information-rich society, our citizens want to be well-informed and have quick access to the information they seek. Communication can be improved with clear, complete, and accessible information online or via text. Some of this is currently available/possible and improvements are underway for mobile-friendly access. Some of our citizens may benefit from specialized parent advocacy groups, and efforts should be continued so that ALL families feel included and welcome in our schools and our city. There are many that desire to understand the processes of our local government. I am actively promoting citizen participation in the MCPS Parent and Community Leadership Academy that provides information and builds an understanding of the workings of our local government. Just another opportunity to consider how one can take a role in affecting positive change in the City of Manassas. Additionally, everyone with a student in our schools may wish to download the Manassas City Public Schools App on your mobile device (if you haven’t already) to stay informed of news, events, and your student’s grades.
 
PL: Have you ever made any mistakes in your public life? How have they affected you?
 
Seaberg: “A person who never made a mistake, never tried anything new” ~ Albert Einstein. I am appreciative of experiences I have had in my volunteer roles along the way that have built my philosophy to consider decisions on behalf of all children in our schools and not just for the children in my home, or the families on my street. Although I have been a school board member for only three months, I am prepared and understanding new ways to be effective. Of course, there will be “learning opportunities” along the way, but I am committed to this role and the success of our schools. I love our City and the people in it. If elected, I will be honored to serve in this way for the next four years.
 
PL: Our readers want leaders in local government. Why should they vote for you?
 
Seaberg: I ask for your consideration in electing me to the School Board for a full four-year term based on my belief in the importance of a strong public school system, my extensive years of volunteer experience in our schools and community at large, and my advocacy of high expectations for all students.

Read more Project: Election 2016 candidate profiles.

News
Albrecht aims to bring attention to English Language Learning as Manassas School Board member

Scott M. Albrecht seeks to keep his seat on the Manassas City School Board, a position he’s held since 2000.
 
We sent Albrecht a questionaire, and his responses are below: 

Find your polling place 

PL: What are the top three major issues facing Manassas residents?

Albrecht: We have accomplished a lot in our City schools, yet we still have further to go, including full accreditation for all Schools.

PL: What concrete solutions do you propose to address these issues?

Albrecht: Achieving accreditation at all schools must be a priority. Having even one school without the accreditation as we do now does not meet our communities expectation. It takes many things within the school “system” to achieve this kind of comprehensive result, and three actions I personally want to be sure that we do not lose the focus on are: retaining our small class sizes, continuing our early learning focus by expanding our State recognized PreK program for all students (so that every student starts school with equal learning opportunities), and achieving a robust CTE curriculum at Osbourn High School (that will allow all students to be employed upon graduation with career and life skills that will make them productive members of our society).

PL: From your perspective, what is the job description of the office you’re seeking?

Albrecht: The Code of Virginia specifies the role and responsibilities of a School Board in the Commonwealth. From my perspective, first and foremost we are the link between the community and the school system. It is our job to be sure that all students receive the best education possible within the financial limitations set by federal, state and local budgets.

PL: What expertise will you bring to the office?

Albrecht:
In over 16 years serving you I have learned that experience matters. With the retirement of Mr. Bushnell from the Board, there is the potential if I am not re-elected that the combined years of experience of the Board on January 1 will be about 18 years.
A Board without history and context could make bad decisions.Experience matters. My 16 years of experience in all phases of school governance and funding are needed. My specific local School Board experience includes: serving as Chair and Vice Chair, serving over 12 years on the finance committee. Representing Manassas to state and federal officials as a member of the legislative committee, helping plan, start up and lead our regional Governors School, twice as Board Chair, and serving on the education support and facilities committee, spearheading much of our long range planning and community engagement.
Additionally, if re-elected I have been honored by my peers across the Commonwealth of Virginia to be the President-Elect of the Virginia School Board Association. This will bring significant pride and notoriety to Manassas, and I would hope that in this position I can help elevate our local issues such as English Language Learning and the cost of competition in Northern Virginia. Finally, in my professional career, I am a certified Program Manager and oversee a portfolio of programs with full revenue, cost and profit responsibility for approximately $50 million annually.
 
PL: Do you feel that the average citizen is well informed and understands the workings of the Manassas City School Board? If not, how do you intend on improving communication with your constituency? 
 
Albrecht: The loss of a traditional print newspaper in Manassas remains a void in community communication. Manassas is also the small news item in a major metropolitan area. Online forums and media have somewhat filled the void, and our schools have taken considerable efforts to engage parents and the community. Our Board is fully transparent in all of our budget and academic actions and actively attempts to engage the community. Despite this, I agree with the perception that members of the community could be better informed, and as a Board Member will continue to advocate for full transparency and increased use of nontraditional media with the goal of well informed and involved citizens.
 
PL: Have you ever made any mistakes in your public life? How have they affected you?
 
Albrecht: We all make mistakes in our public, private and professional lives. These mistakes help shape us. I take every success and failure as a learning opportunity.
 
PL: Our readers want leaders in local government. Why should they vote for you?
 
Albrecht: First and foremost, the citizens of Manassas should vote for me if they believe experience matters. Since my first election in 2000, I have led the Board to policy changes aimed at the success of all students. 
 
Among my accomplishments are: eliminating artificial barriers to entry for AP and Honors classes (they are now self-registered); leading policy changes to allow homeschooled and private schooled students to attend Metz Middle School and Osbourn High School part time; advocating for all children in the City (not just enrolled students) to have access to Footsteps2Brilliance, and ingraining discipline in our planning – we now have a multi-year maintenance plan and realistic revenue and expense projections (to include new Baldwin that will open on time in December). 
 
Many in our community say our schools are failing. I believe in our school system, the future of our children and the potential for our City. We have made significant progress in our schools, including OHS being named a Silver Medal school and in the top 16% of VA high schools by US News and World Reports, OHS receiving a Grammy School for Excellence in Fine Arts Education, and Weems being recognized as a National Urban School of Excellence. I want to build on these successes and reach full accreditation for all of our schools and have success for all of our students. 
 
I am a recognized leader in our schools in Manassas, have positive working relationships with elected leaders throughout the City our region, and State, and if re-elected will be President-Elect of the Virginia School Board Association. This will bring significant pride and notoriety to Manassas, and result in our local challenges receiving increased statewide attention.

Read more Project: Election 2016 candidate profiles.

News
Prince William General Registrar says vote early to avoid lines

PRINCE WILLIAM COUNTY, Va. — Elections officials in Prince William County say voter turnout on November 8 could be as much as 85% of registered voters.

That could cause long lines at polling places across the county. Today, General Registrar Michelle White issued this press release urging voters to use this weekend — the last weekend of absentee voting — to cast thier ballots. 

Press release: 

Michele White, Prince William County’s Director of Elections, is encouraging those who have the ability to vote absentee to consider doing so. Five absentee vote centers will be open tomorrow Saturday October 29 from 8:30am to 5:00pm.

Voting in person at an Absentee Vote Center is just like voting on Election Day. Voters are checked in by presenting a valid Photo ID and asked to fill out a short application. After check in voters are given their paper ballot and directed to a booth to mark their ballot. After marking their ballot, voters simply insert their ballot in the voting equipment to be scanned. Voters should look for the American Flag. The screen will say “Your vote has been recorded. Thank you for voting.”

One voter, after casting his ballot at the McCoart Absentee Vote Center commented that voting “was quick and painless!”

All absentee vote centers are open between 8:30 a.m. and 7 p.m., Monday through Friday, and 8:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. on Saturdays. The last day to vote at an Absentee Vote Center is Saturday November 5, 2016, 8:30am to 5:00pm.

Absentee Vote Center Locations

Main Office of Elections:
9250 Lee Avenue, Suite 1
Manassas, VA 20110

DMV Office of Elections:
2731 Caton Hill Road
Woodbridge, VA 22192

James J. McCoart Administration Building
1 County Complex Court
Woodbridge, VA 22192

Dr. A.J. Ferlazzo Building
15941 Donald Curtis Drive
Woodbridge, VA 22191

Haymarket Gainesville Community Library
14870 Lightner Road
Haymarket, VA 20169

Long lines in Prince William County during the 2o12 presidential election frustrated voters and kept residents standing in line long after polls closed.

Delegate Rich Anderson to host 2017 Future Delegate Program

Future Delegate Rachel Chiramel on the House Floor-2

The office of Virginia State Delegate Richard L. Anderson (R-51) has announced that the Prince William County legislator will again host his popular and competitive annual “51st House District Future Delegate Program” at the Virginia State Capitol in Richmond during the months of January and February 2017.

The program is open to public, private, and home-schooled students from grades 7 through 12. The 51st House District stretches from Occoquan Town westward through Lake Ridge, the county portions of Manassas, and into Brentsville and Nokesville.

All students are welcome to participate, regardless of party affiliation or views. The Future Delegate Program focuses solely on the legislative process and exposes students and families to legislative life in Richmond. The goal is for students to return home after a full day in Richmond with a greater appreciation for the public policy process. Anderson’s goal is to motivate students to pursue public service as their chosen profession as an adult.

Future Delegate Lyndon Johnson (center) and father-2

On November 12, from 2-3:30pm, Anderson will host an orientation for prospective student participants in the chambers at the McCoart Government Center at 1 County Complex Court, Woodbridge, VA. At that time, he and his staff will brief students and families on the program, answer questions, and accept applications for the program.

Since 2013 Anderson’s dedication to inspiring future leaders has led him to host over 200 students at the Capitol under his Future Delegate Program. The delegate stated that “seeing the excitement and interest that students have about a future in public service makes this program one I am happy to continue offering.”

The intent is that only one student will participate each day, so that they experience quality time with their elected representative and are able to focus fully on the legislative process.

Anderson further stated that “I look forward to welcoming our next group of students to Richmond in January and February. I am excited for the next generation of leadership in our Commonwealth to engage in Virginia’s legislative process first-hand. I hope that this program will inspire them to seriously consider a career in public service.”

The program is managed by Anderson’s 51st Outreach Coordinator, Mrs. Kristina Schnack Kotlus, who can be reached at kristina.delegateanderson@gmail.com.


Theresa Coates Ellis: Education and community are key

Elliis-group-cropped

As a candidate for City Council, Theresa Coates Ellis is all about bringing a new perspective to Manassas by looking at what she calls “the bigger picture.” For Ellis, this bigger picture includes her passions: education and community involvement.

Investing in local youth

For more than 25 years, Ellis has worked with children of all ages. A single mother, then a remarried mom raising a blended family of seven children, Ellis earned her college degree attending George Mason University (GMU) full time while building her business. Later, with her youngest off to college, she became interested in working with kids in an educational setting again. Touring the school her children attended, she realized there was a perception that did not match the positive interactions she was having there. Concerned the “good word” was not getting out, she came up with a plan.

Ellis worked to get the children networking. Calling them ambassadors for the community, Ellis founded sponsored the Community Connection Network, CCN Manassas, the Manassas City Public School (MCPS) High School Media Team in May 2015. What started as a diverse group of four students serving as a public relations team for the school soon branched out to 16 students covering community events.

The team began capturing the spirit of the community through video, photos, and stories, representing Osbourn High School, service organizations, historical sites, or events happening in Manassas.

At one point, Ellis hired the club’s original president part-time to write blogs and record videos. When he had to interview at George Mason University (GMU) for a scholarship, Ellis advised him, explaining what to wear and what to do, as well as what body language to demonstrate. After the interview, he told her it went well. GMU liked the fact that he had helped start a club, that he had created something for the school and community. That student ended up getting a full, four-year scholarship.

“I’m really proud of him,” Ellis said. “All the kids who graduated did really well.”

But, Ellis, who also serves on the advisory committee for the Manassas school system’s Career and Technical Education program, said, “Some kids come out of high school and will be going into technology and vocational careers, not necessarily college. They may have the opportunity to own a business. It’s important to teach vocational skills like these, too, as well as entrepreneurial skills. To do this, the community needs to be involved. You have to have businesses and community leaders reaching out to students.”

ellis-tree

Perception is reality

Ellis can see the potential of a community-driven public image campaign for the City of Manassas. If elected, she would like to introduce a Public Image Committee that would not just be “PR” for Manassas – it would educate those beyond Manassas about the community. While Ellis is proud of the city’s historic roots, she feels the city needs coverage beyond that aspect. Ellis says that attracting new businesses and more community investment can come from covering the city’s modern strengths as well.

Ellis said she has the plan and the experience to take on the task of promoting a positive image for Manassas. As founder and owner of Tackle Management Corp., a company providing management and public relations services to businesses and organizations in Manassas, she has earned the reputation of being experienced and solution-oriented. “When you’re in business, you have to be a problem solver,” she said.

What’s more, Ellis said she knows the business aspect of running successful organizations. Working in leadership capacities with Manassas Regional Airport Commission, as President of the Bull Run Rotary Club, the Inter-Service Club Council of Greater Manassas, the MCPS Education Foundation Marketing Committee, and Cobblestone Business Center gives her insight into the local economy, which is the backbone of the community.

ellis-hand-on-hip

Not a politician

Ellis planned her candidacy for years before throwing her hat in the ring. “I’m not a politician,” she noted, but she had “serious concerns” and thought about how to fill the need. Ellis has found she really enjoys talking with the community. “I love it. I love getting out and talking to people and hearing all the issues.”

She says the community is receiving her well on the campaign trail. Residents remark consistently about her door-to-door campaign style, adding that she is the first candidate that has come to their door. Ellis sees this as encouraging and hopes it also encourages more community involvement. “I believe the more people you have invested in the community, it’s only going to get better. People have a pride and ownership in their community.”

Ellis understands being invested in her community and believes this will make her an excellent city councilperson. “When you’re really involved in the community, you see things differently. I’m open minded. And I think that makes a difference.”

For more information on Theresa Coates Ellis, visit her website, TheresaCoatesEllis.com.

News
1st District candidates Wittman, Rowe, Parker differ on healthcare, free college

Matt Rowe and Robert Wittman discussed issues facing 1st District voters at  The University of Mary Washington.

FREDERICKSBURG. Va. — The two major-party candidates in Virginia’s 1st Congressional District wasted no time Monday night highlighting how they differ on the issues.

Robert J. Wittman, the incumbent Republican representing residents from Prince William County, Fredericksburg, to Williamsburg slammed the federal healthcare mandate calling for its repeal and replacement with a new program.

“I think the problems with Obamacare speak for themselves,” said the Republican, just hours after double-digit increases were reported in insurance premiums for the coming year.

Increasing costs, increasing financial burdens on small businesses and the structure of the federal health care plan were all reasons Wittman said the measure must be repealed.

“Any time you have a [healthcare company] in charge you are not going to find a system that works in the best interest of the patient,” he added.

1stdistrictdebate1

Gail Parker, Matt Rowe, and Robert Wittman.

Rowe was quick to fire back saying Republicans have taken ineffective, “symbolic” votes to repeal the federal healthcare mandate, but offered no acceptable replacement plan.

“Republicans say they are going to repeal and replace Obamacare. They’ve got the repeal side down pretty good,” said Rowe “Symbolic votes to repeal healthcare won’t get anything done.”

Green Party Candidate Gail Parker was also on stage for the debate at The University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg and said she would like to see a healthcare system that focused more on preventative and alternative measures so that fewer residents would rely on federal healthcare.

The audience inside Dodd Auditorium was partisan, with Democrats on one side and Republicans on the other. Each faction cheered when their candidate catered to their base. Rowe garnered applause when he called for a debt-free college education.

“I’m 35 years old and still paying student loans, on top of payments that we’re making while we have three kids and paying a mortgage,” said Rowe.

1stdistrictdebate2

He also called for lowering the overall cost of tuition, and for schools to help students identify their options early on for entrances to a four-year college, a vocational school, or access to military service.

Wittman called for creating more courses aligned with the needs of businesses, and more online courses to reduce college costs.

“It can’t be all bricks and mortar. That’s the expensive part of it,” he said.

Parker noted Green Party Presidential Candidate Jill Stein has advocated for giving students struggling to pay back college loan debt a bailout.

“Instead of a bailout for Wall Street, it’s a bailout for students,” she said. 

Parker also aligned herself with Donald Trump, who has called the federal election process “rigged” for Democrat Hillary Clinton.

“When you have four political parties, and only two are allowed in the debates, I have to agree with Mr. Trump,” she said.

Wittman called for more oversight of voter fraud in the state, but “overall, is the system rigged? I don’t think it is at that level.” said Wittman.

Rowe quickly dismissed his voter fraud claims as GOP scare tactics. He also took Wittman — who said he doesn’t agree with all of Donald Trump’s statements — to task over his support of Donald Trump as the party’s Presidential nominee, citing recent claims by multiple women of sexual abuse by the millionaire.

“I’d like to hear you talk more about what you don’t agree with Trump about,” Rowe told Wittman.

The Republican never directly engaged his opponents on stage and replied Trump is the nominee of his party and that he was chosen by a primary process.

“I have not asked my opponents to disagree with their nominee…Mr. Trump was chosen by the voters, and I think this election is about what the voters in the 1st District want,” said Wittman.

Wittman seeks his fifth term in office. Elected in 2007, he’s served as Mayor of Montross, and was elected to the Westmoreland County Board of Supervisors before serving in Congress. He will make a bid for Virginia Governor in 2017.

Rowe has served on the Bowling Green Town Council since 2015. He works as a mapmaker for the Stafford County Government.

Gail Parker spent 34 years as a federal employee, and 22 years as an Air Force Reservist. She’s sought election to the 1st District seat multiple times, each time running on a platform of railroad expansion to spur economic development.

News
Jones running for Mayor on record of rebuilding Manassas Park schools, facilities

Frank Jones  is seeking another term as Mayor of Manassas Park. It’s a seat he’s held for the past 12 years. 
 
He’s running against Jeanette Rishell, who has served on the Manassas Park Governing Body.
 
We sent a questionnaire to Jones and Rishell. Jones’ responses are below: 
 

Find your polling place 

PL: What are the top three major issues facing Manassas residents?

Jones: The city must diversify its tax base. This is the single biggest issue facing our city, as all we do is based upon available tax revenue. Our schools, police, fire, and public works department depend on city resources to accomplish their respective missions.

PL: What concrete solutions do you propose to address these issues?

Jones: Smart development. The city should engage the business community to develop available real estate in the city in such a way that increases and diversifies our tax base, while not increasing demand for city services. This is action the city is already undertaking. The city has a great opportunity to work with private industry to develop the land into both commercial property and age-restricted housing, neither of which increase demand on our school system, our single biggest city expense, while both increase tax revenue.

PL: From your perspective, what is the job description of the office you’re seeking?

Jones: The Mayor is first and foremost the city and all its departments’ leadership in and out of Manassas Park. In addition to that, the Mayor is to be an advocate and ambassador for the city when working with other locales, state and federal officials.

PL: What expertise will you bring to the office?

Jones:
I have over 25 years experience serving Manassas Park residents. In addition to my service in the U.S. Navy and as the current Mayor I have served in a variety of positions: Member and former Chairman of Manassas Park School Board Vice-Chairman of the Potomac and Rappahannock Transportation Committee Member of Flory Center Small Business Council Commissioner on Northern Virginia Regional Commission Human Resources and Facilities Director for a Defense Agency with offices across the nation.
 
PL: Do you feel that the average citizen is well informed and understands the workings of city government? If not, how do you intend on improving communication with your constituency? 
 
Jones: I think most citizens Local government affects our daily lives more than any other level of government. I think it crucial citizens take an active interest in what local government is doing. We have made the business of the Governing Body, as well as our school system, public works, and public safety as accessible as possible via the internet, cable TV, and social media. In addition to this, I have recently tried several telephone town halls, where citizens can get a brief city update from me, as well as ask questions and voice concerns. As we have seen a good response to these, I plan to hold more of these in the future.
 
PL: Have you ever made any mistakes in your public life? How have they affected you?
 
Jones: Yes, I have made mistakes. Each created a learning opportunity and an experience to improve personally moving forward.
 
PL: Our readers want leaders in local government. Why should they vote for you?
 
Jones: I have three things to offer Manassas Park: a record, a plan, and a vision for the city. During my tenure as Mayor, I led the city through the toughest economic period in the city’s history. On my watch, the city’s credit rating was upgraded from “BBB” to “A+” and city valuation has increased over $330 million in the last four years.
 
I led the efforts to rebuild our crumbling schools, community center, police and fire stations. Through our work, our city’s first responders have some of the best facilities, vehicles, equipment, and training of any other jurisdiction in Northern Virginia; our state of the art police station is the envy of other departments in Virginia. Through all of this, we have made our city the 7th safest in the Commonwealth. We not only have a safe city to raise our children, but we have great schools to educate them. 
 
Now, I will tell you I didn’t do any of this by myself, but rather by bringing people together to achieve a common goal. Leadership is the ability to work across political divides, personalities, and differing viewpoints to get the job done–this is the kind of leadership I offer Manassas Park.

Read more Project: Election 2016 candidate profiles.

News
Wolfe: Manassas needs a comprehensive plan for next 30 years

 

Mark Wolfe is running to keep his seat on the Manassas City Council. Spending eight years on the council as Republican. this is the first time he seeks office as a Democrat.

 
We sent a questionnaire to Wolfe and his responses are below: 

Find your polling place 

PL: What are the top three major issues facing Manassas residents?

Wolfe: Improving our schools, enhanced economic development and involving our citizens in planning for the future of Manassas.

PL: What concrete solutions do you propose to address these issues?
 
Wolfe: First, we need to engage our citizens in a comprehensive, public, strategic planning exercise. We need to fully understand the goals, desires and vision of the citizens of Manassas as we plan for the next 30 years.

After gaining citizen input, we can begin implementing programs and budgetary choices consistent with the vision expressed by the citizens.

One idea that has been suggested in the education community is adding having universal Pre-K to our schools. Educators have told me that this is the most effective means of improving results/test scores in the schools.

Another idea is to expand our Economic Development efforts. That we need to expand the staffing and resources dedicated by the City to recruit new businesses to Manassas and to help the existing businesses to grow.

 
PL: From your perspective, what is the job description of the office you’re seeking?

Wolfe: The job of the City Council is to be responsive to the citizens. Taking input from our the citizens the Council sets the priorities and vision for the City staff to implement. The City Council does not manage the City workforce; that is the job of the City Manager. Nor does the Council administer the Schools.

PL: What expertise will you bring to the office?

Wolfe:
The expertise I bring in eight years of experience in doing the job coupled with over 35 years of business experience. This experience involves success in both the profit and non-profit sectors.
 
PL: Do you feel that the average citizen is well informed and understands the workings of city government? If not, how do you intend on improving communication with your constituency? 
 
Wolfe: Our citizens are not as fully informed or engaged about their local government as the could/should be. Many of our citizens have recently moved to Manassas and are not familiar with their government and the plans for the future of Manassas. The most impactful step that the City can take to improve the level of understanding and engagement is to involve the citizens in a broad-based input process for the Manassas strategic plan. This was last done in 2003. Think of how Manassas has changed since 2003. To have a positive future for Manassas it is imperative that all parts of the community are afforded the opportunity to be a part of this process.
 
PL: Have you ever made any mistakes in your public life? How have they affected you?
 
Wolfe: That we (and I) have at times been too slow to address important needs and opportunities confronting our community. A good example is a need for a Southside fire station. The City has known for years that the fire/rescue response times to much of our community to significantly above the recommended times and national standard. Yet it has taken the City years to begin to rectify the problem. I should have been more forceful in bringing this issue to head.
 
PL: Our readers want leaders in local government. Why should they vote for you?
 
Wolfe: Because I have been a leader in helping to make Manassas a better place to live. With Andy Harrover I helped champion the Battle Street redevelopment. I then led the way to the improvements on Main Street. Together these projects have added to the vitality of Manassas and have provided added City revenue without raising taxes. I have also led the way on the Gateway project which will add significantly to our commercial tax base. I have championed the revitalization of the South Grant Avenue area, the Prince William Street improvements and the location of a new library into Manassas. And I have also fought for a South Side fire station. It is easy to be comfortable. To say that things are good enough. And not to push for change and continued growth. But Manassas competes in a global marketplace for businesses and residents.

Read more Project: Election 2016 candidate profiles.

News
Decatur wants cash capital fund for Stafford schools, more resource officers

Jamie Decatur is running to for a seat on the Stafford County School Board.

She and her opponent Dana Rienboldt aim to replace Emily Fallon who is sentenced to serve one year in prison after she stole more than $23,000 from the Anne E. Moncure Elementary School PTO, while she was the president of the organization. 

The Stafford County School Board appointed Melissa Ayres to fill the seat in June on a temporary basis. Ayres chose not to seek election to the seat on a permanent basis, said Stafford County General Registrar Greg Riddlemoser.
 
We sent a questionnaire to Decatur and her responses are below: 

Find your polling place 

PL: What are the top three major issues facing parents and students in the Griffis-Widewater District?

Decatur: Responsible Fiscal Management, School Safety, Competitive Pay Scale for all employees

PL: What concrete solutions do you propose to address these issues?
 
Decatur: We will reevaluate the budget development practices and ensure that the process for budget creation is realistic and efficient. I will ensure that the school board puts in place a system of checks and balances to eliminate wasteful and inappropriate spending of the school’s budget.
I’d like to discuss the possibility of a cash capital fund for our schools, which will help eliminate overestimating of budgetary needs, and greedy spending practices. We will develop a hierarchy of needs and direct funds toward the most necessary and appropriate matters annually.

First and foremost, ensuring that Stafford County is compensating our teachers and staff members appropriately as planned for in the market-based compensation plan. We need to develop replacement cycles for updating equipment including school buses and technology.

And finally, we need to continue and further develop sharing resources within the county which will improve our spending practices and reduce waste countywide. I’d like to add a resource officer in each middle and high school to improve relations and increase security as well as add a resource officer in each elementary school, as our county does not currently have one at any elementary school.

 
PL: From your perspective, what is the job description of the office you’re seeking?

Decatur: The role of a school board member is to be the voice for the residents in their community. When brought together as a unified whole, the school board cohesively serves the county, helping the school system to operate efficiently and provide students with the best education possible for the taxpayers’ dollar. I believe each member should each bring unique experience and expertise along with a creative approach, and the wishes of the members of the community we represent to create and uphold a school system that stands out in the Commonwealth.

PL: What expertise will you bring to the office?

Decatur:
I have 10 years of experience in managing schools, creating and balancing the schools’ budget, working with the accreditation process, school meals programs, hiring and training teachers and ancillary staff members, and building successful relationships with parents, students, and school systems throughout Virginia.

I also have the interpersonal skills necessary to facilitate an open dialogue that will begin to repair the relationship between the school board, board of supervisors and residents of our county. We simply must work together cohesively and responsibly to ensure that we make decisions for our county that will benefit all of us for many generations to come.

 
PL: Do you feel that the average citizen is well informed and understands the workings of the School Board If not, how do you intend on improving communication with your constituency? 
 
Decatur: As an average citizen, I believe that local government could do more to inform citizens of decisions that will impact their lives, including infrastructure, fiscal management, policies, etc. I believe that many decisions are not made easily accessible to the general public because doing so would cause “unnecessary” challenges in the process. However, I also believe that elected officials must understand that the process of creating a community in which everyone can prosper and thrive will not be easy and that making our community aware, despite the challenges that could arise, is an important and necessary part of the process. Communication cannot be limited to those who have the time to come to board meetings or watch them on TV. Many people do not make the time in their day to day schedules and it does not mean that they care any less about the happenings in our community. Whether we like it or not, social media is the one place that most people dedicate time to daily because it is quick and easily accessible by hand-held devices and I think we could start there as a means of improving communications with our community.
 
PL: Have you ever made any mistakes in your public life? How have they affected you?
 
Decatur: No one is perfect, however, I believe that any choices I’ve made have been vital in preparing me for each new phase of my life. I believe that my choices have made me the person I am, capable of understanding and empathizing with people from many walks of life, and I try to teach all of my students that each day is a new beginning for them to create a life that they are proud of. When a person is capable of analyzing their decisions and learning from them, I believe that is key to setting them on the path to success.
 
PL: Our readers want leaders in local government. Why should they vote for you?
 
Decatur: I want the absolute best for our community. I want our taxpayers to feel that their interest is being managed responsibly and respectfully and I want our children to receive an education that will set them on their individual pathways to success in their lives.

If I felt that those interests were being handled properly within our district, I wouldn’t be here asking for your vote. When irresponsible decisions are made in local government, they will directly affect our lives and when we’re talking about the school board, those decisions will directly affect my child’s education.

The mismanagement of millions of our tax dollars may not have affected the student’s in our county during the years in which it happened, however when we failed to give raises because that money was missing from the county’s budget, many wonderful teachers began leaving Stafford County and taking jobs elsewhere.

You will hear that the School Board was not given accurate information, however, I believe that it was the job of the School Board to cross check any reports they received to ensure all information was accurate and valid. When that failed to happen, repercussions became imminent for future students in our county, including my son and his peers.

I will not focus on the problems but rather the solutions that will set our school system back on the right path. I have the experience necessary to do so as well as an open mind and a fresh approach that will not only set us on the right path but will move our district ahead of all others in our educational practices.

Read more Project: Election 2016 candidate profiles.

News
Kiefer: Student achievement is about rigor, innovation, not just tests

Kristen Michelle Kiefer has spent a year and a half on the Manassas City School Board. 
 
The Board appointed her in February 2015 after Ilka Chavez stepped down. She is runing to keep her seat on the Board, and city voters will head to the polls on November 8.
 
We sent a questionnaire to Keifer and call candidates seeking a seat on the Manassas City School Board. Her responses are below: 

Find your polling place 

PL: What are the top three major issues facing Manassas residents?

Kiefer: Envisioning and shaping the future for student achievement, ensuring safe, nurturing learning environments and workplace, and communicating with key stakeholders.

PL: What concrete solutions do you propose to address these issues?
 
Kiefer: Envision & Shape the Future for Student Achievement
• Make every school a strong center of learning for students to reach their full potential
• Fight to make sure achievement is about rigor, innovation & hands-on experiences, not just tests
• Equip students with real world skills and critical thinking needed to thrive ensure safe, nurturing learning

Environment & Workplace
• Continue positive changes in class structure to provide more supervision during class transitions

• Promote Positive Behavioral Interventions & Supports (PBIS) to ‘course correct’ early on
• Ensure re-entry plans are constructive for the student but also demands accountability on their part
 
Communicate with Key Stakeholders
• Connect with parents, teachers & community members through open, courageous conversations
• Increase awareness of the multiple mechanisms to stay informed and become involved in the division
 
PL: From your perspective, what is the job description of the office you’re seeking?

Kiefer
: “At the center of the universe is a loving heart that continues to beat and that wants the best for every person. Anything we can do to help foster the intellect and spirit and emotional growth of our fellow human beings…that is our job. Those of us who have this particular vision must continue against all odds. Life is for service.” – Fred Rogers

For me, this quotation resonates as I think about the attributes I feel a School Board member needs to possess: selflessness in thinking about all students, passion for the mission of the improvement of our children holistically, and commitment to be in the service of others. For me, the job description is NOT a politician (even though it’s an elected office). Instead, I view it as being a public servant committed to the mission of preparing our children for their futures through good governance, sound stewardship of resources and strong, cascading leadership at all levels of the division.


PL: What expertise will you bring to the office?

Kiefer: 
Being raised by a mother who was both an educator and an administrator, I have an appreciation for the value of a good education and its importance to being the foundation for children as they look to build their futures. I watched how much time and energy my mother poured into each and every child, day in and day out. I saw her struggle for and with them…..they were all her children. She is an inspiration to me, and has instilled in me that education is a gift and that everyone deserves to have an equal opportunity to have that gift in their own lives. And she is the one who encouraged me to go for the school board appointment last year.as it helped me determine the course I would take in my own educational journey.
Through dedication, loans and working while in school, I went on to earn my Bachelor in Business Administration, a Bachelor of Science in Health and a Master of Public Policy. Additionally, my husband and I are now helping our own children on their own MCPS educational journey and trying to make them the best students and citizens they can be and instilling the importance of being committed to, and personal responsibility to their own educational and life’s journey.
 
With the solid basis provided through this education, I have developed a knowledge base that enhances what I am able to do in my professional life. As Chief of Staff at a national organization, I am a change agent both internally and externally, am in charge of ensuring strategic alignment across all aspects of the organization as we try to achieve lofty 2020 goals, and oversee our external affairs, community network development, Board governance and customer relationship management functions.
 
I have to be a good listener, a strong executive manager, an example to staff members and a representative of the organization and its mission – all skills that I believe, parallel those needed to be a School Board member. As I think about my childhood roots, my educational background and my professional life, I understand how fortunate I am for the opportunities I have been afforded and believe that I have an even bigger societal contribution to make.
 
My involvement in the Manassas City community has included a PTO Presidency at Baldwin Elementary School, Committee Chair for the Mayfield Intermediate and Metz Middle Schools’ PTA, membership on the Superintendent’s Parent & Community Leadership Academy and Key Communicators Group, representative on the Gifted & Talented Program Advisory Committee, and leadership roles in the Greater Manassas Baseball League (GMBL), Girl Scouts and Cub Scouts. I am ready, able and willing to serve the City of Manassas if re-elected to the School Board.
 
PL: Do you feel that the average citizen is well informed and understands the workings of city government? If not, how do you intend on improving communication with your constituency? 
 
Kiefer: Now that I have been in public office for about a year and a half, I can say that I don’t believe that many citizens understand the “ins” and “outs” of local government. In terms of the school division, I think that understanding the distinction between what the School Board is and is not responsible for is something that is difficult to understand. Similarly, I think we have work to do to talk about how the School Board and City Council are or are not interrelated. I am proud of the efforts that the Manassas City Public Schools division has put into place to increase communication and it is something that the School Board, superintendent and staff talk about a lot. And, we know there is room for improvement and will continue to strive to better tell the “story of our schools”, communicate even more effectively with parents, teachers and the community by listening to how they best receive information and with other local community leaders and citizens.
 
PL: Have you ever made any mistakes in your public life? How have they affected you?
 
Kiefer: Everyone has things in their lives which they wish they had done differently, and I am no exception. The one thing that I will always be cognizant of is whether I am following my gut and my heart in the questions I ask and the decisions I make when we talk about our children. Many tough decisions come before the School Board and it is my duty to be fully informed, process all information and make the decision that I believe is best. I have had my first year and a half to observe how things work and am now more comfortable with the work at hand.
 
PL: Our readers want leaders in local government. Why should they vote for you?
 
Kiefer: If you speak with anyone who knows me or works with me, they will tell you that I am a very mission-oriented and focused person. I am behind-the-scenes in the impact I make and do not look to be in the limelight. Being a public servant is not about ME, it’s how we find ways to collectively co-create the community we ALL want to live in. I am sincere and believe in our children as the future of our community and of our country. Relationships are everything and, if we can’t collaborate and work together for the greater good, then we are nothing.

Read more Project: Election 2016 candidate profiles.

News
O’Hanlon: Vocational, tech courses must be offered in Manassas schools

Peter O’Hanlon is running for a seat on the Manassas City School Board.
 
We sent a questionnaire to O’Hanlon and all candidates running for Manassas City School Board. His responses are below: 

Find your polling place 

PL: What are the top three major issues facing Manassas residents?

O’Hanlon: Communications, safety, and curriculum.

PL: What concrete solutions do you propose to address these issues?
 
O’Hanlon: First, I want to work to improve communications. While the schools work very hard to reach out to and involve parents, we still have some improvements to make. I have often observed parents pour out their hearts to the school board, advocating for their children, without receiving a response. Items brought to the board must be responded to, preferably, publicly at the next meeting.  Additionally, we have to ensure we have a means to communicate to all of our families. When disseminating information, we must keep in mind that everyone does not have access to the same resources.
 
Second, we need to ensure the safety, both physically and mentally, of all of our students and staff. The schools have made great advances in improving safety such as increased background checks of employees, scanning the identification of all school visitors, and more in-depth checks for volunteers. However, the schools need to be more transparent about safety incidents at the schools. Both the schools and the police have an obligation to report, for the public record, all serious incidents where students or faculty were at risk. Additionally, we need to continue the task of eliminating bullying at all levels of the system. Everyone should feel the same level of comfort they would in their own home.
 
Third, we need to continue evaluating the course selections and career paths available for the students. We hear quite a bit about STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math), but as everyone here can attest to, not everyone goes into these fields. The humanities are imperative as we head down a slope where there is increasing the loss of quality written and verbal communication. Additionally, we too often ask our students to make choices of paths at earlier and earlier ages, often to the detriment of providing a more rounded education. We also tend to over-emphasize that college is the only path.
 
According to Forbes, six of the twenty fastest, growing jobs do not require four-year college degrees. We need to take a greater look at the needs locally, and ensure the schools are meeting these needs, where possible. The trades always need attention, as we always have a need for electricians, plumbers, and carpenters. Vocational and Technical Education courses must be offered, if for no other reason than to provide life skills, in addition to career exploration. We must prepare well-rounded students for the community and the world we live in.
 
PL: From your perspective, what is the job description of the office you’re seeking?

O’Hanlon
: As a school board member you represent the community in advocating for the best educational opportunities for our children.

PL: What expertise will you bring to the office?

O’Hanlon:
I am the parent of five children who have all gone through the Manassas City Schools, the youngest currently a senior. I have been an active volunteer in the schools for 25 years. Additionally, as a retired senior auditor, I have the ability to work for solutions in areas of underachievement. I can ensure the resident’s investments are properly utilized.
 
PL: Do you feel that the average citizen is well informed and understands the workings of city government? If not, how do you intend on improving communication with your constituency? 
 
O’Hanlon: I believe they understand how it works, however, they don’t always like how it works. I would improve communications by providing feedback to parents who bring issues before the school board. These issues would be addressed at the following meeting. Additionally, I would suggest forums, both public and for educators, to discuss educational issues. The parents need to have more dialog with the schools, not just the one way communication we currently have.
 
PL: Have you ever made any mistakes in your public life? How have they affected you?
 
O’Hanlon: Not that I consider it a major mistake, just a learning experience. I wish I had completed a college education when I was younger. My mistake was to leave college after two years (for several reasons) and not return full time.
 
PL: Our readers want leaders in local government. Why should they vote for you?
 
O’Hanlon: I have taken on leadership roles in both my former work life and in all the volunteer positions I have held. I give tirelessly of myself trying to improve people’s situations in life. I believe my running for the school board is just taking all my other efforts to the next level.

Read more Project: Election 2016 candidate profiles.

News
Richie-Folks: More online services need to make paying Manassas taxes simple

Manassas residents will head to the polls November 8, 2016, to vote for a new City Treasurer.
 
Current City Treasurer Robin Perkins served in the position for the past 18 years and decided not to seek reelection.
 
Patricia Richie-Folks is the Democrat on the ballot, and Russell T. Harrison is her Republican opponent. 
 
We sent a questionnaire to Richie-Folks and Harrison. Richie-Folks’ responses are below: 

Find your polling place 

PL: What are the top three major issues facing Manassas residents?

Richie-Folks: N/A

PL: What concrete solutions do you propose to address these issues?
 
Richie-Folks: I am running for City Treasurer, and there are no issues that I will be addressing if elected. The City Treasurer is a Constitutional Elected Office and follows the rules and regulations of the State of Virginia for the Treasurer and the City of Manassas Charter.
 
PL: From your perspective, what is the job description of the office you’re seeking?

Richie-Folks: I will be responsible for collecting the taxes for the city and making sure that they are deposited in the designated financial institutions. I will also be responsible for operating the city treasurer’s office and managing the staff.

PL: What expertise will you bring to the office?

Richie-Folks:
I have 35 years of experience in finance, accounting, managing over 30 employees, managing multi-million dollar budgets, investing $100,000 for [American Association of Sex Educators, Counselors, and Therapists (AASECT)], owned my own construction company, I also developed procedures to bring delinquent accounts current, and I have received awards for providing excellent customer service. I was promoted to General Manager for a worldwide corporation [Sodexo] where I was responsible for managing the division’s budget of $5 million.
 
PL: Do you feel that the average citizen is well informed and understands the workings of city government? If not, how do you intend on improving communication with your constituency? 
 
Richie-Folks: I feel that the citizens should be well-informed on what is going on in the treasurer’s office. I will improve the communication to our constituency by updating the treasure’s Office web page and always have pertinent information that is current with a FAQ section that will answer frequently asked questions and give this information out not only in English but in Spanish as well. I would also like to send a newsletter out to all citizens with their utility bills.
 
PL: Have you ever made any mistakes in your public life? How have they affected you?
 
Richie-Folks: Yes, I have made mistakes in my public life, and I learned from these mistakes. By making these mistakes, I began to grow and became a better person for it. This helped me to be more observant and to realize that no one is perfect and I am always open to learning and trying out new innovative ideas and most importantly listening.
 
PL: Our readers want leaders in local government. Why should they vote for you?
 
Richie-Folks: The reason the citizens of Manassas should vote for me is I will make sure that the City Treasurer’s office operates effectively with efficiency, accuracy, excellent customer service and most importantly transparency. I will make sure that the City treasurer’s office is in compliance with state laws and regulations and adheres to Manassas City codes and ordinances.

I have done research and spoke with other City Treasurer’s around the Northern Virginia areas, and I have some innovative ideas that I would like to bring to the Manassas City Treasure’s office. I would like to make it more accessible and have more online services to help make the process of paying taxes simple.

I know that there is a new system that is being installed and will become operational in January. If I am elected, I will be a part of the installation of this system and will be able to make sure that these services will be looked into and if cost-effective put in place.

I would also like to accommodate our senior citizens and make paying taxes easier and accessible for them and the disabled. We live in a world of technology, and everything can be done online, and I want our citizens to be able to take advantage of that when paying their taxes.

I will have an open door policy to my internal as well as external customers and the most important responsibility I will have will be to collect the city’s taxes on time and make sure that they are deposited promptly. The staff that is in place now are very experienced and doing an excellent job and giving excellent customer service and this will continue if I am elected to be your City Treasurer. 

Read more Project: Election 2016 candidate profiles.

News
Focus on debt, need for more businesses in Manassas Park top Rishell’s list

Jeanette M. Rishell is running for Mayor of Manassas Park. She currently serves as a council member on the city’s Governing Body.
 
Rishell looks to unseat longtime incumbent Mayor Frank Jones.

We sent a questionnaire to Rishell and Jones. Rishell’s responses are below: 

Find your polling place 

PL: What are the top three major issues facing Manassas Park residents?

RishellCity debt service will spike by almost $2 million for the fiscal year 2018. The need for commercial business development. Adequately funding the City’s core services.
 

PL: What concrete solutions do you propose to address these issues?

Rishell: There have been, and will continue to be, ongoing efforts to refinance the City’s debt. This will cover a portion of the debt spike in 2018 and 2019 and is an important part of the effort because the debt service will level off for several years before dropping.

I have thoroughly analyzed each budget so far and will continue to do so, because we must determine the difference between our wants and our needs.

Also, I will emphasize commercial business development. When I first came onto council, I was surprised that the City did not have an economic development brochure to promote the City’s assets across all of Northern Virginia. We have a brochure now, and we also have an Economic Development Manager whose primary responsibility is to try to bring business into the City. I will encourage all Governing Body members to work in cooperation with our new Economic Development Manager. I will work to create a more formal outreach plan consisting of more active participation in Chamber of Commerce events, visitation to local businesses to receive their input and ideas, and of course contact and visitation to new businesses who may wish to locate into Manassas Park. If this is not sufficient, we will try additional measures TBD.

It’s important that we begin to be more proactive to bring in the revenue that is needed to support our schools and other core services. Currently, the City is heavily dependent upon residential taxation, so business revenue will help make a living in our City more affordable.

 
PL: From your perspective, what is the job description of the office you’re seeking?

Rishell: According to the Charter of the City, the Mayor serves as the CEO of the City, and also represents the City in a variety of venues. It is important for the Mayor to provide leadership through action, by example, and with decorum.

PL: What expertise will you bring to the office?

Rishell
In addition to my life and career experiences, I have the experience of being a councilmember for the last four years. I have performed my council duties in a comprehensive and detailed manner.

Beyond my responsibilities as a council member, I serve the City in the following capacities:

*Serve on the Upper Occoquan Service Authority (UOSA) Board of Directors since 2010

*Member Representative to the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority (NVTA)

*Vice Chair of the Finance Committee of the NVTA

*Member of the Planning and Programming Committee of the NVTA

*City Representative on the Route 28 Steering Committee

*Member of the Manassas Park Department of Social Services Board

PL: Do you feel that the average citizen is well informed and understands the workings of city government? If not, how do you intend on improving communication with your constituency? 

Rishell
:
When I knocked doors and campaigned for my council seat in 2012, I heard from residents across the City that they wanted to know more about what their local government was doing. City staff has been making great use of social media to promote the City and its events.

In addition, I have made a personal effort since my election to council in 2012 to inform residents by regularly sending out a constituent mailer in order to let people know important issues and items of general interest.
 
PL: Have you ever made any mistakes in your public life? How have they affected you?
 
Rishell: Everyone makes mistakes in all facets of their lives, and they can learn from them and move forward in a more productive manner.
 
PL: Our readers want leaders in local government. Why should they vote for you?
 
Rishell: I have the judgment, the common sense, and the ability to balance the competing needs of the City. The next several years will be challenging, and I will be a hands-on and proactive Mayor.

Read more Project: Election 2016 candidate profiles.

News
Sebesky: ‘We must start with a strategic plan that involves everyone’

Pamela J. Sebesky is one of three Democrats vying for three open seats on the Manassas City Council. After serving two terms on the city School Board, Sebesky seeks a seat on the city’s governing body.
 
We sent a questionnaire to Sebeskyand all other candidates seeking a seat on the Manassas City Council. Her responses are below: 

Find your polling place 

PL: What are the top three major issues facing Manassas residents?

Sebesky: Economic development, public safety, and high-performing schools.

PL: What concrete solutions do you propose to address these issues?
 
Sebesky: All of these needs are interconnected. In order to work one of them is to work on all of them. We must start with a strategic plan that involves a broad cross-section of everyone in the community. You must have citizens that represent all areas of our city, along with representation from all levels of our business community, as well as the city staff. When you have that kind of input you will then develop the needed plan that will allow for success in all these areas.
 
PL: From your perspective, what is the job description of the office you’re seeking?

Sebesky: A Council Member must listen to all constituents and do thorough research when making all decisions, as the decision will affect everyone in the community. You must be able to be fiscally responsible with tax payer dollars and demand transparency in how funds will be spent. You must comprehend and put into action a comprehensive strategic plan that will address citizen needs, help sustain and expand local businesses and set a course for the entire city. A Council Member alone does not decide anything, its takes someone who can and will work collaboratively in good transparent decision making. We all have to get back to the basics – of the people, by the people and for the people.

PL: What expertise will you bring to the office?

Sebesky:
I will bring to the office a wide variety of experience from a number of areas, as I have previously already outlined. Having been elected to the Manassas City School Board twice, I have a comprehensive understanding of the needs of the schools and the children that attend them. This has provided me the opportunity to work with and volunteer with many different organizations and businesses across the whole region. I understand our economic challenges and have a record of working hard and collaboratively to improve long-term outcomes.
 
PL: Do you feel that the average citizen is well informed and understands the workings of city government? If not, how do you intend on improving communication with your constituency? 
 
Sebesky: Most citizens are not likely to be well informed or have the extensive knowledge needed of the workings of local government. In order to understand the complex process you must have the time to be involved at many levels. The best way to improve communication is with relationship building, in order to build trust. The city already has many ways it communicates with its citizens, but if there is not trust people will not believe what they read or take time to participate in the community or government operations. In the community I am known for taking the time to listen and for caring about the whole community. I take the needed time not just to return calls or emails, but to do the hard work to get needed change to come about through policy and procedure development.
 
PL: Have you ever made any mistakes in your public life? How have they affected you?
 
Sebesky: Everyone makes mistakes, as no one is perfect. The hardest part of being on the school board is when you have to decide whether to expel a child from the school system. You know that will be a life-altering decision for that young person. Some parents are able to afford to put their student into a private school or home school their child, where others may be left on their own. This has made me work even harder to make sure that all children are truly being given the opportunity to be as successful as they can so they can be productive members of our community.
 
PL: Our readers want leaders in local government. Why should they vote for you?
 
Sebesky: I am a person of high integrity and someone who is known to work hard to make sure that things get done with all citizens, communities, and businesses in mind. I ask questions, do my research, collaborate, and demand transparency. I do not allow my personal views to influence my decision making, as you must be able to separate your personal bias from what is best for the city.

Read more Project: Election 2016 candidate profiles.

News
Jenkins-Bailey wants to address needs of students who make up Manassas’ changing demographics

Kim M. Jenkins-Bailey seeks a seat on the Manassas City School Board.
 
We sent a questionnaire to Kim M. Jenkins-Bailey, and all other candidates for Manassas City School Board. Her responses are below: 

Find your polling place

We sent a questionnaire to Harrison. His responses are below: 
 
PL: What are the top three major issues facing Manassas residents?

Jenkins-Bailey: Division, Calibration. 
In respect to division, there appears to be detachment from the essence of practical application to the needs of our students. There is also an unspoken separation on rendering each student the proper tools needed to succeed.

Moreover, there is currently not enough representation to address the variation of needs for our diverse demographics which is causing a slit discord amongst communities and educators. 

Calibration is a need in order to concentrate on outlined goals for success. If officials are not willing to view the actual problems and concerns of those who we serve, inevitably there will be more detachment from those who attempt to remain involved because they feel their voice is unheard. 

PL: What concrete solutions do you propose to address these issues?

Jenkins-Bailey: Acknowledge the similarity within the diversity, and draw a concise consensus in ideologies to move forward as a unit to aid students and communities.
 
PL: From your perspective, what is the job description of the office you’re seeking?

Jenkins-Bailey: It is perceived as a School Board representative, the responsibilities are to serve the Manassas City School system by addressing the challenges, and obstacle with sound resolve for the improvement and productivity of institution fitness, Additional, provide a high level of integrity as a representative in each matter, duty, and task which governs the office by policy and procedure. Moreover, present facts and accuracy to the functions of the educational system of K-12 for the continuous progression. Furthermore, to present students with optimum opportunities of transition preparedness of personal and professional existence.

PL: What expertise will you bring to the office?

Jenkins-Bailey:
I bring a high level of proficiency background in sociology, education, business, government and public relations. I have over 10 years of higher education and 20 years of work experience. I have worked in team organizations, low to high-level management, and provide sustainable projects and programs. I am also proficient in inner office affairs from the smallest of detail to the largest of execution. I make sound decisions, judgment calls and perform with detail-oriented precision.

PL: Do you feel that the average citizen is well informed and understands the workings of city government? If not, how do you intend on improving communication with your constituency? 
 
Jenkins-Bailey: Sometimes. It really depends on the concern or the priority. In order to engage more constituents, there has to be personal involvement. In goes to the area of diverse relations. If each person recognizes their personal duty and responsibility to remain informed, then communication would improve. A way to get people involved is speaking to their concerns, expressing clearly the needs, and acknowledging their support and involvement.

PL: Have you ever made any mistakes in your public life? How have they affected you?

Jenkins-Bailey: An error is a happenstance which should teach and help a person to improve and possibly prevent other mistakes. I aim to learn from happenstances as I acknowledge they will occur. It is a wise and mature person who grows from their mistakes.

PL: Our readers want leaders in local government. Why should they vote for you?

Jenkins-Bailey: I am a leader who is dedicated to helping our education system reflect wholeness, confidence, and approval. Moreover, to provide each child with an educational experience capable of producing qualified and desired residents and employees. A vote for me is a vote for you.

Read more Project: Election 2016 candidate profiles.

News
Presidential candidate Jill Stein to speak at University of Mary Washington

stein

FREDERICKSBURG, Va. — Jill Stein, the Green Party’s candidate for U.S. President, will appear Sunday at Mary Washington University in Fredericksburg, states University spokeswoman Marty Morrison.

Submitted:

Green Party Presidential nominee Dr. Jill Stein will be speaking at a public forum at the University of Mary Washington campus in Fredericksburg on Sunday, November 6.

The event will be held in the Chandler Ballroom at the University Center from 7 p.m. until 9 p.m.

Event is open to the public.

Stein and Gary Johnson, of the Libertarian Party, are running against Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump in the November 8 General Election. Stein and Johnson were excluded from the recent series of presidential debates. 

News
Parr: Manassas residents will have say on new public safety facilities, pay

Rex Par is one of three Democrats vying for three open seats on the Manassas City Council.
 
We sent a questionnaire to Parr and all other candidates seeking a seat on the Manassas City Council. Parr’s responses are below: 

Find your polling place 

PL: What are the top three major issues facing Manassas residents?

Parr: Schools, Public Safety, and Economic Development

PL: What concrete solutions do you propose to address these issues?
 
Parr: We need to engage a broad cross-section of our community in creating a new vision and strategic plan for Manassas, Citizens will weigh in on funding for schools, replacing Jennie Dean Elementary School, universal pre-K and Career and Technical Education. They will give us direction on new facilities and competitive pay for Public Safety. They will give opinions on the adequacy of our Economic Development efforts and our transportation network. Once they have spoken we can begin the process of moving Manassas forward, together.
 
PL: From your perspective, what is the job description of the office you’re seeking?

Parr: Do the right things, the right way, for the right reasons.

PL: What expertise will you bring to the office?

Parr:
Business skills honed over years as CEO of a very successful company. Governance skills learned in service to important community institutions. Proven strategic planning skills that help move organizations forward. Good people skills and a penchant for collaboration.
 
PL: Do you feel that the average citizen is well informed and understands the workings of city government? If not, how do you intend on improving communication with your constituency? 
 
Parr: I think the average citizen has so much on their plate that they don’t typically make time to keep up-to-date on local government. I am committed to a new, citizen-driven strategic planning process. We will have to engage people in multiple ways at multiple times and places. Education will need to precede visioning and planning. With the help of the City’s professional staff and skilled facilitators, we can get it done.
 
PL: Have you ever made any mistakes in your public life? How have they affected you?
 
Parr: Although I have been involved in governing, leading and managing several local institutions, I’ve not held elected public office. So my mistakes are still before me. I hope to learn from them and avoid repeating them.
 
PL: Our readers want leaders in local government. Why should they vote for you?
 
Parr: Leadership Prince William awarded me their inaugural ‘Vision’ award. The Prince William County Human Rights Commission named me a ‘Humanitarian’. The Coalition for Human Services awarded me for lifetime achievement. I was Grand Marshall of the Greater Manassas Christmas Parade. The Chamber of Commerce awarded me their inaugural ‘Sen. Charles J. Colgan Visionary Award’. Senator Charles J. Colgan and many others have endorsed me.

Read more Project: Election 2016 candidate profiles.

News
Lovejoy focused on promoting Manassas economy

Ian Lovejoy is running to keep his seat on the Manassas City Council. He is one of three Republicans vying for seats on the Council that is up for grabs.
 
We sent a questionnaire to Lovejoy and all other candidates seeking a seat on the Manassas City Council. Lovejoy’s responses are below: 

Find your polling place 

PL: What are the top three major issues facing Manassas residents?

Lovejoy: 1. Reconciling the opinions some in the region have about the city, with the more positive truth.
 
2. Deciding what kind of city we want to be: Fairfax/Arlington model vs. Winchester/Leesburg model
 
3. Improving quality of life for current residents: overcrowding, zoning issues, etc.

PL: What concrete solutions do you propose to address these issues?
 
Lovejoy: Our Economy-Playing to our Strengths.
*Fully revamp the city’s Economic Development website
*Launch SBA HUBzone marketing plan to attract high paying government contractors
*Work with regional partners to establish physical/virtual business incubator
*Work with local nonprofits to produce commercials featuring city businesses to air on city controlled stations and online
*Establish Entrepreneurship Academy in partnership with Chamber of Commerce and other community partners *Launch “Manassas is Open for Business” campaign
*Fight for the Taxpayer! Oppose raising taxes on businesses and citizens
*Expand membership in our Manassas Business Council to better advise council on economic matters and act as ambassadors to the broader business community
*Host semi-annual event with regional real-estate agents to communicate positive city information
 
PL: From your perspective, what is the job description of the office you’re seeking?

Lovejoy: To be the citizen’s voice. To aid residents in interfacing with the government (customer service). To recognize that being elected comes with the requirement to commit to a higher ideal, to recognize one is in the unique position to, ever so modestly, change our community for the better and attempt to rally others to that cause.

PL: What expertise will you bring to the office?

Lovejoy:
Individual citizens working together make a community strong– not the government. I’ve practiced what I preached and have served the community in many non-governmental roles including as President of the Manassas City Public Schools Education Foundation, as a volunteer for Historic Manassas, Inc., as Vice President of the Point of Woods HOA and currently as Chairman of the Tri-County Walk to End Alzheimer’s, in honor of my Grandfather, Clennie Lovejoy. I was recently named one of Northern Virginia’s “40 under 40”, recognized as one of the most “influential people in their professional industries and catalysts of community impact.”
 
PL: Do you feel that the average citizen is well informed and understands the workings of city government? If not, how do you intend on improving communication with your constituency? 
 
Lovejoy: I think we have a very engaged citizenry, but there’s always room to improve. I’ve been at the forefront of communicating with residents and sharing information (newsletter, direct mail, social media). I’d redouble those efforts.
 
PL: Have you ever made any mistakes in your public life? How have they affected you?
 
Lovejoy: None that I’m aware of.
 
PL: Our readers want leaders in local government. Why should they vote for you?
Lovejoy: There isn’t a day that goes by that I do not feel blessed to serve the residents of the City of Manassas. More than going to ribbon cuttings or sitting behind the dais, I’ve worked with residents to improve our city and will continue to lead with clear principles, and innovative ideas.

Read more Project: Election 2016 candidate profiles.

News
Cendejas: Show Manassas Park residents where tax money is going, work to lower rate

Hector Cendejas is running as a write-in candidate for the Manassas Park Governing Body. 
 
He hopes to fill one of three open council seats.
 
We sent a questionnaire to Cendejas and all other candidates seeking a seat on the Governing Body. Cendejas’ responses are below: 

Find your polling place 

PL: What are the top three major issues facing Manassas Park residents?

Cendejas: While listening to hundreds of residents in our city, I’ve noted an underlying disconnect between city hall and residents. This disconnect translates into deeper frustration with other issues.
 
I am committed to making sure our residents are fully engaged, because we as residents deal with these issues every day and know the best solutions. City finances and the budget are also recurrent issues of importance for residents. We need to make sure our education system is properly funded, prioritize bringing commerce into our city, and prevent backwards development-planning which further exacerbates transportation issues for Manassas Park.
 
Cost of living is also a challenge for many, due to high taxes and water bills. We need to prevent any tax increases and find a solution to MP’s long-standing high water costs. This will allow us to maintain long-term residents in the city and attract more businesses.

PL: What concrete solutions do you propose to address these issues?
 
Cendejas: In order to empower and engage residents in local decision-making, we need to be creative in our approach. We need to be interactive with our community by having meetings in their neighborhoods and creating Neighborhood Advisory Teams (or Commissions) to maintain constant dialogue.
 
We also need to use our technology more effectively to engage everyone. For example, it’d be great to have a city app sometime in the future for regular updates and hear from residents more easily. We need to be transparent and accountable to residents.
 
We should explore options that may include refinancing our debt and developing a business plan. This business plan could include incentives for Manassas Park residents willing to invest in the city as business owners and working with corporations in neighboring cities to explore the potential of expansion into Manassas Park.
 
I would host a town hall focused on commerce to bring together residents and businesses to begin developing strong ties between potential consumers and vendors. We also need to prevent residential developments that would make transportation issues worse. This negatively affects workers in our city too.
 
I also want to get creative in finding funds to cover smaller projects. High taxes and water bills have been two of the most recurrent issues I’ve heard affecting cost of living for residents. We need to be transparent with residents about how we are using taxes in our city.
 
People want to see where their money is going to be sure their taxes are being used wisely and effectively. We also need to take steps to have a fair rate for the water bill. It is important to be transparent with residents about why the rate is higher than local jurisdictions and work toward a lower rate.
 
 
PL: From your perspective, what is the job description of the office you’re seeking?

Cendejas: As a council member, my job will be to be the voice of all residents in Manassas Park. A big part of this job will be listening and constantly working to find all options to address our issues. With all options on the table, I will work with residents to make the best decisions. I also believe the job description includes being transparent and being accountable to residents in the city.

PL: What expertise will you bring to the office?

Cendejas:
My professional and academic training have given me the tools to be an effective council member. My masters in Social Work included preparation in Community Organization and Administration.
 
This preparation included training in planning and managing budgets. My time with MPCS also taught me a lot about the importance of strong collaboration with our schools. We can work with MPCS and local stakeholders to develop nontraditional and apprentice-style programs for youth, foster community engagement in local politics and become stronger.
 
I also have a lot of experience in promoting civic engagement. As a fellow for a member of Congress, I focused on bringing the community together to help address issues that directly affected the constituents. The member of Congress held quarterly town halls and also created a group of residents from different fields who would discuss what was important in the community. I plan to implement a similar structure with residents who will provide regular input to city officials.
 
PL: Do you feel that the average citizen is well informed and understands the workings of town government? If not, how do you intend on improving communication with your constituency? 
 
Cendejas: I feel citizens in our city definitely know the issues affecting us; they face them every day. I also believe they know best what we should be doing about these issues. Where I think the disconnect exists is getting to the how they can make their voices heard. It’s up to city officials to seek voices and opinions beyond election time. My goal is to increase transparency and make sure residents are at the table.
 
PL: Have you ever made any mistakes in your public life? How have they affected you?
 

Cendejas: This is the first role I am seeking in public life. I know there will be a learning curve and I will have to adapt quickly, but I am more than capable of making this happen. If I make a mistake, I can promise to learn from my mistake and always work to be better.

 
PL: Our readers want leaders in local government. Why should they vote for you?
 

Cendejas: Your readers should vote for me because my goal is to make sure our residents are part of the decision-making in our city. We are at a crossroads right now. We can either maintain the lack of communication between residents and leaders that is apparent in the city, or we can move forward with transparency, inclusion and decision-making by all, for all.

My experiences as a local employee have given me the opportunity to more deeply understand the issues in our city and develop relationships with people, who I know will be greats assets to help us moving forward. Now, as a social worker, I am empowering those I serve by working with them to understand problems affecting them, and together find the best solutions. I will also bring these skills to our city as council member.

Read more Project: Election 2016 candidate profiles.

Page 4 of 42« First...23456...102030...Last »