Gwen Bell is running to represent Rock Hill District for the Stafford County Board of Supervisors with a platform of improving education and county pay parity. The position is currently held by Wendy Maurer.
Name: Gwen Bell
Running for: Stafford County Board of Supervisors, Rock Hill District
Work: Co-Owner of Beltway Commuter Service
Education: Master of Science: Business Administration May 2008, National Louis University Bachelor of Science: Criminal Law May 2005, Saint Leo University
Community Involvement: Have served as a community volunteer with the church for over 15 years as a marriage mentor to the community, Bag of Hope to those in need of food, Back to School Giveaway and Christmas events. My most memorable community service was a volunteer with the Sheriff’s office for 20 years, Shop with the Sheriff-Back to School events each year. The latest community involvement was 2019 Summer School lunch Program for kids in Stafford County.
Questions and Answers
PL: What are the top three major issues facing the district you wish to represent?
Bell: Education system.
Lack of Pay parity and benefits with surrounding jurisdictions for county employees. Recruiting and retaining employees.
Congested and dangerous roadways.
PL: What concrete solutions do you propose to address these issues?
Bell: My plan for improving the education system: As supervisor of the Rock Hill District, I will ensure that our neighborhood public schools are provided with all the necessary resources to ensure that every student have equal access to the best educational programs to prepare them for our 21st century.
- I will ensure that all funds state funding allocated for education will be strictly used for education purposes.
- Ensure funding the STEM/STEAM educational and school programs because these opportunities are critical to our children’s future.
- I will ensure that developers invest in Stafford County by requiring road and school proffers prior to building.
My plan for road improvements: Virginia Department of Transportation is a state agency and therefore we should be advocating for improved roadways throughout the county. I will work with our local delegates to ensure that we utilize state resources for road improvements, to include solution for our current congested and dangerous roadways. In addition, I would strongly recommend that we utilize our Sheriff’s Office to regulate the rural roadways.
My plan to improve pay and benefits as well retaining employees: We have phenomenal educators throughout our districts. Our educators, administrators, first responders, public servants and all county employees serve the local residence of Stafford. As supervisor of the Rock Hill District, I will ensure that our county infrastructure progresses with the 21st century.
- I will implement the DROP Program for all Stafford County employees. The DROP is a benefit for employees as well as the county. It provides the county the opportunity to retain some of the most experience employees for an additional three years. DROP provides the ability for an employee to retire for purposes of the pension plan, while continuing to work and receive a salary for a period of up to three years. During the DROP period, the pension plan accumulates the monthly benefit in an account balance identified as payable to the member only at the end of the DROP period. Similar plans have been successfully implemented across many other States (e.g. Columbia South Carolina) and what it basically does is help with cessation planning for our more experienced educators to mentor new teachers and reduce the high turnover rate throughout our educational system.
- I will recommend the ROP Program to the School Board as a solution to attrition and benefits for school officials. ROP is the acronym for the Retirement Opportunity Program. ROP provides additional income for employees eligible for VRS retirement but not yet eligible to collect Social Security. ROP also utilizes the valuable experience of retirees in continued employment in work assignments compatible with the retiree’s training experience, and qualifications.
- I will implement a Compensation Pay Scale for county employees.
- I will work to ensure that county employees pay adjust to the current market rate.
- I will work with our state delegates to develop state codes that will afford Stafford County mixed-use development with a range of affordable housing choices to retain our local workforce of first responders, law enforcement officers, teachers, and social workers. Let us make Stafford our home-at-large for us all to work, learn and play in our community.
We need thriving shopping and entertainment multi-centers for our family-oriented communities and neighboring military-based families. Economic development is sorely lacking throughout the county.
- I will work to recruit business that the citizens of Stafford so desperately desire. Local businesses will provide more local job opportunities, in addition to citizens spending their money in Stafford County, which increases revenue and allows Stafford to remain competitive with the surrounding jurisdictions. Let us begin to invest more of our citizen’s money here in Stafford so that our assets are used to develop world-class public-school system.
PL: From your perspective, what is the job description of the office you’re seeking?
Bell: The job description for this highly respected office rests on the attributes and values that I hold myself to the highest esteem. Stafford County residents demand these attributes of their elected officials. Each and every Stafford County Supervisor is a public servant not just within the constituent but that they serve but at large.
This is not merely a “job”, the qualities that I bring to this highly esteemed office should be the focus.
- Transparency and accountability for the decisions that are made in the management and uses of our finite resources (i.e. taxpayer’s dollars).
- This job requires frequent and consistent community engagement to get feedback from our residents on our long-term vision.
- Highest level of competency is required in getting this job done. We can no longer be mired in mediocrity and incompetency because we are competing with surrounding jurisdictions
- Creative innovation because not every problem that we face can be fixed by more taxes or more finances.
- Drive and determination…. these are perhaps the two qualities which I assure you that I bring to the table putting the interest of Stafford County is my No. 1 PRIORITY.
Ultimately, I am working to fulfill the mandate that our Stafford County residents demand; improved transportation options; fixing the infrastructure woes; better living wages for our public servants; and of course a world-class educational system.
PL: What expertise will you bring to the office?
Bell: I have firsthand knowledge the challenges we face in Stafford County in relations to transportation issues, attrition rate of county employees, and economic development in Stafford. My experience as a successful business owner of a transportation business has provided me with experience in procurement process to secure government contracts, leveraging funding sources, holding performance measures, developing strategic plans, hosting listening session to gain community input so as to ensure that our residents’ concerns are vetted and considered as part of the decision-making process.
I have been a public servant for over 20 years and have firsthand knowledge of what our law enforcement handles daily, the effects of the prescription drug crisis. My experience provides me the opportunity to forge a relationship with our Sheriff and support him in his efforts in fighting the drug issues in Stafford County.
As a mother of two sons, my husband and I understand that it takes a village to raise a child. Stafford teachers and administrators invested so much more than a good education in my children. I will support our public-school system and educators ensuring that we are schools are equipped to meet the 21st century, highest caliber of educational opportunities.
PL: Do you feel that the average citizen is well-informed and understands the workings of local government?
Bell: I do believe the average citizen needs clarity of the functions and responsibilities of the office based upon my interaction with my constituents. I’ve had the pleasure of communicating so many citizens throughout Stafford during this election cycle. Many are not aware of the particular district they reside. I’ve been utilizing this opportunity to explain the make up of Stafford County and the duties and responsibilities of the board of Supervisors.
PL: Have you ever made any mistakes in your public life? How have they affected you?
Bell: None that I’m aware of.
PL: Our readers want leaders in local government. Why should they vote for you?
Bell: The reason I decided to run for public office is because I believe that I, as well as the citizens of Stafford, are stakeholders of this county. We are the glue that holds this county together. The basis of decisions that are made should reflect what’s in the best interest of the residence of Stafford and that can only be accomplished when we are included in the conversations and in the meetings.
Additionally, there should be an equal representation on our current Board of Supervisors that reflects the make up and desires of the people. Stafford is changing and our local government must be progressing with the times. Our differences are one of the things that makes our country and county so great.
I believe I have a proven record of 20 plus years as a public servant; a record of integrity, respect and honor. One who cares about our community and has dedicated my life to public service. People matter to me and will do my best to represent our community.
In 2004 my husband and I founded a transportation business in Stafford County. Our services contribute to decreased traffic (the removal of 1 lane of traffic from I-95 each day) and pollution. Our initial goal was to contribute to the solution of resolving the communities traffic congestion issues in Stafford County. I have experience in problem-solving as well as a commitment to overcome by maximizing our resources. I believe there our opportunities in Stafford that have not be explored. I’m ready to get to get to work.