What if Rappahannock had no voting districts and instead elected all of its representatives as at-large supervisors and school board members? The Rappahannock County Board of Supervisors explored the topic at its monthly meeting Monday afternoon (Feb. 3).
Stonewall-Hawthorne supervisor Chris Parrish asked county attorney Peter Luke to investigate the process of turning Rappahannock into an at-large voting district last month, after a citizen contacted Parrish and asked him why the county still insisted on districting itself.
Luke told the supervisors that the board could, if it so desired, redistrict the county without a public hearing, provided they informed county citizens of the change. However, the addition or subtraction of districts would have to meet state standards of proportionality.
During the course of his research, Luke discovered that Rappahannock has never employed an at-large system: It adopted a board of supervisors in 1870, and has continued with it through today. The county originally consisted of five districts, Luke said: Wakefield, Stonewall, Jackson, Piedmont and Hampton.
A sixth district — Hawthorne — was added in 1887, Luke said. The county remained divided into six districts until 1971, when Stonewall and Hawthorne were combined, Luke said. That system (and division) is still in place.
Luke did note that several nearby counties — notably Madison and Fauquier — employ some form of an at-large system. Madison practices a true at-large system, Luke said, and exists as one large voting district. Fauquier divides itself into districts, but elects its chairman as an at-large position.
“I’ve heard no complaints about our system,” Luke said. “I think you’d need to have a pretty good reason before you change it,” he added.
Several supervisors pointed out that an at-large system would likely not affect the number (or current location) of polling places, but that it did run the risk of electing multiple supervisors from the same geographic area.
Currently, each district has its own supervisor to directly address problems to, Hampton supervisor S. Bryant Lee said, “and that’s the right way to do it for Rappahannock.” The supervisors took no further action to pursue the question.
For the first time in seven months, County Administrator John McCarthy presented the supervisors with a balanced treasurer’s report. Also, the search for a new deputy treasurer — who would be appointed to the position that longtime county treasurer Frances Foster has announced she will give up April 30 — has brought in 14 applications from candidates as of last week.
McCarthy said he’s in the process of narrowing the field down to five qualified candidates, who will then be interviewed at the county extension office Tuesday (Feb. 11) from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
“Several questions have been crossed off my initial list, [like] ‘Tell me about your biggest mistakes professionally,’” McCarthy joked.
Later that same day, the Virginia Department of Transportation is holding a public hearing from 5 to 7 p.m. at the library to discuss the design of the soon-to-be-repaired Wilson Branch bridge on U.S. 522 in Flint Hill. While McCarthy said he didn’t anticipate anyone objecting to the designs, he did mention that construction, which is currently scheduled to begin in 2016, would likely take at least eight months (at least one lane will remain open during the project, VDOT has said).