Considering it was known months ago that he was seeking a third term on Rappahannock County’s Board of Supervisors, Chris Parrish was as surprised as everybody else by the last-minute write-in campaign of private attorney David Konick in challenge of his reelection.
“I welcome competition. It’s always good to have another point of view,” Parrish reacts, suddenly finding himself in a two-man race for what will likely be his final campaign to serve the people of his native Rappahannock County.
“I spent seventy dollars on my first campaign, and zero on my second campaign, and I’ve never taken a dime of any contributions,” Parrish points out after learning that his challenger is raising campaign contributions. “And I don’t want to have the expense and hassle of a campaign.”
But, he adds: “My biggest problem is that I wouldn’t want what [my opponent] says to disparage by credibility,” saying for example that Konick “intimates that we’re wasting money and hiring too many people.”
“I feel like if there is any kind of false information [leveled against me] I need to fight that, set it straight,” the supervisor says.
And there’s no doubt Parrish will defend his record — and in a language that he finds resonates with lifelong friends and supporters.
As vice chair of the board representing the Stonewall-Hawthorne District, Parrish was described in a 2017 profile in the Rappahannock News as “plainspoken” and a “middle of the road pragmatist and problem solver.”
“I seek guidance on the issues and ask a lot of questions,” he said at the time. “I like to keep my ear down to the ground.”
Parrish, it was also noted, is often found at events throughout Rappahannock County, engaging his constituents and others in conversation on issues ranging from farming to zoning to the budget.
And he’s as “local” as any supervisor can come.
He grew up on his family’s cattle farm near Viewtown (he still lives there today) and attended elementary school in a two-room schoolhouse at Forest Grove. He was drafted into the Army in 1967, learning Russian, Turkish and German while in uniform. It was no surprise afterwards, therefore, that he would earn a University of Virginia degree in linguistic anthropology, adding Spanish to his already impressive repertoire, and later a degree in animal science from Virginia Tech.
Little did Parrish know that with the two diplomas combined he would stand out with the Holstein Association, which enlisted the Spanish-speaking animal expert to buy and sell cattle in Central and South America.
He would begin public service in 1978, first as an appointee on the Rappahannock County Electoral Board, where he remained for 27 years, then four terms on the county’s Board of Assessors, and one term on the Board of Equalization. He also served as president of the local chapter of the Farm Bureau for 18 years.
“These positions enabled me to get around the county and gave me good insight into how things work here,” Parrish says. And now he’s wrapping up his second four-year term on the board of supervisors and hoping for a third.
This past week, discussing the Nov. 7 election, Parrish all but confirms it will be his last run for high office.
“In terms of serving the county, I don’t really care about the salary,” the supervisor stresses. “But I am spending more and more time doing county business and I would rather concentrate on my farm and my personal life.”
Indeed, it’s been a difficult year or more for Parrish and the entire board of supervisors, not the least of the burdens being the retirement of a longtime county administrator, the rather abrupt resignation of the administrator’s successor, and the hiring of an interim administrator who is currently trying to bring order to county business while at the same time searching for a permanent replacement.
“The first thing we need to do is get the administration straightened out,” Parrish says of his priorities were he to win a third term. “Key positions need to get filled with good people.”
He shifts to Konick, who “intimates we’re wasting money and hiring too many people. He doesn’t mention the fact that we had two people quit who were wearing three hats — each! He puts out some false figures.”
Parrish, at the same time, is openly unhappy with a “small” group of county residents, among them his opponent, who he says are “intent” on disrupting the daily proceedings of county government — whether it be through costly litigation or repeated Freedom of Information Act requests — during a time when Courthouse Row is trying to solidify its footing.
“It seems like some people use FOIA to disrupt the smooth running of the government,” he says, “because when we get these huge requests everything stops — there’s a time limit to get the information back out. These lawsuits also are counterproductive.
“My biggest problem is the fact that [these] people delight in publicly embarrassing and disparaging individuals [who are serving Rappahannock County] and I think it’s very un-Christian and counterproductive. And I feel sorry for the people who entertain themselves that way.”
In defense of the county government and board, Parrish commented this year: “I think we are in good shape. We have one of the lowest tax rates compared to neighboring counties and I think those rates will stay the same, indefinitely. Rappahannock is a desirable place to live. Our schools are great as evidenced by our kids getting state and national recognition at academic and sporting events; and the pace of life, the scenery and farmlands, the peace and quiet of country life all contribute to making this a special place.”
As for future focus, Parrish rattles off everything from keeping the economy sound to preserving what makes Rappahannock special. He does call attention to “a new wrinkle” in the county’s Comprehensive Plan, which is still being revised, saying the document “does not address commercial solar panel fields, which have been applied for in all the surrounding counties. And we need to address that before we get an application, not after.
“Also, the county needs to decide where we want to go for events” — referring specifically to the current application from Rappahannock landowner Bill Fletcher to turn one his well-known Sperryville-area farms into a large venue for public events.
“Do we want them? Do we not want them?” Parrish wonders out loud. “Or do we [the county] want to handle [events]? We have no guidelines? We need to have a public hearing on that.”
In addition, he says: “Once we have a permanent county administrator, my first task I think is important is to implement paid EMS [Emergency Medical Services] in combination with volunteers.” Currently there are no paid fire or rescue personnel within the county’s numerous volunteer departments.
And as for a controversial multi-use exercise path proposed by the ad hoc group RappTrails to connect the villages of the county, Parrish, who is an avid bicyclist, has supported the idea from the start:
“This will be great for all kinds of folks — bikers, hikers, the high school cross-country team, you name it. I’d like to see a countywide trail system. It would be great not only for our local residents but tourism as well.”