While certainly no stranger to Rappahannock County government, Washington lawyer David Konick is running a bit late with his write-in campaign to become county supervisor representing the Stonewall-Hawthorne District.
But Konick tells the Rappahannock News he’s not overly concerned about mounting a write-in contest against incumbent Supervisor Chris Parrish with just days to go before the Nov. 7 Election Day.
“I used to be a Kirby vacuum cleaner salesman,” Konick quips, “working my way through college. So knocking on doors is nothing new for me. It’s just a different product.
“I would also say it’s very educational,” the lawyer adds. “It’s wonderful to meet new people. It’s wonderful to hear the different views of people who have lived in Rappahannock County for their whole lives. And then you go to the next house and you hear the views of people who moved in a year ago.
“And remarkably there’s an awful lot of similarity on quite a few issues,” he continues. “I think Chris has really lost touch with the people in the district, because what I’m hearing . . . is people are pretty agitated about certain things.”
Konick, who earned undergraduate degrees in history and Russian studies in 1974 and a law degree in 1977 — all from George Washington University — has studied and lived in the Soviet Union and Russia on separate occasions, first when enrolled in a program sponsored by Moscow State University and Leningrad University.
After graduating law school, Konick moved to Rappahannock County, where he became a solo practitioner concentrating on civil, commercial and land use litigation, real estate and foreclosures, and estate planning and administration.
From 1993 through 2002 he went back overseas, becoming an independent consultant on Soviet legal reform, working on a variety of donor sponsored technical assistance and legal reform projects in the former Soviet Union, primarily in Russia, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine.
Returning to the United States in 2002, Konick resumed his private practice. In December 2014, he was appointed to the Board of Zoning Appeals, although from 1981 through 1985, in between job stints, he had served as the county’s Zoning and Subdivision Administrator, consultant to the Planning Commission, secretary to the Board of Zoning Appeals, plus he handled three additional county responsibilities.
“So I had six hats,” he says. “And guess what: I did all that for $5,000, two days a week, and one secretary. She issued all the building permits, all the zoning permits, all the [required legal postings of] ads — we never had any problems with our ads like they do now [and] there isn’t substantially any more activity now than there was in the 1980s when I did it.
“So this notion that every job has to have a separate person I just don’t agree with it,” Konick says.
And county job responsibilities are not all that has changed in Rappahannock County over the last several decades, he continues.
“I think what you are seeing is the byproduct of 25 or 30 years . . . of a board of supervisors that had the benefit of a county administrator who, for the most part, was extremely competent, was extremely knowledgeable, and . . . shared the values of what the county was and what we wanted to basically protect.”
Referring to John McCarthy, who became Rappahannock’s administrator in 1988 after serving two years as zoning administrator and administrative assistant to the supervisors. McCarthy retired in 2016.
“The board of supervisors entrusted him with a great deal of authority and a great deal of deference, which he earned — and respect, which he earned,” Konick says. “The bad side is I think the board of supervisors [during the McCarthy years] sort of disengaged from their responsibility. And they would come to meetings and John would pretty much advise them what the issues were, and what they should do, and they followed his lead and they came out for the most part okay.
“But with him gone they don’t have anybody like that. And they’re still trying to operate as if they did,” he says. “Someone told me that [current interim administrator] Brenda Garton asked the board when they started looking for a permanent replacement for the county administrator, ‘What do they want in a county administrator? What kind of person do they want to hire?’
“And one supervisor responded: ‘Brenda McCarthy’ — somebody who can do all the work, and do all the thinking, and do all the preparation,” Konick says in other words. “And I don’t think the county government should run that way. The supervisors are not called the ‘Board of Rubber Stamps.’ They’re called the board of supervisors and they have to supervise.”
He further argues that “not one” supervisor today “has any management experience. And I do. I worked in international aid projects with multi-million dollar budgets. I had maybe 20 to 30 people in four or five regional offices that reported to me, and so I do know how to manage people.”
Then there are deficiencies in the county’s zoning regulations, which the lawyer contends are being “chipped away” at by Parrish.
“People think we have a 25-acre minimum lot size in agriculture. We don’t,” he says. “We have a 2-acre minimum lot size in agriculture. Go look in the subdivision ordinance. Go look in the zoning ordinance. It’s in there . . .
“And all kinds of special permit uses are allowed in agriculture — go look it up — including things like penal institutions, including all kinds of stuff you could put in with a special exception permit.”
Konick also is critical of this month’s vote by supervisors to support, without what he says was sufficient public hearing, a proposed multi-use bike path in the county, its initial 1.2-mile phase to link the public elementary and high school. “I’ve been to a hundred households in the last week, and I talk about the bike path, and I’ve yet to encounter one person who thinks it’s a good idea,” Konick insists.
“I’ve lived in the county for 42 years and we don’t have any bike path or multi-use trails connecting the schools except Route 211. Somehow we’ve all managed to survive. If we have to live another year or two years before we do [the trail] it’s not going to kill anybody. And if it would save the county a million dollars . . . I don’t see the harm of investigating it. And let’s get some bids and find out what we’re talking about . . .
“This is not the way you run a railroad, or a county, or anything else. There’s no excuse for it.”
Finally, surrounding Konick’s reputation for being litigious-happy, to the detriment of the county government and local taxpayers, he replies:
“People have criticized this. This has to do with the rule of law. This is how we do things in a civilized society. If you have a disagreement, or you think a legislative body is not following the law, the law provides a remedy. And that remedy is to ask a judge to review what they did and make a ruling on it. And that is every citizen’s right, and that’s what those cases are about . . .
“I say this is fundamental democracy, the right of the people to witness the operations of their own government. And if people don’t have knowledge they can’t effectively participate.”