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January 01, 2012

Board leadership, appointments could be contentious

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DailyProgressBy Brian Wheeler
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Sunday, January 1, 2012

When the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors holds its first meeting of 2012 on Wednesday, members say they may immediately deadlock on the question of leadership and critical committee appointments.

Among the positions at stake are chairman and vice chairman of the Board of Supervisors and the two seats held by supervisors on the Metropolitan Planning Organization. The MPO is the key transportation funding and policy body that will have some oversight over the recently approved U.S. 29 Western Bypass project.

During the previous two years, a conservative majority consisting of three Republicans and one Democrat have held sway with 4-2 votes on a number of controversial issues, including the bypass and some environmental matters. That block’s de-facto leader is Supervisor Kenneth C. Boyd, who was just re-elected to a third term.

On these contentious issues, Boyd has been joined in the majority by fellow Republicans Duane E. Snow and Rodney S. Thomas and conservative Democrat Lindsay G. Dorrier Jr. With Dorrier’s retirement, and the election of Democrat Christopher J. Dumler to the open Scottsville District seat, the specter of split government may be returning to the County Office Building.

“The board has a 3-3 split that will probably emerge on some issues now that there’s no longer a 4-2 majority on Ken Boyd’s side,” said independent Supervisor Dennis S. Rooker.

The third vote, on what Rooker describes as the other side, is Democrat Ann H. Mallek, who has served as the board’s chairwoman for the past two years.

In a tradition dating back to the late 1980s, supervisors have rotated through the chairmanship with the newest members getting in line for their chance to lead the board for a two-year term. By custom, Snow would become chairman and Thomas would become vice chairman.

However, when Snow started making phone calls seeking support, Boyd said Snow received some feedback from Rooker, Mallek and Dumler that more than the chairmanship was on the line.

“They indicated they want some balance,” Boyd said. “They want a position back on the MPO, which means they are trying to do something to stop the Western Bypass.”

Thomas confirmed in an interview that he favors Snow for chairman and himself as vice chairman, and that they should also both continue to serve on the MPO. Snow could not be reached for comment.

“The people on the other side say there are four positions they are strongly interested in — chairman, vice chairman and the two positions on the MPO,” Rooker said. “Those on Ken [Boyd]’s side feel they should occupy all four of those positions. I just don’t think that’s reasonable.”

Thomas says he is very interested in continuing on the MPO to advance the Western Bypass and other transportation projects.

“I am working on ways to improve both Route 29 north and Route 250 east,” Thomas said. “We need to start making some plans now.”

At the first meeting of the year following an election, the board selects its leadership in the morning and makes appointments for boards and commissions, including the MPO, after a closed luncheon meeting. The county executive chairs the meeting until a permanent chair is voted upon by the board.

The rotation scheme has typically taken some of the political infighting out of the question of who would effectively be the “mayor” of Albemarle. However, Thomas said one faction is signaling that it will only support that tradition if it gets representation on the MPO.

“The public should know what is going on and what is transpiring,” Thomas said. “With us talking at the meeting, I expect it will come out in the open. I hope we can get to the point where we can get things done.”

Boyd said he would support both Thomas and Snow.

“I don’t think they are willing to turn over the MPO seats to anyone opposed to the Western Bypass,” Boyd said. “The leadership decision should follow tradition. Many of the committee assignments can be a point of discussion.”

Rooker said that if, as expected, Snow becomes chairman, he will seek “reasonable” decisions about the other positions.

“If Duane [Snow] wants to be chair, leaders have to recognize there have to be areas for compromise,” Rooker said. “It would occur subject to them being reasonable about other appointments.”

Boyd pointed to other issues that would be in the spotlight for compromise.

“There are other things looming, like the Crozet library and the land swap for athletic fields at Biscuit Run, that people will need support from a majority,” Boyd added. “Let’s don’t set up this 3-3 split as the table we are sitting at for the rest of the year. That wouldn’t be good for the county or anyone.”

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