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Date published: 10/18/2012
A panel of Stafford County residents said this week that there is no need for an elected at-large chairman, but the Board of Supervisors will still discuss the idea at its next meeting.
Supervisor Paul Milde has long pushed for county voters to choose who will sit at the head of the dais.
A seven-member committee, appointed by supervisors in April, was tasked with studying the creation of such a seat and whether it's appropriate for Stafford. Currently, the chairman is elected by the seven members of the board in January of each year.
Committee Chairwoman Linda Musselman, a former county supervisor, presented the report at Tuesday's board meeting. She said there were "no compelling data" to warrant asking for a referendum on changing Stafford's form of government.
The General Assembly would need to pass special legislation that would let the board put the question on a ballot. Another option is for 10 percent of registered voters to request the referendum via petition.
In 2009, about 6,000 voters signed such a petition, Milde said.
"Yet four years later, the requests for serious consideration have consistently been thwarted," he said.
The committee's recommendation came after four meetings, interviews and research.
Ferris Belman was one of those interviewed. He served as Stafford's at-large supervisor from 1985 to 2001, and pushed to remove the position during the 2000 redistricting process, according to the committee's report. The at-large supervisor seat was created as a "tie-breaker" in 1985 when the board had six members.
Belman, who lives in Falmouth, told the the committee that an at-large chairman could create "unnecessary conflict and strife among board members."
The committee cited several reasons why an at-large chairman is not necessary, including that Stafford County's government reports lower costs per capita than similar localities.
If the board does decide at its Nov. 20 meeting to ask for special legislation, the committee recommended following the model used by Loudoun County. A citizen-led movement pushed for the change there.
During a heated discussion that could have rivaled Tuesday night's national presidential debate, supervisors sparred over how committee members handled their job.
Supervisor Gary Snellings called the public finger-pointing over the committee's work "reprehensible."