The News Desk is a collection of news, notes and breaking items affecting the Fredericksburg community.
Rookie Culpeper supervisor is swing vote in controversy
BY DONNIE JOHNSTON
Culpeper County’s newest supervisor, Alexa Fritz, got her baptism of fire Tuesday morning.
Fritz, who won a special election last month to replace Tom Underwood as the Salem District supervisor, discovered she was the swing vote in a contentious fight to change the Board of Supervisors’ chairmanship from an annual vote by board members to a rotation system.
Fritz voted with Supervisors Steve Nixon, Steve Walker and Sue Hansohn to change a selection process that had been adopted during Reconstruction.
“I talked to people and I had to vote the way I thought was right,” Fritz said afterward.
The chairmanship-selection method is part of the board’s Rules of Procedure, which are usually adopted during the January meeting and bind the supervisors for that particular year.
Since the selection of a chairman is, by law, the first item of business on the January agenda, Rules Committee Chairman Walker said he thought that vote should be taken this month.
The fight began immediately after Walker’s recommendation, with Supervisor Bradley Rosenberger saying it would be almost unpatriotic to change. Rosenberger said Americans have died and are dying to preserve the right to vote in this country.
“I firmly believe in the democratic process,” Rosenberger said. “I would like to continue the process of electing the chairman.”
County Attorney Sandy Robinson said the board would continue the election process, which also is prescribed by law, but it would occur with an “understanding by the members” that the chairmanship would rotate on a yearly basis to the member with the most seniority who hadn’t already served.
Rosenberger still wasn’t satisfied.
“Being chairman is not a right, it is a privilege,” he replied.
“An orderly flow of the chairmanship is reasonable,” said Nixon, who, along with Hansohn, complained about the politics involved in the yearly quest for board leadership.
“It is a very ugly process,” Nixon added.
Chairman Bill Chase took offense at Nixon’s remarks and declared, “I’ve never cut a deal and I’ve never broken a promise [involving the chairman’s election process] and I don’t like it.”
“You may not like it, but deals have been cut,” Nixon replied.
Under the new arrangement—which is not legally binding—Vice Chairwoman Hansohn, with 17 years on the board, would be in line for next year’s chairmanship, followed by Walker, Nixon, Larry Aylor and Fritz.
Chase and Rosenberger, with 31 and 27 years of seniority, are the only two members of the current board who have been chairman. Both have served multiple times.
“Everybody on this board is qualified to serve as chairman,” Nixon said. “To go from one to another just makes sense.”