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King George workshop draws potential candidates

By CATHY DYSON

At a workshop for those interested in running for office in King George County, would-be candidates heard about everything from pitfalls of paperwork to practical advice from those who have been there, done that.

About 30 people attended two different sessions Tuesday in the county boardroom, where Board of Supervisors and School Board members meet regularly.

Those in the audience included people who will put their names on the ballot in November—or are considering it—as well as those who may seek office in years to come.

“This was great, it was a lot of good information and a great turnout,” said Mike Rose, a School Board member and successful write-in candidate four years ago.

He plans a traditional campaign this time—and needed to know what paperwork he faced.

Keri Gusmann, who was appointed King George’s commonwealth’s attorney in August, will run for the office in November to fill the unexpired term of Matt Britton. She plans to seek a full, four-year term in 2015.

“I hope to be here for the long run,” she said.

Shawn Lawrence, who ran for Fredericksburg City Council in 2010, is thinking about challenging Supervisor Cedell Brooks Jr. for the Shiloh District seat.

Lawrence moved to King George in November, but has been in the region 15 years.

“Change is always good,” he said. “It keeps the county going with new ideas and new blood.”

Amanda Nicoletti was interested in knowing what elected office entails, if she runs for a school board seat in the future.

“I was just excited to hear about this opportunity,” said the young mother. “It’s helpful to understand the process and get information on the roles and responsibilities involved.”

The workshop was developed by Supervisor Ruby Brabo and Registrar Lorrie Gump. Before Brabo was elected in November 2011, she and Gump agreed that more information might encourage more people to seek office.

As plans progressed, they included former School Board member Renee Parker. The county’s electoral board—Isaac Hughes, Rick Crookshank and Larry Kile—helped sponsor it.

“We would all benefit so much more by having a pool of candidates who have different ideas and fresh ideas,” said Parker, who served on the School Board for four years and challenged Supervisor Joe Grzeika for his seat in 2011. “Hopefully, you’ll put this information out to people you talk to, and we’ll have another workshop in April.”

Gump, the registrar, showed slides of what the State Board of Elections requires—“forms, forms and more forms,” as she put it.

She stressed the importance of filling them out neatly and correctly, or the state will not accept them. For instance, a two-sided form has to be copied as such, not as two pages with information on one side of each page.

When candidates gather names for their petitions, they should ask voters to include the last four digits of their Social Security numbers, though Gump acknowledged “people are really touchy about that.”

Gump told candidates they can’t leave their petitions unattended, in a store or lobby of a business. And even though 125 names of registered voters are required, she suggested they gather closer to 200.

Sometimes, people might think they live in one district but actually are in another. Or they’re not registered voters, or are convicted felons who haven’t had their voting rights restored.

“I know this seems a little confusing,” Gump said, as she talked about the bank accounts candidates need to open, and how they must document campaign spending. “It’s really not, because we will walk you through every step of the way.”

(Gump’s presentation is posted on the King George blog on fredericksburg.com.)

Parker and Brabo showed organizational charts and gave a quick lesson in county and school government. Parker mentioned the challenge of balancing work and family obligations with board duties, as well as the lack of cooperation between supervisors and school board members.

Brabo said she ordered 2,500 rack cards for her race as Dahlgren District supervisor—and still has about 2,000 of them.

She said the best advice came from former supervisors who’d been through the process. One of her most effective campaign decisions was to get family members and high-school seniors to help with door-to-door campaigning. Teenagers designed her Facebook page and came up with her slogan: “Dedicated to you and our community.”

Gump told audience members they shouldn’t be afraid to run for office, that she and her co-workers would help with the process.

“We aren’t saying you won’t be nervous,” she said. “You should be nervous, that’s a normal human reaction.”

Cathy Dyson: 540/374-5425

cdyson@freelancestar.com

CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW?

During the question-and-answer period after the workshop for candidates, several people asked if something could be done about the sound system in the King George County boardroom.

“I’ve been to numerous board meetings,” said resident Elaine Harvey, “and one thing always bothered me. If you go to the podium to speak, not one behind you can hear what you’re saying.”

Rich Lorey, who plans to challenge Supervisor John LoBuglio, said people watching the meeting on the MetroCast broadcast can’t hear, either.

Supervisor Ruby Brabo encouraged people to keep voicing their complaints. “Eventually they’ll get the message.”

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