Everybody gathered at the Police Association Hall, on Va. 234 about a mile south of Hoadly Road, already knew he was going to announce his candidacy for re-election as the Republican chairman of the Prince William Board of County Supervisors anyway.
Connaughton said it’s always tricky to decide how many people to bring forward to present testimonials at a political event and how long to talk when it’s finally his turn.
“You know I’ve heard people say after these things, ‘If the candidate just didn’t speak, these things would be great,'” Connaughton said of political rallies and announcement ceremonies.
So, in the interest of brevity, Connaughton gave his audience a list of the board’s accomplishments since he was elected chairman a little more that three years ago.
In his tenure, Connaughton said, the board has lowered the tax rate 20 cents per $100 of valuation, consistently run year-end budget surpluses, raised the county’s bond rating, added 75 fire and rescue positions, increased the police department by about 100 sworn and civilian positions, expanded blight and litter control programs, increased teacher and county employees pay to market rates and increased the county’s fund balance of “rainy day” account.
The accomplishments have helped Prince William County survive slow economic times better than others, Connaughton said.
“These are very difficult times in the region, and in the country right now,” Connaughton said.
“We don’t seem to feel it that much and the reason is because of people like you all, making this community work and also it’s because of some of the things we’ve been able to do in the county government,” he said.
Another reason Prince William County may be faring better than its neighbors is because of the arrival of new businesses, Connaughton said.
“I don’t think most people realize that last year, Prince William County was the number one jurisdiction in the commonwealth in capital investment. In fact one out of every three dollars in economic investment in the Commonwealth last year was in Prince William County,” he said.
Connaughton said he is particularly proud of the partnership he has been able to create with the School Board and the relationship sets Prince William County apart from other Northern Virginia jurisdictions.
“We couldn’t be doing some of the things that we are doing if we didn’t have peace with our School Board. That’s very unique,” Connaughton said.
“I don’t know if people realize this but we built six more schools than were in our original plans,” he said.
Connaughton will face Larry Williams, who recently announced, in the Republican primary.
Connaughton said Williams is actually a Democrat who has disguised himself as a Republican and entered the race as a spoiler at the behest of Sheriff E. Lee Stoffregen III, who has been at odds with the Republicans on the Board of County Supervisors.
“I can’t help but notice that my opponent is a reserve deputy sheriff. He has given sizable contributions to the sheriff. His campaign coordinator is the sheriff’s best friend and all of his campaign petitions and papers were notarized by the vice chairman of the Democratic Party, Ernestine Jenkins,” Connaughton said.
“Now I’m getting the impression that the sheriff and John Jenkins don’t like me,” Connaughton said.
The audience cracked up.
“This race is about a lot more than the issue with the sheriff. I am sometimes amazed at the fact that an agency that makes up .025 percent of the county budget, that we end up spending so much time on. And honestly it is one of the most minor things, in may ways a minor irritant that takes away from the great things we are doing in this county,” Connaughton said.
Some of the issues that Connaughton said were more important than a spitting contest with the sheriff include the U.S. 1 revitalization program, enhancing emergency preparedness, financing the renewal of older schools and overseeing the activities and budget of the Prince William County Park Authority.
If he is re-elected, Connaughton said he will continue doing the things that have worked for Prince William County.
In addition, Connaughton said he will work to make doing business with the county easier, try to expand historic properties, implement better controls on growth and figure out ways to fund regional road and transit projects.
Above all, Connaughton said, he will continue to try and reduce tax rates.
“When you look back at the fact that we cut the tax rates and we’ve actually seen property values increase and we’ve seen revenues increase. In my mind that’s a very Republican thing to do and we’re going to be taking some other steps to make sure the tax burden doesn’t get any higher,” he said.
Staff writer Keith Walker can be reached at (703) 878-8063.