Chairman candidates compare commitment

Sean Connaughton describes his Republican Primary race for re-election as chairman of the Prince William Board of County Supervisors as ?very odd.?

?Here it is, only a little more than a week before the June 10 election and I?ve never met my opponent, Larry D. Williams Sr. I have no idea what he looks like or what he is doing to campaign for the office,? Connaughton said in an interview earlier this week.

On the other hand, Williams said he has been actively seeking the post, carrying out a message that ?government should work for the people.?

?I?m committed to improving service to the public and making it easier for small businesses to start and flourish in the county. I?m a lifelong Republican who believes in less government, lower taxes, a business friendly environment, strong public safety and personal responsibility,? he said.

Connaughton said, ?It is amazing how far we have come as a community over the past three and a half years. It has truly been a term of accomplishment. … We now set the pace for others to follow and I want to provide that leadership for another four years,? he said.

The winner of the race will face Democrat R. C. ?Rick? Coplen in the November general election.

?When I become chairman, I will bring together the best and brightest of both the local government and the private sector in a public-private partnership to seek out the best business practices of the private sector to reduce spending and improve efficiency,? Williams said. ?I am not a career politician, so I am not constrained by political correctness. I will ask the hard questions, get the true answers and let the taxpayers be the jury.?

?Remember my opponent will do his trial lawyer best to change the subject, rewrite the questions and challenge the answers,? he added. ?If he can?t even agree that a simple written promise to stay in office for four years is the best way to assure the voters of his leadership, how can you trust him to answer any question in a simple and straightforward way??

Connaughton said the county has become a bright star both regionally and nationally ?because we focused on the basics.?

He added: ?We came to terms with the school division and decided to work together instead of against each other as in other jurisdictions. This cooperative spirit allowed us to jointly develop a five-year financial plan and capital improvement program.?

?With these sound financial plans and conservative economic assumptions we were able to breathe real life into the county?s tax trigger plan in order to allow us to increase investment in other schools while lowering our tax rates,? he added. ?We also adopted for the first time a uniform fire levy to fund capital projects which generally lowered that tax rate while increasing the funds available for new fire stations.?

A resident of the Bear Creek Subdivision in Coles District, Williams, 57, said he is making two pledges.

?First, I am signing the taxpayer protection pledge of the Prince William County Taxpayers Alliance which says I will vote against any property tax that would increase residential property tax revenue to the county by more than 5 percent or the combined rate of inflation and population growth. I challenge my opponent to do the same.

?Secondly, I will make a pledge and put it in writing that I am committed to serving as chairman for the next four years if elected. My opponent has had fund raisers in which he is called the ?next lieutenant governor of Virginia.? I challenge my opponent to make the same written pledge that he will commit to staying on as chairman for a full four years in the unlikely event that he is re-elected. Otherwise, he should begin his lieutenant governor campaign now and drop out of this race.?

Said Connaughton is response: ?I?m glad he wants me to stay in the local office. It must mean I?m doing a good job.?

Connaughton said ?The future looks very bright for the county because of the things we have been able to accomplish but we have much more to do.?

Tax rate reduction, the construction of new schools and new fire and rescue stations and expansion of the U. S. Route 1 revitalization program were among the things Connaughton promised to pursue in the next four years if re-elected.

Williams said he will ?lead the board of county supervisors like we are sitting around the family kitchen table, taking out the checkbook and the bank statement. We will look at the needs of the county, the amount of money available to us, and work together as a team to make the hard choices, not work backwards and say what we want, and then pick the pockets of the taxpayers to get it.?

Connaughton, 42, who lives in Triangle, said during his term ?we faced many real challenges. An irate father bursting into the board chambers. The state financial woes. … Even an errant board and a walk-out that brought the county?s business to a halt. We met each one of these challenges straight on and overcame them. This is how I intend to face this primary and general election.?

Staff writer Bennie Scarton Jr. can be reached at (703) 368-3101, Ext. 125.