Prince William County has succeeded and gotten ahead through smart investments and a slimmed-down government, and by easing the way for developers to do business locally, the chairman of the Board of County Supervisors said this week.
The annual “state of the county” speech by Board Chairman Corey A. Stewart (R-At Large) marked a year of progress and good results for the county, Stewart said at the county’s first board meeting of the year.
But he said he wants the county to keep pushing forward.
“As President Kennedy said, ‘The time to repair a leaking roof is when the sun is out,’” Stewart said.
“The sun is shining, and the time to invest in the future is now.”
He wants the county to continue to invest in key infrastructure, such as hospitals, schools and the arts.
This year, new Census data showed that the county’s median income placed it in the top 10 of the wealthiest counties in America with a median income of just over $92,000. The county retained its AAA bond rating — better than the federal government, Stewart said. And Prince William did so by investing in its own infrastructure and focusing on core services.
The board has cut $143 million and more than 300 government positions in recent years, Stewart said, while finding dollars for key transportation projects. The county is one of the few, Stewart often remarks, that puts up significant dollars for state projects that would otherwise sit on planners’ sheets for years.
The county topped the list of Virginia localities in job growth and was among the fastest job growers in the country in 2011, Stewart said.
“We are a symbol of stability, growth and prosperity,” he said.
But the cuts in government and a focus on only key services has garnered criticism. As supervisors have dealt with the fallout from September floods that destroyed much of a mobile home park called Holly Acres, religious leaders and county activists have tried to draw attention to the county government’s lack of investment in affordable housing.
Supervisor Frank J. Principi (D-Woodbridge) asked county staff late last year to bring a plan for affordable housing for consideration by supervisors. Stewart said in an interview that the affordable housing report, which will outline options the county could consider to address the issue, is expected in the next few weeks.
On Tuesday, several board members also made appointments to key county advisory commissions. On a unanimous vote, Stewart appointed Christopher Real Estate Co. realtor and former Manassas planning commissioner Austin Haynes to replace Gary Friedman on the county Planning Commission, which advises on land-use issues.
Supervisor Marty E. Nohe (R-Coles) was selected as the board’s vice chairman, replacing Supervisor Maureen Caddigan (R-Potomac). The meeting also marked the first for newly-elected Supervisor Peter K. Candland (R-Gainesville).