A showdown between progressive newcomers and old-line conservatives is shaping up in this fall's elections for three of six Stafford County supervisor seats.
At issue is whether control will remain with a progressive faction headed by Board of Supervisors Chairman Charles Wandrick or shift to the conservatives lead by Supervisor G. W. Embrey.
"Either the county is going to go forward or it's going to go back to good-old-boy politics," said Wandrick, one of the three supervisors up for reelection. "I think this is the most critical election in my time, simply because we've come so far. We've brought in competent people and plans, and all of that is in place."
The new county residents, many of whom are Washington commuters, tend to support the new programs, Wandrick said. "They all didn't come to escape the high taxes. They also wanted room, parks and schools. I also think they expected to pay for it," he said.
Wandrick represents the Griffis-Widewater District in north Stafford County. In 1979, he won the seat by 41 votes over incumbent Lindbergh A. Fritter, who is running again this year.
Two other supervisors whose terms are not up for two years--Falmouth District Supervisor Rebecca L. Reed and Aquia District Supervisor Philip E. Hornung--generally are allied with Wandrick.
Fritter said he held to established procedures while he was on the board for eight years. If elected again, he would seek to oust the county's administrator, Richard Bain, and cut back on staff members, many of whom were hired two years ago. Bain and the new staff set up new accounting and management procedures.
"If I'm elected, I guess Mr. Bain will have to be going. I can't see how he's helped the county," Fritter said. "We've not voted for an executive form of government, and that's what he wants."
Incumbent Rock Hill Supervisor Embrey, the leader of the conservatives, once suggested that he and Wandrick settle their differences with fisticuffs. Embrey is opposed by progressive Ralph A. Marceron, who favors spending cuts as long as they do not threaten the new administrative programs.
The third contest in this fall's elections is in the George Washington District. Incumbent Alvin Y. Bandy, who is considered part of the conservative team, is opposed by Margaret G. McWilliams. McWilliams could not be reached for comment.
Bandy, Embrey and Lloyd Chittum, Hartwood District supervisor, compose the three-member conservative faction that frequently opposes Wandrick, Reed and Hornung.
The growing community of suburban commuters in northern Stafford is expected to have a major impact on the November elections.
Records at the registrar's office indicate that registration has grown the most in the north Stafford area. The present rolls show an increase of 563 since the 1982 election, when 15,072 persons were registered and 8,553 votes were cast for local candidates. The deadline for registration is mid-October.
Former Prince William County Supervisor Alice Humphries, who was born and reared in Stafford County but now lives in Prince William, believes Stafford may reject the progressives.
"It's the 'last in' syndrome--people who are there now, who have just moved in, have gotten what they want and don't want anyone else coming in," said Humphries, a fiscal conservative. She said such newcomers may react against progressive and growth-oriented candidates.
Humphries recalls that the conservative board on which she served from 1976 to 1980 in Prince William replaced a set of progressive supervisors known as "the four horsemen," who always voted in a block. She sees many such similarities between Stafford's current politics and Prince William's 10 years ago.
"The Stafford board has let its animosity interfere with logical, reasonable votes and that was exactly what was done in Prince William," Humphries said. "It's different in that it's 3 to 3 with a tie-breaker , but you still see the old-line people who say let's do it this way because we've always done it that way."
The quasi-supervisor position of board tie-breaker is being contested in a crucial five-way race. The supervisors almost eliminated the seat recently, as other Virginia counties have done but opted to keep the position because so often they are stymied in tie voting.
The incumbent tie-breaker has nearly always sided with the progressive supervisors. But the incumbent has chosen not to run again, and a shift in the balance of power is likely. Of the five candidates running for the office, four are considered conservative and one progressive.
In addition to the Board of Supervisors' contests, all of the county's constitutional (courthouse) officers will run for reelection, all but one unopposed. Supervisors and officers alike are running as independents because of a longstanding tradition in local elections that also eliminates political primaries.
George Gordon Jr. was appointed commissioner of revenue in 1942 and has remained in the position, now an elective office, ever since. The commissioner's job is one of five constitutional offices the terms of which expire this year.
Other officers running unopposed are: the sheriff, Richard L. Ashby; the Commonwealth's attorney, Daniel M. Chichester, and the treasurer, McCarty C. Moncure. Clerk to the court, Lillian T. Knight is opposed by Travers G. Berry.