The Fairfax County Board's new Republican majority yesterday replaced a Democratic appointee on the county school board, thus placing Fairfax's second most influential board under the control of GOP appointees.
The five Republican supervisors named Frank Francois, a political independent, to the school board in a move that the four Democratic supervisors were unable to block. The action was an offshoot of November's elections, which gave Republicans a 5 to 4 edge on the board of supervisors, the first GOP majority in more than a century.
Francois, 52, who said he considered himself a Democrat until two years ago, will be the minority representative on the 10-member school board.
He replaces Robert E. Frye, 48, who had served four terms as a Democratic at-large appointee and whose term expires in June. Both men are black.
"All appointments are political," said Board Vice Chairman Martha V. Pennino (D-Centreville) after her renomination of Frye failed. "It's a matter of patronage. We all know this."
Despite Democratic fears, the Republicans yesterday did not try to extend their control to other county boards and to appointments that are made from each supervisor's district. "There are going to be some changes, but there's no massive bloodbath," said Board Chairman John F. Herrity, the Republican who nominated Francois.
Democrats, who had portrayed Republican attempts at takeover as an unseemly break with tradition, were relieved. "It's not as bad as it could have been," said Audrey Moore (D-Annandale).
The county board postponed a vote on controversial nominations to the Economic Development Authority and Supervisor T. Farrell Egge (R-Mount Vernon) withdrew his nomination of his finance chairman, Frank T. Quirk, to the EDA.
Democrats said Egge's action came after business leaders pressured to keep incumbent Democratic nominee John E. Lynch.
School board member Frye had angered some Republicans by siding with the Democratic-run School Board in its 6-to-4 vote last month to shut Fort Hunt High School because of declining enrollment.
The school is located in a predominantly Republican area and GOP leaders were furious at the vote.
Pennino said she was not concerned that the vote would politicize the school board, which is a much less openly political body than the Board of Supervisors.
And Supervisor Joseph Alexander (D-Lee) told Francois: "Regardless of the split vote, you're going to have all our support."
Herrity said Francois was not a "spear carrier" in his political campaigns, and emphasized that the new school board member is a political independent.
Francois told reporters after the vote that he may convert to the Republican Party.
Francois is president of an Alexandria-based company he founded that sells supplies to military commissaries. He would not comment on the school board's vote to close Fort Hunt, saying: "That decision has been done."