John R. Feegel, the Republican challenger for Loudoun County commissioner of revenue, is trying to unseat 15-year incumbent Catherine B. "Kitty" Ashby (D).
The commissioner makes personal property tax and business license tax assessments and administers lesser-known levies.
Feegel, 39, who stepped down as Loudoun magistrate on the Virginia Supreme Court to run full time for the office, said his experience as a former licensed financial adviser for Dean Witter Reynolds/NationsBank would give him the expertise for the job. He also said it's time a Republican held the office.
"Thirty years of the same Democratic leadership is enough," said Feegel, who moved to Purcellville from Falls Church in 1992. "The county has changed. This is a Republican county, and a Republican should be in charge of administering Governor Gilmore's no car-tax initiative."
Ashby, 51, a lifelong Loudoun resident who has been elected to the four-year commissioner's term three times since being appointed to fill a vacancy in 1985 and elected to serve the rest of that term in a special election later that year, said continuity is her strength. She said she is more familiar with the Virginia tax code than her opponent, and she describes herself as a "hands-on" commissioner who often answers telephone calls from the public.
"I just enjoy doing my job and would like to continue serving the people," said Ashby, who also lives in Purcellville. "I've got a good relationship with our association [of commissioners of revenue], which is a statewide association, and I'm not ready for retirement yet."
Both candidates for the job, which pays about $77,000 a year, said they campaigned extensively in eastern Loudoun, where each went door-to-door trying to introduce themselves to some of the many new residents who have moved to the county in the four years since the last election.
And both said they would try to address concerns of busy taxpayers.
Ashby wants to have an employee of the commissioner's office in Lovettsville's Town Hall on a part-time basis. She said car and trailer registration already has been made available on the Internet as a taxpayer convenience.
Feegel, who beat Supervisor Steven D. Whitener (R-Sugarland Run) in the Republican primary in May, proposes creating a mobile commissioner's deputy who would be available to go to taxpayers' companies, senior centers and libraries to answer questions.
He said he also favors expanding the hours of the commissioner's office to accommodate small-business owners.
Feegel, who holds an undergraduate degree from College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass., cited his education as one of his major qualifications.
He said he "flunked out" of medical school in Costa Rica, stayed to earn a master's degree in physiology and moved back to the Washington area in 1986 to "start something new."
Ashby is a 1966 graduate of Loudoun Valley High School. Addressing her education, Ashby said: "You've heard of the school of hard knocks? That means a lot in a lot of instances. It's called common sense. There are just times when you take the code and the code may not be black and white, and you have to just apply some common sense to your answer or your opinion."
Feegel has received endorsements from Sen. John W. Warner (R-Va.), Rep. Frank R. Wolf (R-Va.) and Loudoun Supervisor Scott K. York (R-Sterling), the GOP nominee for chairman of the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors.
Ashby said she has received support from many local elected officials, but "because they are Republicans, they are unable to [come out for me] in a public forum."