Fourteen good residents of Purcellville gathered last weekend to try to fill a vacancy on the Town Council. Eight were candidates for the 18-month appointment, and six were current members who must pick the winner.
Although the issue was important, the atmosphere was casual because almost everyone knew each other. Purcellville is a small town at heart, with about 4,000 residents.
When candidate Kendra S. Herlig was told that she looked nice in her business suit, she replied, "Well, I thought I'd let you see the other side of me. You always see me in my Levi's."
The eight were vying to fill the remaining term of council member Russell G. Cox Jr., who resigned in October after losing an appeal of a felony tax fraud conviction. He is awaiting sentencing.
Virginia does not allow special elections for such vacancies, so appointments must be made. The council's process included an application, a written response to questions and an hour-long interview with each candidate.
Although all council members will rank the candidates at a meeting Tuesday, the three-member personnel committee will make a recommendation to be brought before the council at its regular meeting Dec. 10.
According to information supplied to the council by the candidates, those in the running are Herlig, an independent training and communications consultant; Paul David Arbogast, former vice mayor; Scott King Walker, a Patrick Henry College instructor; and James R. Vogt, an export cargo agent.
Also, Gregory Wagner, an associate at Booz, Allen, Hamilton; Amy L. Booth, senior account relations manager at Network Access Solutions; Robert W. Lazaro Jr., assistant to the chairman of the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors; and Sheila L. Kelly, a program analyst at the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.
Each made opening and closing statements to the council and answered the same six questions as well as others from members.
All were asked what was the biggest problem in Purcellville, the county's second-largest town. Arbogast, Vogt and Booth said traffic congestion. Herlig cited residential growth, while Walker said the council not getting along well.
Wagner said the Comprehensive Plan needed updating. Lazaro said better planning was needed, and Kelly said she did not believe a that allocating land for two new schools was necessary.
Booth startled council members when, instead of an opening statement, she flung questions.
"What are you looking for in a council member?" she asked.
"Completely submissive," shot back council member Nick W. Pelchar.
After the laughter slowed, Booth gave it another try.
"What's the hardest thing about being a council member?"
Mayor W.T. "Bill" Druhan Jr. told her that it was finding time to work a full-time job and do council work well.
"Discovering as an elected representative, you are put in the position of representing your constituents when it differs from your personal view," member Karl R. Phillips said.
Council member Beverly B. MacDonald agreed with Druhan and Philips but also said the difficulty was getting information to residents and feedback about council matters.
C.S. "Susie" Windham said she was there to do the people's business but also needed time with her husband, the preservation association and her garden.
Pelchar said he has no family so has a lot of time for the job.
"I enjoy digesting everything and doing the job as I wish I could do it," he said. "I go beyond what the council does and do my own research."
Stephen Varmecky told Booth the work is "very intense."