The Fauquier County Board of Supervisors unanimously chose member Harry Atherton (I-Marshall) as its chairman Monday, replacing Raymond E. Graham (R-Cedar Run).

Atherton, a 57-year-old cattle farmer who is known for his preservationist stances and land-use expertise, has spent two decades on the Planning Commission helping to enact Fauquier's restrictive laws governing development.

Supervisors on the five-member board said they voted for Atherton, who has an easygoing manner and even tone during debates, because he has led them to a consensus on some of Fauquier's most volatile issues.

In his two years on the board, he has supported some of its most controversial decisions: the approval in May of what will be the largest subdivision in the county, the 975-home Brookside development in New Baltimore; the record $86.8 million appropriation in March to the school system; and the October 2001 authorization of an Old Dominion Electric Cooperative power plant near Remington.

Atherton said the board's top priority must remain balancing Fauquier's needs to accommodate growth and protect its environment. He said he does not want Fauquier to be like Loudoun County, its neighbor to the east, despite the approval there Monday of some of the toughest zoning laws in the region.

"A lot of their new regulations are too little, too late," he said. "They've had Dulles airport and a proximity to Fairfax County, but when I started on our Planning Commission in 1981, I would have guessed that Loudoun, which was extraordinarily similar to Fauquier then, would have had more political will to protect its space.

"Somewhere along the way, they lost it, and we in Fauquier ended up with most of our space protected, and that's never enough."

Supervisor Sharon Grove McCamy (R-Lee) questioned whether Atherton knew enough about the county's southern, poorer end that she represents.

Also Monday, the Fauquier County School Board unanimously elected Broni Lambelet (Marshall) as its chairman. Lambelet, 51, of Orlean, who served as chairwoman in 2001, replaces board member Ernest L. Gray (Lee), 48.

Lambelet said the fact that she and Atherton are from the same magisterial district will help both boards communicate and reach agreements more easily, especially in the next few months when they debate the school budget.

"Chair-to-chair trust is critical," she said. "We've always been very honest with each other, and we've had a lot of success working together."