Alexandria police detective and Democratic candidate Dana A. Lawhorne was elected city sheriff yesterday and immediately promised to forge closer ties between the sheriff's office and his longtime police colleagues.
Lawhorne defeated another experienced law enforcement officer, former Alexandria vice mayor William C. Cleveland, a Republican who had been endorsed by longtime Democratic Sheriff James H. Dunning.
Fairfax County voters enthusiastically endorsed a $246 million financing package for school renovation and construction.
In heavily Democratic Arlington, voters chose a new School Board member, Edward J. Fendley.
In Loudoun, voters faced an unusually long list of ballot questions. With nearly all precincts reporting, funding for a fire and rescue station and all eight school bond measures passed with wide margins.
"I'm pleasantly surprised," said Loudoun School Board Chairman John A. Andrews II. "It confirms my feelings about the support of public education in Loudoun County by the voters."
Supervisors departed from recent practice and broke the list of eight school projects into eight questions on yesterday's ballot.
Excellent schools are a key selling point for the new communities that have made Loudoun the fastest-growing county in the country since the 2000 Census.
The high cost of new schools and other public facilities such as parks and roads needed to serve new residents has fueled a fevered growth debate in recent years.
Supervisors who wanted a separate question on the ballot for each school were seeking to make a political point about high construction costs. But critics of breaking out the questions said that doing so threatened to pit community against community and was contradictory, given the enthusiasm of some Loudoun supervisors for approving more subdivisions that will in turn require more new schools.
In the past, Loudoun bundled its school projects together, as Fairfax did yesterday. The Fairfax proposal created little controversy.
The support for school bonds in Fairfax County is "an acknowledgement from voters that if we're going to educate children for the 21st century, they need 21st-century learning space," said county School Board member Stuart B. Gibson (D-Hunter Mill). "It means flexible space. . . . It means up-to-date buildings that have the capacity to support technology. It means energy efficiency."
Beverly George, 71, a retired Fairfax County teacher, voted for the bonds yesterday at Mosby Woods Elementary School. "It's very important that the schools have the money just to keep up with what they have," George said.
For decades, Fairfax has been building new schools to keep up with its own population boom. But Fairfax's population has topped 1 million -- about four times Loudoun's -- and the school population has leveled off. Fairfax officials say their new focus is on renovating older schools.
Of the $246.3 million in Fairfax school bonds, $32.8 million is for new construction, including $19 million for an elementary school on Coppermine Road; $35 million is for projects such as technology networks, security and compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act; and $177.1 million is for a range of costly renovations.
The renovation of Edison High School in the Alexandria section of Fairfax, for instance, is expected to total $63 million. The biggest-ticket item on the Loudoun school bond list was $63.5 million, to build and equip the new Western Loudoun Area High School.
Lawhorne said his "top priority" is going to be improving relations with the Alexandria Police Department, adding that he wants the sheriff's office to be more involved in emergency preparedness. The flubbed response to Hurricane Katrina demonstrates the dangers of a lack of coordination, he said. "New Orleans reminds us of how important it is for all the agencies to work together."
The race for Alexandria sheriff blurred party lines. Dunning, a Democrat who has been sheriff since 1985, endorsed Cleveland, saying he did not consider the sheriff's job a partisan office. Mayor William D. Euille (D) and S. Randolph Sengel, the city's top prosecutor, both endorsed Lawhorne.
The sheriff's office has more than 200 employees and manages the city jail, which has held numerous high-profile detainees in recent years, including terrorism suspects and New York Times reporter Judith Miller, who was detained for 85 days on contempt charges in the CIA leak investigation.
Each of the candidates said during the campaign that he was better equipped to work with young people and prevent gang violence.
Richard Freshwater, 50, a financial planner, said he voted for Lawhorne because "his experience is going to make him a good sheriff." He said he found it particularly significant that Lawhorne has been the police liaison with T.C. Williams High School. "It is good to know that people in that position will keep up with schools," he said.
In Arlington, Fendley, a longtime State Department officer, said he would work with his colleagues to expand foreign language programs at the elementary school level. "That's when kids are most able to master languages," he said, adding that he hopes to see programs in Chinese and Arabic.