Stafford County voters this week tossed out all four supervisors who ran for reelection, responding with apparent frustration to what many see as the unchecked pace of development and the county's failure to plan for growth.
But whether the new supervisors will affect change is unclear. They are members of different parties and don't seem to share any specific strategies. The only clear fact is that four incumbents will be gone come January.
Linda Muller, chairwoman of the county's Democratic Party, said the election proves "we want some responsive management. We want to believe something is getting done." Democrats fielded one of the four victorious challengers and supported an independent.
Just south of Prince William County, Stafford has been one of the fastest-growing counties in the United States since 2000 and has seen growth become a major concern for residents.
In a campaign that featured personal attacks between candidates, voters this year also responded to those who questioned why the county's comprehensive plan -- required by law to be updated every five years -- is 10 years out of date, why the growth rate hasn't slowed significantly and why supervisors have for four years pondered how to limit development on remaining farmland without ever passing a measure to deal with it.
The makeup of the board will not change much. Republicans Gary F. Snellings (Hartwood) and Mark W. Osborn (Falmouth) were replaced with, respectively, independent and Democrat-supported M. S. "Joe" Brito and Democrat George H. Schwartz. Meanwhile, two Democrats, Kandy A. Hilliard (Aquia) and Gary D. Pash (Garrisonville) were replaced by Republicans Paul V. Milde III and L. Mark Dudenhefer, respectively. The terms of three supervisors are not yet up.
Voters have been increasingly irritated at the current board.
The Stafford electorate "I think was like a 15-year-old. Which is, when you ask, 'Why did you do that?' they say, 'I don't know,' " said Robert Hagan, chairman of the Board of Supervisors in neighboring Spotsylvania County and a member of several regional boards.
"Board members don't want to work with one another; the building community is more inclined to just take what they've got and not work with the board," said Clark Leming, a prominent Stafford land-use lawyer.
Schwartz said voters he met while canvassing door-to-door repeated the same questions: Why isn't anything getting done? Why are the same intersections backed up?
Schwartz said the county needs to cooperate better with state agencies and boards that make transportation funding decisions. "It's the old squeaky wheel thing," he said.
Muller blamed the incumbents for failing to explain the difficulties of harnessing growth when so much land was approved for building years ago and the state restricts what communities can do to slow building.
To the south, voters in fast-growing Spotsylvania took a different approach Election Day. Concerned about stalled road projects, lack of public transportation and school funding, among other things, voters agreed to let the county borrow $277.7 million.
Repaying the bonds will mean the biggest tax increase in history, officials have said. "People are no longer saying, 'We need a plan,' " Hagan said. "People are saying 'We need action.' "