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Incumbent faces challenge in District 6 supervisor race

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By John Barnhart

The race for the District 6 seat on the Bedford County Board of Supervisors is one of several contested elections in this area.

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Annie Pollard
    Annie Pollard, the incumbent, won  the  seat  in  2007  after the death of her husband, Bobby Pollard, who had previously held the seat. She is seeking her second term on the board of supervisors.
    “There are still some things I would like to see accomplished in my district,” Pollard said, explaining why she wants another four years on the board.
    A major item is a new middle school in the Liberty attendance zone. The reversion contract that the county signed with the city obligates the county to build this new middle school as the solution to overcrowding at Bedford Middle School. Pollard would like to see this new middle school built west of Bedford.
    “People in that area were promised the next high school,” Pollard said.    
    Pollard said that, when Liberty High School was built, it was originally intended to be the county’s central high school. Then, Staunton River High School was built. Then, people in Forest wanted a high school in their part of the county, so Jefferson Forest High School was built. Pollard said that the school board promised that a fourth high school would be built in the west end of the county, but this high school was never built.
    “That was a long time ago, but we still remember,” she said.
    Pollard believes that, in light of past promises made, the fair thing to do is to build the new middle school in District 6. She said that there is a site on U. S. 460 in Thaxton that would be ideal for this new school. She also believes that building the school there will bring public water and sewer service to Thaxton, which will spur economic development there.
    “Without infrastructure, you can’t attract business,” she said.
    She notes that a new type of zoning district the supervisors want to put in the zoning ordinance will allow both commercial and residential uses as a use by right. This could be used to promote business development along the U. S. 460 and Va. 24 corridors which would boost the county’s tax base and bring jobs. More businesses in the tax base helps the county keep the real estate tax rate low.
    This brings up the question of how the county will pay for this new middle school. When Bedford reverts to town status, the county is expected to get the former city’s local composite index (LCI) which is used to divvy up state aid to public schools. Pollard said that Bedford County would get between $4 million and $5 million more each year for 15 years from the state, if it holds to tradition, and the money would be used for school capital improvements.
    “That will pay for the new middle school and the elementary school we have to purchase,” Pollard said. The reversion contract obligates the county to buy Bedford Elementary School.
    Pollard expects developing the budget for the next fiscal year to be difficult. The challenge is to keep the tax rate low while finding the money for needed items. Unfunded mandates make this more difficult, she said.
    “We know we need money for things, but we also know there are people out there hurting,” she said.
    Pollard also said that she would like to see the county’s teachers get paid more, and less money spent on school administration.
    The county is also trying to fix the existing zoning ordinance, correcting what is not working well with an eye toward making it more business friendly. Pollard said that she has personally experienced the building permit process this year. She is building a smaller house on her property, having sold her previous house, and said that she has found the process frustrating.
    Why vote for her?
    Pollard said that she is a people person and that her service on the board isn’t about her but, rather, the citizens of Bedford County.
    “I try to make myself available to listen to their concerns and try to fix them,” she said.
    “I am not part of a political party,” she added. “I am not controlled by special interests. It’s all about the citizens as a whole.”    
    Pollard also said that her experience is a plus. She said that it takes time to get up to speed on zoning and the mandates with which the county must comply.

Martin Leamy
    Martin Leamy is challenging Pollard. Like Pollard, Leamy is a Bedford County native, graduating from Liberty High School in 1981. He earned a degree in history and political science from Bridgewater College, near Harrisonburg, in 1985.    
    After college, he enlisted in the Army, attended officer candidate school, and was commissioned  as a second lieutenant. Initially serving as an artillery officer, he later served in Army intelligence.
    Leamy is a veteran of the first Persian Gulf War in 1991 and was awarded the Bronze Star for his service. He also helped train troops in Bahrain and served in Bosnia in 1998. Then he went into the Army reserves, returning to active duty for two years after 9/11. Since 2007, he as served as the National D-Day Memorial’s facilities manager.
    “I’m running because I have some concerns,” he said.
    Leamy said that he wants to preserve Bedford County’s rural and agricultural heritage.
    “I want to make sure Bedford [County] stays agriculture friendly,” he said.
    Leamy is concerned about a proposed text amendment to the county’s zoning ordinance and worries that one provision could become a back door to building new residential subdivisions. He said that this amendment allows unlimited subdivision of one acre plots to immediate family members. He said that there is nothing that prevents people from building on these lots and renting them out.
    He is also concerned about a provision for “general stores” in agricultural preserve (AP) zones.
    “The definition of what a general store is, is vague,” Leamy said.
    He believes that this would allow chain convenience stores to come in. They wouldn’t be able to sell gas, but they would have parking lots, creating run-off, and dusk to dawn lighting.
    “The people who live in an AP area live there for a reason,” he said. “If they wanted to live in the city, they would live [in the city].”
    It’s not just lights and parking lot run-off that concerns him. Modifications to the zoning ordinance that spur development in AP zones could harm existing landowners and their wells, he said. Putting “more straws in the ground” can lower the water table and Leamy said that he knows people whose wells have gone dry.
    While he wants to keep rural parts of the county rural, Leamy would like to foster a business friendly environment in Bedford County. He likes the idea of bringing water and sewer and broadband Internet service to more areas and believes the business parks are the right direction in which to go for economic development. This will allow business development without turning Bedford County into the “most southwestern county of Northern Virginia.” Leamy said that he lived in Northern Virginia for seven years before coming back to Bedford County. He now lives on Sheep Creek Road in Thaxton.
    “Northern Virginia didn’t become Northern Virginia overnight,” he said. “I don’t want to see us get on that slippery slope.”
    Leamy is also interested in aggressively marketing Bedford County as the tourist destination in Virginia. Bedford County has an excellent mix of tourist attractions with Smith Mountain Lake, the mountains and historic sites, he noted.
    He would like to promote better working relations between the school board and the board of supervisors. Leamy also wants to see the school division maintain its vocational and technical programs and points to Bedford Science and Technology Center (BSTC). He has served on BSTC’s advisory board.
    “What they have accomplished there is phenomenal,” Leamy commented.
    Like Pollard, Leamy wants the schools to focus on instruction.
    “We don’t need the focus to be on administration,” he said.
    Leamy has a 9-year-old at Thaxton Elementary School and is a big fan of community schools. He believes that the county’s geography is not conducive to consolidated schools.
    “They [young children] don’t need to spend all morning on a bus,” he commented.
    Keeping school bus travel in mind, Leamy believes that the new middle school should be centrally located within the Liberty attendance zone in order to minimize travel time for students. Middle school students should spend their time in class or extracurricular activities, “not sight-seeing Bedford County in a bus,” he said.
    Why vote for him?
    “I speak plainly, I don’t mince words,” he said. “I apply common sense to problem solving.”
    Leamy said that he got a lot of experience in problem solving in the Army.
    Like Pollard, Leamy is running as an independent who has not accepted campaign contributions. He said that this means he owes nothing to anybody other than the voters of District 6.
    “I am running as a conservative independent,” he said.