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Peyton Williams seeks Democrats' nod in 5th District

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By John Barnhart

    A retired Army colonel is one of two candidates seeking the Democratic Party’s nod to take on Congressman Robert Hurt in the fall.
    Peyton Williams was originally the sole candidate seeking the nomination before congressional district redistricting put Fauquier County into the 5th Congressional District which, in turn, brought in John Douglass, making it a contest.
    Williams lives in the Charlottesville area in a home that has been in his family for nearly 80 years. An Army veteran, he retired in 1999 as a Special Forces lieutenant colonel. Prior to moving in to Special Forces, he had served a tour of duty in Vietnam in military intelligence during the Vietnam War. He holds two masters’ degrees, one from the University of Virginia and the other from the National Military Intelligence College.
    After retiring from the Army, Williams worked as a systems engineer for Lockheed Martin before retiring in 2010.  His work experience also includes environmental work. He worked as Orange County’s ecologist and as an environmental staff officer in the Army.
    Since his retirement, Williams has continued his interest in SCUBA diving — he’s a certified instructor — and service with the Boy Scouts.
    Why is he running?
    Williams said that he has talked with Congressman Hurt, listened to him, and believes that he needs to be replaced.    
    “He blamed the Senate for their intransigence,” he said, an argument that Williams didn’t accept.
    “It was the House Republicans that walked out of meeting with the president and Super Committee meetings,” Williams said.
    He said that, at the time, nobody was seeking the Democratic Party nomination to challenge Hurt, so he decided to throw his hat in the ring.
    Williams believes his background gives him something to offer. That includes his service in the Army and as a systems engineer involved bringing people together to develop a plan. The resulting plans were not always what everybody involved wanted, but they were plans that worked, he said.
    He believes that this is the approach that Congress needs, that the system of government that the Constitution established is built on compromise. In fact, Williams notes, the fact that the United States has a bicameral legislature is the result of a compromise and that it’s important that this two-house Congress develop a plan that the majority can support, and then move forward.
    Williams added that his military experience also taught him to beware of unintended consequences. He said that, in writing military plans, it was important to be alert for assumptions in the plan. It’s also important to plan for surprises and develop contingency plans to deal with these, he said.    
    One plan he would like to be involved with is developing a partnership between businesses and schools to train people for jobs that either exist, or are going to exist.
    “We have to be forward thinking,” Williams said.
    Williams referred to a Rolls-Royce aircraft engine factory in Prince George County and e-mailed a link to a Richmond Times-Dispatch story on a visit that President Barak Obama made to the plant earlier this month. During the visit President Obama touted  “a proposal for a $1 billion National Network for Manufacturing Innovation, to build a network of up to 15 Institutes for Manufacturing Innovation around the country.”
    Fifth District Democrats will select their candidate via local caucuses in April followed by a congressional district convention in May.