Will Scottsville district change party hands?

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 Two candidates, Republican James Norwood and Democrat Christopher Dumler, have emerged as potential heirs to the Scottsville District seat on the Albemarle Board of Supervisors. The seat is currently held by Lindsay Dorrier, who announced in April that he would not seek another term after 18 years on the board.

The race could act as a barometer for where the district stands politically: what it feels is an appropriate real estate tax rate for Albemarle, and what it deems an appropriate funding level for governmental services.

Norwood (bottom), a small business owner, won’t vote to raise the county tax rate, while Dumler (top right, with Dorrier), an attorney, says he will if Scottsville citizens ask him to.

Dorrier, a Democrat, has often aligned with Republican supervisors on fiscal decisions, especially when setting the county’s real estate tax rate. Supervisors recently voted to keep the tax rate at 74.2 cents per $100 of assessed value for the third consecutive year.

In Albemarle, the tension between maintaining government services and setting an appropriate tax rate has become more pronounced, and Dorrier’s successor will face tough political decisions that could compel him to buck party orthodoxy. However, both Norwood and Dumler seem to understand that.

“Lindsay had very minimal partisanship in his ways of managing, and that’s certainly how I would look at myself,” Norwood tells C-VILLE.

Dumler sings a similar tune: “When I’ve been out canvassing, I’ve heard from many people who are pleased that the tax rate has stayed where it is the last three years.”

Both candidates said they have supported the Supervisors’ recent tax rate decisions, citing the dire straits of the economy. However, subtle differences in ideology emerged: Dumler said he would be open to raising taxes if it were the will of his constituents.

“I’m not the type of person who is going to take a ‘No tax’ pledge or a ‘Yes, I’ll raise taxes’ pledge,” says Dumler. “It really depends on the economic climate and what people want at that point in time.”

Norwood, meanwhile, seems singularly focused on belt-tightening.

“I think we’ve been a spoiled populace for years and years,” says Norwood, who adds that he is for “minimal government.”

“Now, we have to face the music and make sure we get an added value for every tax dollar we spend. At this point in time, raising taxes in this economy is not the right thing to do, by any stretch.”

Norwood moved to the area in 1997 and made his mark on the local business scene with a series of shoe stores located in the city and county. He also served as the Economic Development Director for the Scottsville Chamber of Commerce from November 2009 to December 2010, during which time tire manufacturer Hyosung shuttered its Scottsville plant, leading to more than 100 lay-offs.

“In a year’s time, we’ve managed to open six or seven new businesses in Scottsville, and those six or seven businesses have been able to produce about half of the jobs we lost from the factory,” says Norwood. “Scottsville is more vibrant than it was a year ago…and I think I helped contribute to that.”

Dumler arrived in Albemarle in late 2006 to start law school at UVA, and moved to Scottsville in May 2010. In addition to running his own law practice, he has served on a number of local boards, including the Albemarle County Natural Heritage Committee and Region Ten Community Services.

Dumler would like to change how the county builds and revises its five-year comprehensive plan. “The excessive flexibility, and the understanding that you can mess with the plan, creates a lot of uncertainty and hurdles to jump over which might be holding back the county,” says Dumler.

Dumler also vows to help repair Albemarle’s “poisonous” relationship with the city, and notes that he has formed relationships with every member of the City Council and current council candidates.

“There’s a feeling in the city that the county throws around its weight, and there’s a feeling in the county that the city is dragging its feet, trying to revisit every issue,” says Dumler. “I’m not interested in litigating whose fault it is.”

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