As we head into election season proper, we’re taking a look at the four contested races for seats on the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors. We’ve already introduced the Scottsville, Rio, and Samuel Miller district candidates. Today, we hear from the two vying for the Jouett District seat: Independents Diantha McKeel and Phillip Seay.
- Party: Independent
- Age: 52
- Occupation: Executive Director of The First Tee of Charlottesville
- Government experience: No elected office.
- Party: Independent
- Age: 63
- Occupation: Clinical research coordinator, UVA Division of Cardiology
- Government experience: Albemarle County School Board, Jack Jouett Magisterial District (1997-present); CATEC Board
Q: The Jack Jouett District is at the crossroads of Albemarle, Charlottesville, and UVA. In what way does that affect your responsibility as a district representative?
Seay: There are varying interests all over the county. The challenge is listening to everyone and not allowing voices to be overshadowed by the people who are screaming the loudest. I’ve already encountered that. I have some people in the rural areas of Jouett who have said O.K., such and such might be helpful for the people in the urban ring, but it’s really not helping us. But that diversity can be good, because it increases your potential to solve problems.
McKeel: It is true the Jack Jouett District is unique, with urban and rural areas and much of UVA. Many citizens are not even aware of exactly where the county ends and city begins. We are one community and work best when we work together, operating from a basis of trust, respect and common interest. In my school board position, I have practiced this type of cooperation and hope to expand the county’s commitment to city/county/UVA cooperation. We have more common ground than sometimes is recognized or built upon. For example, part of my neighborhood’s “walkable community” is located in the city. And UVA has some of the most brilliant “minds” in our nation. We should tap into their expertise more often!
Q: What are your views on the Western Bypass?
Seay: I lived on the last piece of property across Earlysville Road that VDOT did not purchase for 13 years. They purchased a quarter of the driveway. The right edge of the westbound lane would have been 54 paces from that driveway. I went to all the meetings, asked all the questions. Sometimes as a landowner you have to step aside for the greater good, but in this situation, I couldn’t see that, other than the fact that it was just another road that may not solve our traffic issues. That said, as I understand it, this is now out of the Board of Supervisors’ hands. If by chance it does come back, I’m going to make it a point to sit down with every Jouett resident and say, “What’s your position on this?” And then it’s going to come down to what that majority says as to how I vote. Because right now, with going out and meeting people, it’s a 50-50 split.
McKeel: I oppose the current design of the proposed Western Bypass. While I agree our community needs a bypass, this route and design will not achieve the intent. Board of Supervisor members need to represent the interests of Albemarle County and their constituents. Therefore, I believe serious consideration needs to be given to the 41 homeowners and numerous neighbors that have been affected. Land use and transportation decisions should be made and not brought back years later, thus placing property values at risk and creating situations where homes and land cannot be sold. And certainly, decisions should not be reversed unless properly vetted by the public. I found the same to be true at the school board level when deciding major community issues such as redistricting students.
Q: What do you think are the three most important issues facing Albemarle County right now?
Seay: Fiscal responsibility. I will work to ensure that our tax dollars are truly being spent on the goods and services that our County government is duty-bound to provide.
Transportation. I will work for sensible and effective transportation and pedestrian services.
Schools and education. As a former teacher, this is near and dear to me. Are we training kids for the 22nd century? Are we training them to be entrepreneurs, to create things? Or are we training them to be dependent? I want to see the money get to the teachers in the classrooms.
McKeel: Education and our local workforce development. Nothing affects families, property values, and the ability of a locality to attract and maintain economic prosperity more than an excellent educational system and high quality workforce. They go hand and hand.
Public safety, including police, fire, and rescue. Having a safe and gang-free community is also critical to our quality of life and prosperity. We have work to do over the next several years as our police force is understaffed. The “neighborhood” policing model needs to be supported, as well as the return of the school resource officers. I strongly support the work of GRACE (Gang Reduction through Active Community Engagement Committee) and hope to remain on the committee as a representative.
Infrastructure. After years of eliminating investments in infrastructure, especially in the growth areas, Albemarle County needs to determine what our community needs and expectations are and establish a cost effective plan to support the investments. These investments (roads, court buildings, schools, storm-water, sidewalks, and bike and walking paths) all support economic prosperity and our quality of life. This is an area where we need to hear from citizens and seek opportunities to reach across jurisdictions collaboratively and form public private partnerships wherever possible.