Thursday, June 23, 2016

Goochland School Board names new superintendent

Dr. Jeremy Raley (left) chats with (l to r) John Distrct 3 School Board member John Lumpkins, Assistant Superintendents Dr. Peter Gretz and Dr. Steve Geyer

On the rainy Thursday morning of June 23, the Goochland School Board unanimously voted to hire Dr. Jeremy Raley as the next superintendent of our school division.

Interested citizens and school staff spilled out of the school annex conference room, site of the meeting. Supervisors Susan Lascolette, District 1, and Manuel Alvarez, Jr., District 2 attended as did county administrator-elect John Budesky.

School Board Chairperson Kevin Hazzard, District 2, announced the decision at a special called meeting called to order before the vote was taken. He explained that the school board retained the firm of BWP Associates in late March to perform a comprehensive nationwide search to fill the position.

Board Vice Chairperson Beth Hardy, District 4, explained that Raley was one of an initial field of more than 30 applicants that was quickly winnowed to four finalists, all qualified for the job. “Dr. Raley’s unique blend of skills and background bubbled him to the top of the list,” she said.

Raley, 42, is currently Superintendent of Shenandoah County Public Schools. He holds concurrently earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Virginia, where he also played football, and a doctorate from Shenandoah University in Winchester. He was valedictorian of his high school class in Cumberland, Maryland.

He started out as a physical education teacher in Warren County, Virginia and went on to hold positons as assistant principal, principal, director of finance, and assistant superintendent for administration and finance. This provides Raley with a well-rounded background in all of the pieces of the education puzzle that must come together for a successful student learning experience.

According to media reports, Raley submitted his resignation to the Shenandoah County School Board at a meeting on June 22. Judging from its website, the Shenandoah County School Division values innovation and creativity in the education process, much like Goochland.

Hazzard acknowledged that the Board was mindful of the short tenure of the incumbent. “We all wondered if the next superintendent is going to stick around,” he said. “We are confident that Dr. Raley and his family will come to love Goochland and be here for a good long while.”

Raley thanked everyone for thanking time out of their schedules to join the celebration. He thanked his family, wife Cindy and children Heather and Hayden, who will students at GMS in the fall, for their support. “Being the wife of a superintendent is not always the easiest thing,” Raley observed.

June 23, said Raley, is a special day for his family. He and Cindy learned that Heather was on the way 13 years ago on the same day that his very first principalship was confirmed. The Goochland announcement continues the tradition. “Our family is very excited to be part of the Goochland family.”

Raley said that he watched the great work taking place in the Goochland school division from afar.
“The first time I met with the board I knew that [Goochland] was the place I needed to be. Great conversations during the second interview solidified that.”

He apparently studied our schools well. “This is truly a successful place with a tremendous amount of talent. I look forward to continuing the great traditions and plan to do a lot of listening and learning to find out about all the great things that are happening in Goochland.

"I am grateful for the opportunity to work toward continued success. I’ll give you everything I have and work hard to not let you down. I am excited about what the future holds for us all and am honored and humbled to have this opportunity,” Raley said, concluding his remarks.

Hazzard said that Raley’s “calm, mature approach to handling various kinds of issues” resonated with the board. Our new superintendent supports “an innovative atmosphere that maximizes teaching and learning and believes that s students learn best when they can be actively engaged in authentic and meaningful academic experiences that will allow them to demonstrate their ability to communicate, collaborate, critically think, and demonstrate creativity with any given content.”

Raley’s official start date is July 1; due to vacation, he will be here full-time beginning on July 11. In the meantime, Raley will meet with interim Superintendent Dr. Steve Geyer and others to ensure a smooth transition.

Raley’s annual salary is $160,000. He and his family are in the early stages of relocating to Goochland, where they expect to quickly become a part of the community.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Preparing for the worst

Hope by now everyone has their power back on and recovered from last Thursday’s storm as our dear friends at the National Weather Service predict more “scattered strong to severe thunderstorms” later in the week for our entertainment pleasure.

First of all, thanks to the power crews who worked around the clock to turn the lights on. They do not make the decisions about where the lines go, they just fix things and deal with impatient customers. Thanks to the deputies, fire-rescue folk and everyone else who pitched in.

Power lines near big trees are a recipe for disaster

Losing power gets your attention. We take the “juice” that runs the plethora of gadgets that ease our existence for granted, until it’s gone. We fume when the power goes out and want ours restored immediately if not sooner.

Intellectually, we understand that it’s dangerous for power crews to climb poles and play with live wires during the height of a storm, but once it’s over, we want to know why it takes so long to fix the problem.

Getting reliable information about the situation was also troublesome. Richmond TV stations blathered on about downloading their apps so you could find out what’s going on, yet they declined to report on outages in Goochland.

Dominion Power was inundated by people seeking repair updates or trying to report a problem. The “new and improved” outage map on the Dominion website is too complicated to decipher on the screen of a smart phone. You can sign up to receive text alerts at

This storm was a mess. So was Hurricane Isabel and the Derecho of 2012. Once again, it seemed like the power company was overwhelmed and unprepared.

We wonder, at times like this, why more power lines are not buried. Far too many residential areas seem to have large trees growing in and around power lines. It seems like, in the long run, it would be more cost effective for the power company to bury the lines and avoid the cost of bringing in extra repair crews while losing revenue from customers.

This is not a new question. There is no simple answer.

Dominion contends that it is doing more aggressive tree trimming. Look along any road in Goochland. The trimming seems to assume that the wind will blow in a certain direction, felling trees away from the power lines. Or, it cuts a tunnel around power lines. The storms we’ve been getting lately are of the “swirly” for lack of a more precise meteorological term, so the trees could fall in any direction.

Moving power lines underground is an expensive proposition. Supposedly, when underground lines fail, trouble spots are harder to locate and fix than those on pole-mounted lines. They’re also harder to move given rights-of-way in established areas, and soil conditions.

New subdivisions usually have underground power lines. However, they are connected to pole mounted lines and transformers that are still subject to the weather.

The real puzzler is why the power lines along Broad Street Road in Short Pump, which was rebuilt from the ground up, are still on poles. Since work started on the Wegman’s/ Cabela’s project, the sidewalk was dug up and replaced several times to accommodate what looked like water and sewer lines, yet the power poles remain? You’d think that would present a perfect—and cost effective—opportunity to bury the lines.

New construction seems like an opportunity to bury power lines

Maybe the continued outcry will have some impact on the decision makers; probably not.

In the meantime, keep an eye on the weather report; make sure you have gas for the generator; and store some water, just in case.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Goochland names John Budesky as County Administrator


John Budesky

Following a lengthy, careful, and deliberative nationwide search Goochland has a new county administrator. Board of Supervisors’ Chair Bob Minnick, District 4, introduced John A. Budesky as the county’s new chief executive officer at a special called meeting this afternoon, June 16.

Minnick told a packed room that Budesky emerged as the best of the best from a field of highly qualified applicants for the post. He thanked everyone who participated in the selection process and county staff and citizens for their patience.
The search firm of Springstead and Company was retrained for the process, which resulted in a field of more than 40 candidates. The supervisors invested many hours reviewing qualifications and interviewing applicants until they determined that Budesky was the best fit for Goochland, said Minnick. He thanked his fellow supervisors, who sported grins of happy satisfaction with the result of the search process, for their hard work.

Minnick thanked County Attorney Norman Sales for acting as interim county attorney and praised the dedication and professionalism of the county staff for focusing on their commitment to serve the citizens during the transition.

Budesky came across as an approachable, down-to earth-kind of guy. “My most important title is Evan and Emily’s dad,” he said before turning serious.

“They wouldn’t need us if the world were a perfect place. We’re here to provide a high level of ethical professional services.”
He paid homage to his predecessor who retired at the end of March after a distinguished career with the county. “Becky Dickson is a dear friend. Her retirement is a great loss to the profession. To follow her is an honor. She has a lot of faith in the talent of the staff. It’s very clear that the Board of Supervisors cares about Goochland County and took care to find the right person for now and the future.”

Budesky pledged to listen to all sides of issues. “We value all opinions and perspectives and need to have them when we make decisions, even if we may not like them.”

LtR Ned Creasey; Bob Minnick; Manuel Alvarez, Jr.; John Budesky; Susan Lascolette; Ken Peterson.

Budesky said he values transparency in government “but Goochland is already a shining example.” He is anxious to meet Goochlanders and promised to be very accessible. Well-run local government “takes a lot of people working together.”

Budesky brings to Goochland more than 20 years of experience in local government settings including cities and counties in Maryland and Virginia. He has been deputy county administrator in Hanover County since 2013 where he oversees a wide range of financial functions, making him well-equipped to help Goochland retain its AAA bond rating.

Budesky was county administrator for New Kent from 2005 to 2009 before becoming Executive Director of the Virginia Worker’s Compensation Commission.

Budesky holds a Bachelors of Arts in Criminal Justice degree from Edinboro State University and a master’s Degree in Public Administration from Virginia Tech. He is an International City/County Managers Association (ICMA) Credentialed Manager and a member of the Virginia Local Government Management Association (VLGMA). He has also is a graduate of Leadership Metro Richmond, the LEAD program at the University of Virginia and serves as a member of several community organizations in Hanover County.

Budesky will be sworn in on July 5 and begin his duties on August 1.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Seasoning the sausage

Goochland makes sure is voice is heard in the Virginia General Assembly by working closely with our representatives. Delegates Lee Ware, 65th District; Peter Farrell 56th District; and Senator Tom Garrett 22nd District, know exactly where the county stands on a number of issues.

Each year, our elected and appointed county officials gather for an informal lunch meeting with the GA delegation to discuss past and pending legislation and its impact on Goochland.

As Virginia is a Dillon Rule state, which means that localities have only those powers given to them by the state, it is vital that our lawmakers understand that the lofty motives behind legislation can have unintended negative consequences at the local level. Ware, a former Powhatan supervisor, is sensitive to this.
This year’s legislative luncheon took place on June 7. Garrett, who recently secured the republican nomination for the 5th United States Congressional District, was absent. However, Elizabeth Wierschem, one of the people who hopes to succeed Garret, was there and paid close attention to the discussion.

Ware and Farrell said that Goochland is unique in holding these proactive sessions. In recent years, our delegation has sponsored bills on a host of issues and had a high degree of success.

Sludge was at the top of the agenda. Goochland supervisors thanked Ware for his help in passing a bill to fund a multi-year study of the long term effects of land application of biosolids and industrial sludge.

Supervisors Susan Lascolette, District 1 and Manuel Alvarez, Jr., District 2, raised additional concerns about transporting these substances on county roads. In the past year several large sludge trucks have overturned closing roads for long periods of time as the mess is cleaned up.

Lascolette said she would like to have greater oversight on trucks that move the substances from a storage facility on Chapel Hill Road to application sites at least licensed and registered. Currently, many of these are farm use vehicles.

Alvarez noted that sludge trucks, whose cargo originates at wastewater treatment plants in Northern Virginia and Maryland, move the stuff late at night. While that seems reasonable to avoid rush hour traffic, Alvarez reported that people think “they’re trying to sneak the stuff in” by moving it in the dark. He would like to see sludge transport limited to business hours, except hours when school buses are on the road.

Virginia currently has a certificate of public need (COPN) hurdle for any medical facility to clear before it can be licensed. Several bills were introduced in the 2016 session to eliminate or streamline this process, which were held over to next year.

Alvarez and Ken Peterson, District 5, contended that COPN is a mechanism for healthcare providers to quash competition. Alvarez said that Hospital Corporation of America (HCA) spent $1.5 million on legal fees to lobby against COPN reform in the 2016 session that would be better spend on indigent care. Peterson said that COPN “smacks of restraint of trade.”

County Attorney Norman Sales, who is interim county administrator, said that Goochland welcomes any and all healthcare providers to expand access to healthcare for our citizens.

Ware explained that funding indigent care was a sticking point on the COPN reform; legislators are reluctant to tamper with a provider’s ability to make money when all hospitals in Virginia are required to accept all who come to them.

This year, the General Assembly added funds to its budget to study rural availability of Broadband. Underserved Virginians are asked to visit or call (877) 969-6685 and answer a few simple questions regarding where they live and what level of connectivity they have. Responses will be aggregated, mapped, and shared with policy makers and the public to stimulate broadband policy and funding discussions throughout the remainder of the administration.

A bill restricting the authority of localities over the placement of telecommunications towers seems to have complicated this issue. Alvarez said that emerging technology might include Wi-Fi equipment on existing telephone poles, which are allowed by right, in place of larger towers that require zoning changes and public input.

Peterson suggested that legislation must keep pace with technology so as not to hamper expansion of services.

Legislation that defanged proffer policies, SB549, which was passed and quickly signed into law by Governor McAuliffe, blindsided the supervisors.

Sales lamented the bill’s lack of clarity and definition about the impact of conditional zoning. Goochland County, he said, intends to comply even though there have been no problems with its proffer policy. The Home Builders’ Association never asked that the amount of the residential cash proffer be reduced. Nevertheless, he said that Goochland will modify its written policy to ensure that it complies with the law.

Ware said he did not vote for SB 549 due to its vagueness. He thanked Goochland for putting the matter on his radar screen.
Farrell said that he expects to see a bill in the 2017 session that will address Goochland’s concerns about the details of SB 549.
Peterson said this bill was the result of “some bad actors” who took proffer powers to an extreme.

Goochland Schools brought their concerns to the table.

State regulations, according to outgoing superintendent Dr. James Lane, School Board Chairperson Kevin Hazzard, and Vice Chairperson Beth Hardy, hamper innovation.

Mandates for matters such as the start date for the school year and how funds must be allocated and spent that have been in place for a century make little sense in contemporary public instruction.

Ware, a former teacher, and Farrell generally favor increased local control of education.

Farrell supports more choices for students and parents. “I’d rather you run programs than the state,” he said.
Lane said that a nearly decade-old cap on funding for support positions, notably reading and math specialists and elementary assistant principals that support at risk students, is outdated.

Hazzard contended that the mid-August school start, for which Goochland must obtain a state waiver each year, is “better for our community.” He believes that the tourism industry could be as profitable in the first two weeks of June as the last two weeks of August.

Year round schools, said Hazzard, use an entirely different model and can benefit economically challenged students to avoid “the summer brain drain” of an extended summervacation.

Hardy echoed the plea for local spending control. “We understand our students best. We are frustrated that we cannot spend less if we find a more efficient way to use the money to serve our students.”

Ware said the he believes that the closer to the student and parent, the better the decision.

Goochland schools are blessed with innovative and dedicated people trying to provide education in a smarter, better, and more cost effective manner. Our students are thriving and reaping accolades by the bushel. Perhaps we need to spend less on education at the state level so we can put the money to better use at home.

In conclusion, Peterson thanked the delegation for its hard work on the county’s behalf and its attentiveness to our issues.

“We’ve got your back,” pledged Farrell. Ware concurred.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

On the cusp of summer

Goochland County’s Board of Supervisors met for its regular monthly session on June 7 to address a routine agenda. There was no mention of selection a successor to County Administrator Rebecca T. Dickson, who retired at the end of March. Not to worry, county government remains on course thanks to the steady hand of County Attorney Norman Sales, acting as interim county administrator, on the tiller.

A fatal motor vehicle wreck at the intersection of Fairgrounds and Broad Street Roads had some citizens clamoring for a lowered speed limit or traffic signal from the Board. Marshall Winn, VDOT representative, said that a speed study had been performed on the roads in question last year that upheld the 55 MPH speed limit. He said that he requested another study. Sales said that the county was preparing a letter to VDOT asking that traffic calming devices, such as rumble strips, or perhaps pavement striping, be deployed to improve safety.

Everyone needs to exercise great care while traveling on county roads. The right to drive carries with it the responsibility to do so in a safe and courteous manner.

Manuel Alvarez, Jr., District 2 said that he has also receive phone calls about dangerous conditions at the intersection of Davis Mill and Hadensville-Fife Roads.

The Department of Community Development, which includes planning and zoning and permitting, will temporarily move to Central High School on Dogtown Road during renovation of its space in the administration building is renovated. The duration of the relocation is expected to be about six months. These offices will be closed on Friday, June 10 and should be back open on Monday at Central High School.

Assumptions made about space allocation when the “old” high school was morphed into the administration building a decade or so ago, have changed. The new space will include a badly needed conference room and better flow for customer service.

The cost of the renovations is expected to be about $625,000 including furniture and technology upgrades. This is somewhat higher than the $500,000 “placeholder” guesstimate made a few years back. In the meantime, some of that amount was moved to cover design costs for the new animal shelter. In the interim, construction costs have risen as the economy strengthens.

Sales said that Goochland did great job on its Relay for Life event even though inclement weather moved it to the high school gym on the weekend of May 21. He commended Goochland Fire-Rescue Chief Bill MacKay for organizing and leading the county administration team. MacKay walked 22 miles earning him the nickname “Iron Man”. The Goochland event raised more than $40,000 for the American Cancer Society.

A writ of election was approved to appoint D. Michael Caudill, currently serving as Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney to serve as Commonwealth’s Attorney to fill the vacancy created by the resignation of incumbent, Claiborne H. Stokes, Jr. effective June 30. Stokes has been appointed District Court Judge. It is expected that the office of Commonwealth’s Attorney will be on the November ballot. Caudill will serve, with the Court’s consent, until the voters fill the vacancy.

Authorization to advertise a proposed ordinance to require all property owners that participate in the land use taxation program to verify their eligibility each year generated an interesting discussion. Jonathan Lyle, a director of the Monacan Soil and Water Conservation District and a farmer advocate, contended that the proposed ordinance is yet another mechanism to discourage agriculture in the county. Lyle said that the number of farms in Goochland is declining and that you can’t have rural character without farms. The proposed ordinance would require everyone with property in land use, taxed by the acre at rates set by the state, to submit a simple from each year by December 5 to remain in the program. Those who fail to comply, according to the proposed ordinance, would have their land taxed a fair market value.

Ken Peterson, District 5 asked about the purpose of the ordinance. According to assessor Mary Ann Davis, existing county records on land use are incomplete. Those with property in land use would receive ample time and notice to comply. In a parcel is taken out of land use, the owner may reapply if the use of the eland has not changed.

The proposed ordinance would not impose the rollback penalty—fair market taxes for the five years preceding the change—unless the use of the land is different. There are approximately 2,000 parcels in land use in Goochland, the ordinance seeks to verify the eligibility of the participants.

Earlier this year, H. Watkins Ellerson, a retired attorney with considerable land use experience, contended that Goochland should eliminate land use taxation because it removes approximately $4 million from tax revenues. Ellerson said that of the 1977 parcels in land use 379 receive 61 percent of the tax benefits. He said that “hobby farmers” who intentionally operate their farms at a loss to write off income from other sources are not real farmers and should not be able to benefit from land use. Ellerson said that land use taxation is not the best way to subsidize legitimate farmers and urged the supervisors to take a hard look at the entire program.
A public hearing on this ordinance will be held on July 5.

John Wack, Deputy County Administrator for Finance, reported that revenues are expected to exceed expenditures for the current fiscal year, which ends on June 30. The projected year end reserve is approximately $6 million.

Monday, June 6, 2016

School's out for the summer

The Class of 2016 graduated from Goochland High School on Sunday, June 5. Livestreamed from Charlottesville, the commencement ceremony was filled with love, joy, and optimism as this great bunch of kids runs headlong into the future.

Graduates are not the only departures from our schools. Superintendent Dr. James Lane, who is leaving Goochland for Chesterfield, expressed his gratitude for the opportunity to with an amazing leadership team. “My four years in Goochland mean more to me than you will ever know,” said Lane.

High School Principal Michael Newman, who is retiring, explained that he and the class of 2016 were “new kids on the block” together when they entered GHS and learned their way around. Class officers presented Newman with a box containing a jigsaw puzzle comprised of a piece representing each graduate. “It’s a hard puzzle, it might take you four years to put it together,” the presenter quipped. A letter to Newman from each member of the class about the role he played in their life was also included.

The graduates contended that Newman is really leaving GHS because they are the best class and he wants to leave on a high note. “Mr. Newman understands that his job is not about building a resume or enforcing rules, it’s about the students. Today is the culmination of an inspiring man’s lifelong passion.” Newman was then honored with a standing ovation

Student speakers expressed gratitude to the teachers, parents, administrators and fellow students who contributed to their success. They encouraged each other to use their unique talents to improve the world, if only to better one little corner and acknowledged the value of the differing gifts of each member of the Class of 2016.

Newman told the class that it is ready to deal with the challenges of the next phase of their lives be it in the world of work, the military, or higher education. The class has differing gifts, giving each graduate a personal path to the satisfaction of a life well lived.

While the entire educational experience at GHS was celebrated, exceptional academic achievement was also recognized. Grade point averages of the top ten honor graduates ranged from 4.275 to 4.7271.

Keynote speaker Virginia General Assembly Delegate Lee Ware, whose 65th District includes western Goochland, urged the class to pay attention to the permanent things in life. Ware, a former teacher, recommend obedience to the unenforceable, those things that lie between freedom and law. The capacity for self-control “will stand you in good stead.” Words of wisdom for a world whose moral compass seems to be going haywire.

Godspeed Class of 2016, may your future be even better than your dreams!