The Fredericksburg area’s Commonwealth Transportation Board seat has been vacant since former representative Hap Connors left in January.
That lack of representation on the state board has local officials pressing for a replacement, and it was an issue at last week’s monthly meeting of the Policy Committee for the Fredericksburg Area Metropolitan Planning Organization.
Committee Chairman Tim McLaughlin introduced a letter supporting local attorney Charlie Payne, a lifelong resident of the area known largely for representing developers in land-use matters. His background with developers is seen as a negative by some and a positive by others.
The committee eventually voted to send a letter to the governor asking that he appoint a representative soon, without recommending anyone.
McLaughlin said he wants Payne because he was endorsed by localities in 2011 (Stafford and the Spotsylvania board of supervisors and the Fredericksburg City Council) and for his experience. Stafford Supervisor Wendy Maurer said before the vote that Payne’s connection to developers would be a “perceived conflict of interest” and she couldn’t support him.
Another local resident mentioned at the meeting, by Stafford Supervisor Mark Dudenhefer, was Joel Griffin. He operates a government contracting business and is chairman of Stafford County’s Economic Development Authority.
Dudenhefer said Griffin has leadership skills and business acumen. He said Payne knows the details of the area and transportation and said his attorney background would be a bonus.
He would support either man because both know how the business and political systems work. Fredericksburg City Councilman Matt Kelly also said he would support either of the men.
But he and Dudenhefer, both veterans in the political and transportation world, said they don’t care who it is as long as the person is qualified to handle a complicated position.
“This is a technical job,” Dudenhefer said. CTB members have to be knowledgeable about transportation and so much more, he added.
They both say the area needs representation on the CTB in order to keep local projects in play for state funding.
“The CTB is making decisions now,” Kelly said. “I don’t know why it hasn’t been filled yet. We need somebody in there now.”
No one on the FAMPO committee knows where the situation stands, or who might be a candidate.
Dudenhefer said he’s concerned it will be a political appointment in light of the racial controversy that has enveloped Gov. Ralph Northam in recent months. The governor’s office did not respond immediately to a message concerning the opening.
Some names Dudenhefer has heard are “totally unqualified,” he said.
He and Kelly said the area has gotten strong representation with the past two people to hold the spot—Connors, a former Spotsylvania supervisor who focused much of his energy on the CTB touting technology and helped the area secure a lot of funding for projects; and Cord Sterling, a former Stafford supervisor also credited with getting a lot of transportation work done in the area.
“We need an advocate,” Dudenhefer said. “Without one, we don’t get a seat at the table.”