Following a challenging campaign season where visions of old versus new Culpeper went head to head, the victors of Election Day 2021 look forward towards their term and how to best represent their constituents.
Just after 8:40 p.m. on Nov. 2, Frank Reaves Jr. defeated Jon Russell for the role of Culpeper’s next mayor with 2,755 votes compared to Russell’s 2,374 - a difference of 381.
Reaves, who currently serves on Culpeper Town Council, said he has “several” main goals following being sworn into office in January.
“One of my main priorities is for the council and I to get on the same page,” he said. “It is very important to me that the council and I have a great working relationship and that we are able to work together for the betterment and enrichment of the entire town. We may not all agree all of the time but we should be able to communicate that in a safe, courteous and respectful manner.”
His second priority lies in a topic that steered many conversations prior to election day: the quality of Culpeper’s water.
“Recently, a bipartisan infrastructure bill was passed that could help a great deal with our water issues within the town,” Reaves said. “I have already begun to make inquiries with Abigail Spanberger’s office as to what this could mean and how this bill can help our town in the future.”
Opening a community pool and addressing affordable housing options for residents and the homeless, Reaves said, also rank highest amongst his priorities.
“I would like to sit down and talk with landlords in the town and ask some to step up and update some of the locations that are rented out that have mold and are having issues,” he said. “The tenants need to have their locations livable for their families. This would also help the tenants in the future when wanting to rent to other people. No one will rent from locations that are less than livable.”
According to the Town of Culpeper’s Charter, the mayor presides over council meetings and is recognized as the head of the town government for all ceremonial purposes.
Reaves replaces Mayor Michael Olinger who announced earlier this year he would not seek reelection.
With a whopping 10 person ticket, candidates vying a seat on Culpeper Twin Council came down to the top four vote getters.
Top vote-getter N. Janie Schmidt, who received 2,170 votes, said her first priorities are water quality, infrastructure improvements and homelessness.
“With winter quickly approaching, finding solutions for providing emergency shelter and support services in the short term and more permanent solutions for (the) long term is paramount,” she said. “There will be further research and a plan developed for affordable housing and the possibility of a tiny home village for the near future.”
Schmidt’s long term goals include strengthening Culpeper’s economy, promoting activities and new venues for kids and families and eliminating personal property taxation.
“With inflation on the rise and the higher cost of living, our burdened citizens would benefit from the elimination of the current double taxation on the same personal property taxed by the county,” she said.
Incumbent Billy Yowell tallied the second highest number of votes with 2,164. His priorities lie in formulating and executing a budget that best fits the needs of constituents.
“The agenda, as far as I’m concerned, has always been a fiduciary responsibility to our voters and that has to do with our budget and how we spend the tax dollars,” he said. “The whole is predicated on what we do with the budget.”
“That basically gives a roadmap of what we can and cannot do money-wise.”
Although lowering taxes is at the forefront in the minds of some, Yowell said in order for that to happen, the town must replace the lost revenue from the lowered taxes or cut services.
Yowell looks forward to the prospect of opening a community pool, but sees a site relocation to the recreation center spearheaded by the Culpeper County Board of Supervisors as more beneficial.
As far as looking ahead, Yowell said this is the first time in his long tenure there have been so many new faces on the town council. He looks forward to their ideas and working alongside them as they learn the inner workings of Culpeper’s government.
Joe Short placed third in overall votes with 1,908.
“The existing, elected, and soon-to-be appointed members will form an effective council that will focus on the priorities of our town,” he said. “We each have our individual strengths and areas of emphasis, but I believe the council members and mayor will work together to give a voice to citizens and accomplish our agenda. I look forward to joining the team!”
Some of Short’s priorities include water quality, homelessness, decreasing property tax burdens and expanding the police department’s co-responder program.
“(Culpeper Police Department), in a joint program with Rappahannock Rapidan Community Services, has established one of the area’s first co-responder programs with dramatically successful results,” he said. “I will always prioritize CPD’s budget and will request the council to support the expansion of this critical service.”
B. Travis Brown came in fourth with 1,714 total votes. His priorities coincide with his fellow successful candidates: lowering taxes, water quality and infrastructure.
“I intend to introduce a motion to offset these tax revenues with an increase in the cigarette tax, which the state now allows to be set up to 40 cents (per) pack,” he said. “I intend for this tax break not to extend to national chains/big box stores or businesses owned by out of state residents.
“I want to ensure that Culpeper is (a) town where local entrepreneurs and small businesses come first.”
Brown said he also intends to spark a study on the effects of pollution and algae blooms in Lake Pelham in relation to Culpeper's water supply.
Incumbent Pranas Rimeikis lost his seat after coming in fifth place overall. He lost out to Brown for the fourth spot by 77 votes.
David Durr defeated incumbent C. Jack Fraizer in representing the Cedar Mountain District on the Culpeper County Board of Supervisors with 1,255 votes compared to Fraizer’s 1,151.
Susan Gugino beat out incumbent Bill Chase with 1,415 votes compared to his 715. Chase came in third place behind challenger Laura Rogers, who received 843 votes.
Incumbent Supervisor Brad Rosenberg ran unopposed in his race to continue representing the Jefferson District and won.
Former teacher and school board member Elizabeth Hutchins will represent the Stevensburg District on the Culpeper County School Board after receiving 1,442 votes.
Hutchins beat out challengers Lori Medley and Rebecca Bragg. Brag received 983 votes and Medley 552.
Both Betsy Howard Smith for the Cedar Mountain District and Deborah Desilets for the Jefferson District won their races as they ran unopposed. In Smith’s race, however, there were 63 write-ins and 137 write-ins in Desilets’s race.
Two Republican incumbents will hold onto their seats in the Virginia House of Delegates for districts representing parts of Culpeper County.
Del. Michael Webert beat out Democratic challenger Doug Ward in District 18 with 5,009 votes tallied in Culpeper County.
Del. Nick Freitas beat out his Democratic challenger Annette Hyde in District 30 with 8,253 votes in Culpeper County.
Vote totals include absentee votes, which were counted three days after elections on Nov. 5. The election will be verified on Nov. 15.