So far, four candidates have thrown their hats in the ring to serve as interim chair of the Prince William County school board, including three familiar faces on the county’s political circuit.
Ever since Chairman Ryan Sawyers announced his abrupt resignation on March 7, the school division has been accepting applications from any registered voter in the county to serve in his place. While the application is open through March 17, school division spokeswoman Diana Gulotta says four people have submitted materials so far: Shawn Brann, John Gray, Babur Lateef and Richard Wellman Jr.
The school board is set to pick an interim chairman next month, and they’ll serve as the lone countywide representative on the eight-member board through the special election set to pick Sawyers’ permanent replacement. The county’s circuit court recently ordered that election will coincide with the congressional midterms on Nov. 6, with the winner serving the remainder of Sawyers’ term through Dec. 31, 2019.
Wellman is a relative newcomer to the county’s political scene, but the remaining three candidates have all dabbled in county government to some extent before.
Brann spent about a year serving as an acting board member while Gil Trenum of the Brentsville District was deployed to Africa as a Navy reservist from June 2016 to October 2017. He previously worked as an English teacher at Woodbridge High School.
Lateef, a Manassas opthamologist, last made a bid for county office when he ran as a Democrat to challenge Board of County Supervisors Chairman Corey Stewart in 2011. He also recently served on Gov. Ralph Northam’s transition team, and was appointed to the University of Virginia’s Board of Visitors by then-Gov. Terry McAuliffe.
Gray, a Lake Ridge accountant, has also made several unsuccessful bids for county office, most recently running for the Occoquan District seat on the school board in 2015 with the backing of county Republicans.
The board plans to hold a public hearing on candidates for chair on April 4, then select a new chair on April 18. The body is nominally a nonpartisan one, but each of the seven remaining members ran with endorsements from local political parties — four with Democrats’ backing, three with Republican support — and the selection process may ultimately depend on each candidate’s political preference.
Yet the board will also likely consider whether the interim chair is likely to run in the upcoming special election, not to mention in the 2019 local elections when a full four-year term will be up for grabs.
Gray was the first candidate to toss his hat in the ring for the special election for chair, and Lateef says he also plans to run in November. Brann didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on his plans.
County Republicans are also pushing board member Alyson Satterwhite of the Gainesville District to run, though she has yet to comment on her interest in the race.