I interviewed Prince William Board of County Supervisors Chair Ann Wheeler earlier this year, and decided it was time to get the “rest of the story.”
Gainesville District Supervisor Pete Candland is now the longest-serving member of the board and senior member of the board’s Republican minority. We met at Candland’s office to discuss his perspective on county government.
Candland’s “elevator story” is simple. He is, in his own words, a small “c” fiscal conservative who believes in lower taxes, smaller government and increased funding for schools coupled with more accountability regarding how taxpayer dollars are spent. He is personally a social conservative but recognizes that in his role as a supervisor he represents everyone.
Candland pointed out that most issues that involve taxpayer money that come before the board are championed by paid lobbyists, the Prince William Chamber of Commerce, or a handful of citizens. He notes that the board usually plays to an empty room other than the aforementioned. Candland considers himself the “lobbyist” of the other 460,000 or so Prince William residents who end up paying for whatever decisions are made.
The COVID-19 pandemic is an unwelcome disruption to local tax policy. Candland remembers being a member of then-Supervisor John Stirrup’s budget committee during the 2008 recession and the successful steps the board took to navigate the county through those challenging times. He fears that the new board’s tax policy is too “aggressive” as we enter these uncertain times and worries we may not be as well positioned to make it through the probable recession our community and country faces.
Candland has targeted raising the computer and peripheral equipment tax rate for the past four years. It was established 20 years ago at a rate of $1.25 per $100 of assessed value, and remains at that rate while other counties have raised their rates. Loudoun County, for example, charges $4.25. Candland blames the Prince William Chamber, lobbyists, and local politicians for protecting data centers at the expense of county taxpayers.
These data centers are owned by some of the largest companies in the world. Candland is not a fan of county taxpayers subsidizing data centers and points out that increasing the computers and peripherals tax would generate millions of dollars in revenue, which could be used to reduce the tax burden on county residents and invest in our schools and community.
Candland brings unique experience as a local small business owner to the table regarding re-opening Prince William for business. He understands the impact of shutting down, laying off employees, applying for loans, and looking for new business models to survive and serve the public. Candland prefers a data-driven, regional approach rather than a “one size fits all” solution.
He also led the successful effort for the board of supervisors to initiate a Freedom of Information Act request for 18 months of direct messages sent from the Twitter account of Dr. Steven Walts, superintendent of the Prince William County school system. Candland’s goal is simple: determine whether the complaints about the messages are true. Candland shared that he wants an honest, complete, transparent investigation. He believes the public, particularly parents, deserve to know the facts surrounding this issue.
Candland is optimistic that the members of the current board will find common ground. He welcomes the new ideas fresh faces bring to the table. He gave a “shoutout” to county staff for their support and flexibility during these “interesting” times.
As a parent with children in the local school system and a local small business owner, Pete Candland brings a unique perspective to the Prince William board. Those who ignore his experience and sound counsel do so at our expense.
Al Alborn is a political and social activist in Prince William County. His column appears every other week. You can learn more about Al at www.alborn.net.