CDN Editor: Two candidates are in the race for Virginia’s 10th House of Delegates District which includes The 10th Delegate District spans parts of Loudoun, Clarke (White Post and most of Millwood) and Frederick counties. This interview was conducted with Randall Minchew via electronic mail.
CDN: Clarke County has long had the most active conservation easement programs in the area. Proponents of conservation easements say that easements reduce costly tax payer requirements to support residential sprawl. Opponents says that the program is simply a tax shelter for the wealthy that unfairly shifts the tax burden to small property owners and makes it difficult for new businesses to enter the county. What grade do you give Clarke County’s conservation easement program and why?
Minchew: I strongly support Clarke County’s conservation easement program and think that it has worked well as a conservation tool and as a supplement to the Clarke County Zoning Ordinance to preserve open space and key agricultural areas in the County. Unique among Virginia counties, Clarke County has created a Conservation Easement Authority to hold and enforce these easements and I am proud of Clarke County’s leadership in this area. In 2010, 474 acres were preserved and20 development rights were retired though this good work. Since 2003, Clarke County has retired 118 development rights through donated and purchased easements. In particular, am thankful for the conservation work in southern Clarke County in and around White Post where so much beneficial conservation work has taken place. I would give Clarke County an A for its work and pledge to fight for a continuation of the federal and state tax incentives that will support these conservation easement acquisition efforts in the future. I also join with the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation in strongly supporting the working lands variant of the conservation easement template approved this spring by the Virginia Outdoor Foundation as I think this will work well in supporting our Clarke County family farms.
CDN:Clarke County’s affordable broadband access is largely limited only to its population centers. While options like satellite and WIFI exist, such service is expensive, slow and often unreliable making it difficult to operate rural-based businesses that require Internet access. Do you have plans to address this problem?
Minchew: My research into this matter has shown that Clarke County, like many other rural counties, has a “last mile” issue in bringing broadband connectivity to homes in its rural areas. I would support business tax credits to incentivize broadband providers in resolving these “last mile” issues such that high speed fiber broadband connections can occur to the benefit of rural-based businesses and telecommuting opportunities. I also support private sector new investments in upgrading satellite service provision and believe that, in the future, satellite broadband access and voice communication will be the norm. Given that I believe that the private sector, with its innate entrepreneurial gifts, can provide these needed services, I would not support use of Clarke County or Commonwealth general fund monies in funding extension of this broadband infrastructure.
CDN: Clarke County’s education programs have seen significant cuts in funding from the Commonwealth. Elected school officials have said that there is a direct link between declining student performance and education program funding cuts. Has Virginia’s education funding dropped to the point where it is negatively impacting student learning? If so, what message are we sending to our next generation of Virginians?
Minchew: First and foremost, I believe that the Local Composite Index (“LCI”) used by the Commonwealth in determining taxpayer dollar returns to local school districts is in need of reform. Clarke County does not get its fair share back in my opinion under the current LCI formula. Along with funding the state system of roads and highways, financing of K-12 public education is a core responsibility of the state government and must be treated as such. As such, our General Assembly needs to allocate its funding priorities without raising taxes to accommodate these core responsibilities of state government.
CDN: The Environmental Protection Agency is gearing up to implement new measures meant to protect the Chesapeake Bay. In Clarke County, these measures likely will place higher costs on local farmers. Similarly, Virginia Power has won approval to place a new power plant near Shenandoah National Park even though opponents argued that the power produced in the plant would largely be used in New York and New Jersey. How should local citizens view the costs and impacts associated with regional and national environmental issues like the Chesapeake Bay and acid rain mitigation?
Minchew: Having worked as Governor McDonnell’s Deputy Counselor and Advisor when the Obama Administration’s EPA Total Maximum Daily Load (“TMDL”) unfunded mandate came down, I am very knowledgeable about this subject and believe it to be one of the primary threats localities in our region face from the EPA. I would support our Commonwealth affirmatively challenging the Obama Administration’s TMDL unfunded mandate in federal district court under Commerce Clause and 10th Amendment grounds. I would not support either state or local tax increases to meet the demands of this mandate. While I support appropriate and affordable clean air and clean water regulations, I think that it is unfair to for the federal government to hand down highly-burdensome unfunded environmental mandates of localities, such as the Clarke County Board of Supervisors, that could create the need for tax increases and interfere with agricultural activities and profitability.
CDN: With commercial development to the south in Warren County, commercial zoning to the west in Frederick County and the availability of a sewage treatment facility from the Virginia Corrections Department, many citizens see Double Toll Gate as a natural location for expanded commercial use. Yet the Clarke County Supervisors have decided that the cost of providing water and sewer to the area is simply too expensive for the County to underwrite.
Do you see a role for your office in facilitating inter-county discussions that could improve the economic health of the region?
Minchew: I have been involved in local government mediation issues for years and personally witnessed the Western Fairfax County-Eastern Loudoun County and Northern Prince William and Southern Loudoun land use border disputes. These disputes can be resolved through mutually-beneficial discussions and mediation between local government officials, their professional staff agents, and landowner stakeholders. I am a firm believer in local control over land use decisions and do not support state government encroachment into the rights of counties to render these land use decisions in accordance with their adopted comprehensive plans. That being said, if both Clarke County and Warren County would like to have my office serve as a facilitator to help the two counties reach consensus, I would agree to do so with the understanding that, in the end, both counties retain their land use decision-making sovereignty.
CDN: Of the candidates that you’ve heard so far, who do you believe has the best chance of winning the 2012 presidential race? Who do you support?
Minchew: While I have been asked to endorse a few of the Republican candidates for President, I have chosen not to do so. My attention this year and at the present time is solely directed toward my 2011 election, supporting my Republican colleagues who will be on the Clarke County ballot with me, and working with Governor McDonnell to achieve success in his initiatives. After November 8th, I will focus on the 2012 federal elections and on supporting the reelection of our great Congressman, Frank Wolf.
CDN: Please provide a brief statement about yourself.
Minchew: I have deep roots in Virginia, have lived and worked in the new 10th District for nearly 20 years, and am honored to be running for the House of Delegates with endorsement of Governor McDonnell, Congressman Frank Wolf, Senator Jill Holtzman Vogel, Delegate Joe May, the Farm Bureau’s AgPAC, the National Federation of Independent Business, and many other Clarke County leaders and businesses.
Following my graduation from Langley High School in Fairfax County, I studied public policy and economics at Duke University and after graduation accepted a position in criminal prosecution with District Attorney’s office in Durham County, North Carolina, and thereafter returned to Virginia to study law at Washington & Lee University in Lexington. After my graduation from law school, I received an appointment as personal law clerk to the Honorable A. Christian Compton, Justice of the Supreme Court of Virginia in Richmond and then, in 1985, returned home to Northern Virginia, settling soon thereafter in Leesburg to establish my home, law practice, and tradition of public and community service.
My leadership in and service to the community has taken many forms over the years. I am a founding member and two-term Chairman of the Loudoun County Economic Development Commission as well as a founding member and chair of the Rural Economic Development Task Force and take particular pride in the product of that Task Force which prepared a detailed plan for strengthening the economic base of rural Loudoun County while preserving scenic areas and open space. As a longstanding member of the Loudoun County Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, I have also consistently advocated for public policies that create jobs, preserve a favorable business climate, and lead to meaningful transportation improvements. In 2010, Governor Bob McDonnell me to serve as his Deputy Counselor and Advisor and I spent many days last year and this year in Richmond working on the Governor’s initiatives to create jobs, protect our local school funding, and provide meaningful transportation improvements without any tax increases.
I am also an NRA Life Member, an avid outdoorsman and conservationist from my days as a Boy Scout where I earned the Eagle Scout rank in 1971. I have has remained active with the Boy Scouts of America, twice serving as Chairman of the Goose Creek District – 4,300 scouts strong – as well as serving as Scoutmaster of both Leesburg Troop 998 and 2010 National Scout Jamboree Troop 521. I consider American Boy Scouting to be the most successful youth leadership movement in the history of the world. In 2010, I was awarded Scouting’s highest adult leader recognition, the Silver Beaver, in 2010. I also hold a diploma in Theology from Virginia Theological Seminary and am an active Lay Eucharistic Minister at my home church in Leesburg. On my weekends, I can often be seen hiking and maintaining my 5.6 mile section of section of the Appalachian Trail along the Loudoun-Clarke County line as a trail overseer with the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club. After serving as General Counsel for the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club, I was awarded a life membership by the Club for my work in conservation land acquisition and trail preservation.
Together with my wife Teresa and my son Jack, I live in the Old and Historic District of Leesburg where we are the stewards of an 1899 Virginia Historic Landmark home