by Heidi M Baumstark, Bull Run Observer
14 October 2011, pp. 4, 6
“We see their names on signs, in newspapers and elsewhere. They are the elected representatives of the Prince William Board of County Supervisors who oversee the county government.
“Every four years, Prince William County voters can elect board of county supervisors. Currently, the eight-member board, overseeing seven magisterial districts, consists of Corey A. Stewart, chairman at-large; Maureen S Caddigan, vice chair and Potomac District; W.S. ‘Wally’ Covington III, Brentsville District; Martin E. Nohe, Coles District; John D. Jenkins, Neabsco District; Michael C. May, Occoquan District and Frank J. Principi, Woodbridge District.
“Tish Como, librarian in the Ruth E. Lloyd Information Center (RELIC) Room at Bull Run Regional Library in Manassas extensively researched the board’s history; she wrote an article in one of RELIC’s publications about its history. In an April 2004 issue ‘Prince William Reliquary,’ Como’s study said the board was established by the Virginia Constitution of 1869. In 1870, members were elected every May by townships to take office in July. There was only one annual mandatory meeting, held the first Monday in December, but the board could meet at other times.
“For almost 100 years, from 1870 to 1967, there were six magisterial districts: Brentsville, Coles, Dumfries, Gainesville, Manassas and Occoquan. Those first county supervisors in 1870 were Joseph B. Reid (1870-75), Brentsville; William M. Lynn (1870-72), Coles; John W. Chapman (1870), Dumfries (now Potomac); A.H. Johnson (1870) Gainesville; Francis M. Lewis(1870-79), Manassas and Burr Glasscock (1870), Occoquan.
“In October 1870, the Supervisors’ Minute Books were first recorded and offer a window into the issues facing county residents.
“In February 1967, a seventh district was created. Francis M. Coffey was appointed supervisor of the new Neabsco Magisterial District when new boundary lines were drawn due to increasing population.
“From 1870 through 1893, the board met at Brentsville Courthouse. Beginning on Jan. 6, 1894, the members met at the newly constructed Manassas Courthouse.
“Today, televised meetings are held generally on the first, second and third Tuesday of the month at 2 p.m. in the board chambers at the James J. McCoart Government Center in Prince William. Public hearings for such issues as zoning or special-use permits are held after public notices have been published in local newspapers.
“In January 1904, all county officials were elected in November, and county supervisors served four-year terms beginning the following Jan. 1. Instead of only one mandatory annual meeting, the board was to hold meetings at fixed periods and as often as necessary.
“In the 1960s, as the governing body of the county, the board issued the Prince William County Annual Report (available in the RELIC Room.) Flipping through the pages with black-and-white photos, the report offers a glimpse of life in the county, regarding issues on transportation, public safety, social welfare, education, health and leisure. They also publish voting and county government employment numbers.
“The 1966 report states, ‘Records of [voter] registration are showing a marked increase in Prince William. Total registration in December 1964 for the county was 12,660.’
“Como’s research showed the county population in 1870 was 7,504; a century later in 1970, the population had grown to 111,102. According to the Prince William County Standard Data Set, as of June 15, 2011, an estimated population figure for Prince William County topped to 409,345. (As of April 1, 2010, the population of the City of Manassas was 37,821; for the same date, the population for the City of Manassas Park reached 14,273.)
“The City of Manassas and the City of Manassas Park, which were formerly towns within Prince William County, became separate, independent cities with their own governments, prior to June 1, 1975. Cities have their own government-governed by an elected city council that appoints a city manager.
“On June 12, 1975, the board adopted a new redistricting plan in response to a court order for the seven magisterial districts, five in the eastern end and two in the western end. The Manassas District was dropped, and a new district named Woodbridge was added to the redistricting plan.
“Kathleen K. Seefeldt, a Prince William County resident since 1970, served as Occoquan District Supervisor from 1976-91. Elected in November 1991 as the first chairman at large (and eighth member) of the board, Seefeldt held this position until Sean T. Connaughton was elected to that position in November 1999. Reelected in 2003, he served until he resigned in September 2006 to accept President George W. Bush’s nomination to become the U.S. Maritime Administrator. Currently, he is the Virginia Secretary of Transportation.
“Seefeldt said, ‘I was on the board for 24 years. There was a great deal of catching up to do with matching infrastructure with the growing population. Local groups formed to offer input in budget and land-use matters. It was grass-roots participation, giving citizens the opportunity for input at the front-end, to develop a vision and future for the county.’
“Corey A. Stewart is now the chairman. He first served as Occoquan District supervisor from 2004-06; he replaced Connaughton in a special election and was reelected in 2007.
“Over the past 20 to 30 years, there are only a few supervisors who are native Prince William County residents. A reflection of how much this community has grown and the county has urbanized, the board has become more diverse.
“Tony Guiffre of Haymarket served as the Gainesville District Supervisor from 1984-87. At the time, he lived in Catharpin and ran for the elected position because he wanted to improve the local government.
“Guiffre explained that development was springing up at anytime, anywhere, at any price.
” ‘Many citizens didn’t want this. There was lots of growth without restrictions and taxes were increasing; people wanted controlled growth,’ he said. There were also environmental concerns, such as ground-water issues.
“During his tenure, some new developments in the western end of the county included Heritage Hunt, Virginia Oaks, Robert Trent Jones Golf Club in Lake Manassas and the Gainesville Neighborhood Library in James S. Long Park, which opened in 1987.
“The James J. McCoart Government Center (named after a former Neabsco District supervisor) was built in the eastern end of the county.
“Guiffre said he enjoyed his time on the board. ‘Representing local county government is a lot of work, but it was very rewarding, especially working with the constituents. The supervisors are hardworking, dedicated people. The experience gave me a new respect for elected officials,’ he said.
“More information about the county’s board of supervisors is online at www.pwcgov.org , under the ‘government’ link.”