By Shannon Clark Times Staff Writer Sep 7, 2023
Hoping voters will put aside partisan politics during local elections, three Republican newcomers – all women – are trying to flip supervisors’ seats in three of eastern Prince William County’s most Democratic-leaning districts.
Jeannie LaCroix, of Belmont Bay, Verndell Robinson, of Triangle, and Karla Justice, of Woodbridge, are looking to be the next county supervisors in the Woodbridge, Potomac and Occoquan districts, respectively.
In this year’s election, Republicans have candidates running seven of the eight races for Prince William County supervisor seats. Of the seven, five of the GOP candidates are women, including incumbent Supervisor Jeanine Lawson, R-Brentsville, who is running for county board chair, and Supervisor Yesli Vega, R-Coles, who is seeking re-election.
While the three GOP newcomers have slightly different platform priorities, all three say they are strongly opposed to the county’s 4% meals tax, are concerned about rising crime and are wary about what they call “irresponsible” over-development, including that of data centers placed too close to residential areas.
Jeannie LaCroix, Woodbridge
LaCroix, 61, a real estate agent for Long and Foster Real Estate, is running for supervisor to bring residents’ voices to the forefront.
“Many of the residents and local businesses feel as though their voices have been lost,” LaCroix said. “I’m running because I intend to bring their voices back.”
LaCroix, is challenging incumbent Woodbridge Supervisor Margaret Angela Franklin, 37, a Democrat who is vying for her second term. Franklin also serves as the vice chair of the board.
Democrats have held the Woodbridge seat since at least 1987. LaCroix said that while she is running as a Republican and is fiscally conservative, she believes “local politics should not be partisan.”
“I think that you need to look at all the candidates and decide if you think they can do a good job for the community in the position they’re running for,” LaCroix said.
LaCroix said a major new development proposed for Belmont Bay, a mixed-use community of about 1,100 homes, townhomes and condominiums on the banks of the Potomac River, “woke her up” to the plight of residents who feel their concerns are not being heard by the county board. In the summer of 2021, Belmont Bay’s developer, Caruthers Companies, proposed building another 1,400 homes, as well as a commercial “marina district” on the waterfront.
Some Belmont Bay residents were concerned about the proposal bringing too many homes and creating traffic congestion and noise. The application for the development remains “under review,” according to the county’s development processing schedule website.
LaCroix said she is opposed to the project and notes the county planning commission also objected to much of the proposal. LaCroix said she believes the residents should be involved in the decision-making when a developer seeks to “change a community as drastically as the submitted plan.”
“My campaign is not just about Belmont Bay; it is about the entire district, businesses and residents being ignored,” she said.
If elected, LaCroix said she will support growth in areas that have the proper infrastructure and will consider how the surrounding community would benefit from a proposed project.
“There always should be a bridge of communication for developers and citizens to work together toward a mutual benefit for the community,” LaCroix said.
LaCroix opposes the county’s 4% meals tax on prepared foods and beverages, which went into effect in July 2022. LaCroix said the tax hurts local restaurant owners and workers.
“Most of the workers within the restaurants are residents of Prince William County with families,” LaCroix said. “I believe it is important for families to have food on the table and a roof over their heads than a surplus in the county budget.”
Other priorities for LaCroix include supporting local law enforcement to reduce crime and working with the department of public works to restore neighborhood roads and sidewalks
Verndell Robinson, Potomac
Robinson, 51, also a real estate agent, is a former Immigration Customs Enforcement Officer who decided to run for the Potomac District seat after seeing her monthly escrow payments rise due to real estate tax increases.
“We need somebody that’s going to look at that budget and look at everything around us and say, ‘Okay, how can we help everybody? How can we use this money that we’ve collected to help all of the concerns … in this county?’ And because of those reasons, I feel like someone needed to run,” she said.
Robinson is challenging incumbent Supervisor Andrea Bailey, D-Potomac, who is also vying for a second term. Bailey, 68, of Dumfries, has held the seat since 2020, when former Supervisor Maureen Caddigan, a Republican, retired after holding the seat for 28 years.
Robinson has lived in the Potomac District for the last eight years and is advocating for more affordable housing to help residents who work in the county to live here and to help support the “nuclear family” structure by allowing grandparents to live near their grandchildren.
“Affordable housing needs to make sense for everybody at every level,” Robinson said. “We don’t just have six-figure people here; we don’t just have five-figure people here; we have people that are struggling.”
On development, Robinson said she is not against data centers but is against irresponsible development and wants future data center projects to be placed in areas where they do not affect neighborhoods, schools and natural resources.
“You’ve got to be balanced (when it comes to data centers) and (right now) I think we’re unbalanced,” Robinson said.
Robinson is also against the 4% meals tax and said if elected she will try to repeal it, as she, too, has talked to restaurant owners who believe they have lost business due to the tax.
Robinson is also wary of nearby gambling outlets, such as Rosie’s Gaming Emporium and The Rose, a resort-sized gaming facility set to open next year in Dumfries, due to potential negative impacts on residential neighborhoods as well as issues such as problem gambling and addiction. Both outlets offer gambling on slot-like betting machines based on historical horse races. Rosie’s, a smaller gaming facility, is slated to close when The Rose opens.
Citing a 2004 study student published in the Journal of Gambling, Robinson said the presence of a casino within 10 miles of a person’s home is related to problem gambling.
Other priorities for Robinson include working with local law enforcement to promote hiring incentives and addressing mental health needs by creating mental health satellite centers associated with the county’s planned “crisis receiving center,” which is set to open next year near Potomac Mills.
Karla Justice, Occoquan
Born and raised in the Occoquan District, Justice, 40, is the general manager of Occoquan Harbour Marina and is running for supervisor to “be the voice people can count on” and to “serve the community better.”
Justice is challenging incumbent Supervisor Kenny Boddye, D-Occoquan, who is vying for a second term.
The Occoquan District is perhaps the most closely divided politically of any Prince William County Magisterial District, although it has leaned more Democratic in recent elections. Justice said she wishes “local level politics wasn’t so party driven” and said that during her time door-knocking, she very rarely meets residents who strictly vote with their political party.
“I’ve got a lot of friends in the district that have known me for many years that might be on the other political side,” Justice said. “They know who I am, and they know how I run businesses, and they know how I treat customers. So,that’s going to change a lot of votes. I think you’re (going to) see a lot of crossovers where somebody might vote the line in one area and then make a jump over.”
A single mother to her 5-year-old daughter, Justice said reducing crime is a big priority. If elected, Justice said she will work to take care of the police by investing and retaining qualified police officers.
Justice said she wants to work on combatting fentanyl and drug use by bringing new parks and recreation facilities to the district to steer young people toward more positive activities. She said she also wants to provide more resources for those struggling with addiction.
“Based on what I saw in middle school, in high school, if you could get kids focused on other things (through) mentorships and other things that they’re interested in, it diverts the attention away and gets kids away from doing those type of things,” Justice said.
Justice is also opposed to the meals tax, and, if elected, would try eliminating it before trying to reduce other taxes in the county, such as real estate taxes.
Justice is also not against data centers, as she says data centers can be a way to increase commercial tax revenue. But she says they need to be looked at on a “case-by-case basis” based on location. Justice said she is a big advocate for protecting the Occoquan Reservoir from overdevelopment. The waterway provides drinking water to about 800,000 residents of Prince William and Fairfax counties.
“If we don’t start implementing and taking certain steps now to protect and maintain, we could lose that natural resource,” Justice said.
Other priorities include fixing the Occoquan District’s roads, specifically the intersection of Old Bridge Road and Va. 123, which is being considered for a potential flyover ramp. Justice said she agrees a solution is needed but wants to involve the community in the process.
“I think we really need to engage with the community and business owners there and figure out the best way of doing that,” Justice said, “But I also think the Occoquan District has waited a very long time for a decisive leader to come in and fix our roads.”
All eight seats on the Prince William Board of County Supervisors are up for re-election on Tuesday, Nov. 7. Early voting begins on Sept. 22.
Reach Shannon Clark at firstname.lastname@example.org.