Three new faces join county Board of Supervisors

By Sage Um

Three newcomers were elected to the Rockbridge County Board of Supervisors Tuesday night.

John Marshall Higgins beat Janet M. Mogensen in the Buffalo District race to succeed retiring Supervisor Mack Smith, and Ronnie Campbell won handily in the South River District. In the Natural Bridge District, David W. Hinty Jr. ran unopposed.

“I feel good,” Higgins said. “I knew it was going to be an uphill battle.”

Higgins got 53 percent of the vote in the closer of the contested races, to Mogensen’s 47 percent. In South River, Campbell won with 52 percent. His closest challenger, Eric Sheffield, got 43 percent.

Higgins, who identifies himself as an independent, is a native of Rockbridge County. He has been superintendent of the county jail for the past 20 years. He told voters in the campaign that he would work for the common people, and that his political views didn’t lean either way. His campaign focused on preserving the community’s roots and bringing in new jobs so the county’s natives can stay and work here.

Mogensen, running in Buffalo District as a Republican in the nonpartisan race, owns the Virginia Safari Park, a major tourist attraction near Natural Bridge. She had promised voters to work to keep taxes low and bring her perspective as a private business owner to the board.

“It was my first campaign and I really enjoyed it from the beginning to the end,” said Mogensen. “I learned a lot and I am very active in the Republican Party and this is a lifelong thing for me.”

In the South River District, Campbell, Sheffield and Gene Tilles, who finished a distant third, all shared a goal of bringing businesses to the county if elected.

Campbell, the father of five girls, sat on the county school board for 10 years.  As he campaigned for the Board of Supervisors job, he still expressed concern about the county’s school system.  He openly opposed the consolidation of the two county middle schools.

“It was a lot of ups and downs throughout the last three months,” said Campbell, “I was still confident and I will put the consolidation issue as our priority once the Board comes together.”

Sheffield based his campaign on a five-step plan that emphasized the value of the county’s natural environment while promoting business and public services.  He said low taxes and a strong infrastructure would bring new business that would create job opportunities.

Tilles said he wanted to see incentives designed to draw in new businesses, but he also supported a concise development plan that would preserve the area’s agricultural nature.  He said that approach would preserve farmland and open spaces, rather than lose them to scattered development.

Campbell will succeed incumbent Supervisor Carroll Comstock, who is retiring after an eight-year tenure.

In the Natural Bridge District Hinty ran unopposed to replace Hunt Riegel, who is retiring after one term on the board.

The election of Higgins, Hinty and Campbell will mean a majority of the five-member board are newcomers.