By Polina Noskova
Incumbent John Higgins, 57, the Rockbridge County supervisor running for re-election from the Buffalo District, is the only one who faces a challenger in the Nov. 3 election. He has held the seat for one term.
Deborah Weddle, 62, a local resident for 33 years and retired high school teacher, is running against him.
Higgins is the superintendent of the county jail. He was born and raised in Rockbridge County and has been working in law enforcement since 1982. He is an elder at his church and serves on multiple boards including those of Rockbridge Area Community Services and the Central Shenandoah Justice Training Academy.
Higgins said that, working for the sheriff’s office, his understanding of budgets, finance and policy procedure helps him with his work on the Board.
“At the county we oversee staff, we oversee policy, we oversee procedures. I think some of it is kind of like running two little business, or overseeing two individual agencies,” Higgins said.
Weddle retired from the Rockbridge County school system four years ago after teaching for 24 years, and substitute teaching for six.
“The reason I’m running is currently I think the County Board of Supervisors does not truly represent the entire populace of Rockbridge County,” Weddle said. Even with five districts represented, the board seems dominated by people born and bred here, she said.
“Though I’ve been here 40 years, I have an outside perspective.”
Higgins said that the biggest problem facing Rockbridge County right now is in the area of economic development. Water and sewers continue to be an issue, as well as competition from neighboring regions who might have more money to pay for incentives for businesses to come in than Rockbridge.
Weddle said the biggest problem is that youth don’t have jobs once they get out of high school.
“But that’s twofold,” she said. “Part of the reason why companies don’t come in is that our population doesn’t have the skills. So we need to work together to prepare our high school grads with the skills that companies see as desirable so they’ll locate here,” she said.
Higgins emphasizes accountability in running the county smoothly. He said that in recent dealings with the financially struggling Virginia Horse Center, he “hit” the center hard.
“We brought the Virginia Horse Center people in and we met with them and we said, ‘Hey, you’re getting tax dollars and we want to [have] simple questions answered. How much money do you have in the bank? How many outstanding debts do you have? [How are] your finances?’”
Weddle also said that she would continue working with people at the Horse Center to make sure they meet their financial obligations.
The Horse Center recently received more tax money to help with operations, she said, and a lot of those tax proceeds didn’t come out of the pockets of locals.
“People don’t want to hear it but our taxes are very reasonable and we do tax people that come in as tourists [with] our hotels, our restaurants, and things like that.” Weddle said.
Weddle, who taught at Rockbridge County High School, said that the recent upward trend in high school dropouts is contributing to the drug problem in the county.
“When you don’t have a high school education, you can’t get a decent job. And if you don’t have a decent job, that leads to perhaps theft. And time on your hands, and that leads perhaps to the use of recreational drugs or to the selling of drugs in which to make money because you can’t get a job,” she said.
“We’ve had a decrease in the school budget, we’ve had a decrease in counselors in the schools, so if we want to increase the productivity of our citizens we’ve got to increase the graduation rate and we’ve got to support the schools.”