A fiscal conservative has entered this fall’s race for a seat on the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors. Used car company operator T.J. Fadeley declared his candidacy on Wednesday at Free Bridge Auto Sales, his family business near the top of Pantops Mountain.
“County spending needs to be reined in,” said Fadeley.
The 41-year-old political newcomer said that he was running as an independent for the Rivanna District seat currently held by Bea LaPisto-Kirtley, a Democrat.
“I plan to look carefully at our budget, line by line, and to reduce the spending and reduce the tax burden on our residents,” said Fadeley. “It’s time to bring county spending under control and to prioritize what is most important to residents.”
Something Fadeley named as important is public safety, and a 2020 proposal to reduce staff at the Stony Point Volunteer Fire Company seemed to upset him — particularly because of a simultaneous move to add three planners at annual salaries about double those of emergency personnel.
“Apparently planning was more important than saving lives,” said Fadeley.
Not since Republicans Duane Snow and Rodney Thomas took office in 2010 to join incumbent Republican Ken Boyd on the six-member board has there been such hawkish budget talk. While the late Snow and company spoke eagerly of “zero-based” budgeting, Fadeley calls the county budget “bloated,” and he demands a cost-benefit analysis for all county expenditures.
“Current levels of spending are unsustainable,” said Fadeley.
He slammed the unanimous May 3 vote to maintain the current property tax rate, a move that locked in the average property tax hike of 13.46%, the largest increase since the county began annual assessments in 2008.
“How did you like your recent property tax bill?” he asked. “Where is the taxpayer’s advocate on the Board of Supervisors?”
On hand for the announcement was Philip Andrew Hamilton, the Republican candidate who will compete this fall against state Sen. Creigh Deeds or Del. Sally Hudson, whoever wins the hotly contested Democratic primary for the District 11 Virginia Senate seat.
“We need someone in there who’s going to cut our taxes,” said Hamilton.
Likewise, Albemarle homemaker Diane Weber showed up to support the candidacy for its maverick approach.
“This county needs input,” said Weber. “You reach the truth by argument, by back and forth, by facts coming in.”
Weber went on to slam the current board.
“This Board of Supervisors is one voice,” said Weber. “It’s like they’re one person.”
That’s not how Albemarle Democrats Chair Karen Combs sees it.
“Bea has done an excellent job in representing all people in her district,” Combs noted in an email to The Daily Progress. “Voters know that incumbents run on their record while challengers run on promises they hope they can keep.”
One promise Fadeley stopped short of making Wednesday was “Everybody rides.” After years of television commercials aimed at would-be car-buyers, the catchphrase of the family firm was trademarked with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in 1996 and continues to worm its way into local ears.
Fadeley did point out that as a local business operator he knows the value of fiscal prudence, and he borrowed the phrase for his campaign website: everybodyvotestj.com.
Also appearing at the campaign announcement was Fadeley’s wife, Cheslea Fadeley, who was pushing a stroller with the youngest member of the family, 6-month-old Truett.
"The other ones are in school," she explained of Truett’s older brother and sister.
A graduate of Albemarle High School, Fadeley said he’s actually socially liberal.
"I’m politically homeless," he said after the announcement. "I think everybody should have the freedoms and resources to live the life they want to live."
But whether such a forceful voice of fiscal conservatism can win in a blueing county remains to be seen. For instance, on his way to becoming the governor last year, Republican Glenn Youngkin lost Albemarle to Democrat Terry McAuliffe by a nearly 2-to-1 margin.
Fadeley’s candidacy appears to have changed at least one person’s plans. A Keswick man named David C. Rhodes had initially expressed an interest in running but did not end up filing the paperwork for the Rivanna seat.
"He did offer to step back once T.J. got serious," Albemarle County Republican Chair John Lowry told the Progress. "He was very happy to have T.J. run."
Besides the contested Rivanna seat, the other contested seat pits Democratic incumbent Ann Mallek against another political newcomer, Brad Rykal, a soldier and defense contractor-turned-author and podcaster running as an independent.
Then there’s the Scottsville District where the Democratic incumbent, current board Chair Donna Price, is retiring with Democratic Navy veteran Mike Pruitt seemingly unopposed in the run for that seat.
"We’d love to have someone running for supervisor, but we don’t have anybody yet," said Lowry.
The deadline day to file is same day as the Democratic primary: June 20.
Phone messages left Wednesday with LaPisto-Kirtley were not returned by deadline. The supervisors were busy with a major land purchase as well as a regular afternoon meeting.