Race: Chesterfield County Board of Supervisors
Family: Elizabeth Gibbs (spouse), Alexandra Gecker (17), Caroline Gecker (16), Juliana Gecker (9), Mariel Gecker (5)
Profession: Historic rehabilitation and urban revitalization (formerly a tax and real estate lawyer)
Education: B.A. in economics, Princeton University, (1978); J.D. (law degree), Marshall-Wythe School of Law, College of William and Mary, (1982).
Where do you live? Crestwood Farms, Bon Air, Chesterfield County.
Where did you grow up? Springfield, New Jersey
Why are you running as an independent?
We are in a period where doing what is best for the party is taking precedence over doing what is best for the people. This election should be about problems and solutions, not party labels. Party affiliation tends to carry connotations about what a candidate believes that can be quite misleading and, quite often, completely incorrect. Neither party has a philosophy concerning how to run local governments. The statewide and national agendas are often not appropriate for locally elected officials.
I have worked with both political parties as planning commissioner. I was elected chairman three times by Republican votes. I, along with former planning commissioner Ron Stack, formed the Chesterfield Conservancy, a nonprofit dedicated to the preservation of green space in our county. I am working on the preservation of water quality in the Swift Creek reservoir, an effort that spans party lines.
Why aren't you running as a Democrat or Republican?
Neither party has a philosophy concerning how to run local governments. The statewide and national agendas often are not appropriate for locally elected officials. People at the local level want leaders with a vision and the ability to work with members of both parties to get results.
I will work with all people, regardless of party. I will not ask those who contact me what party affiliation they have. All of us on the local level want our taxes lowered, our children educated and safe streets. These issues are not Republican or Democrat.
What are your signature policies and campaign issues?
In a county as attractive as Chesterfield, growth is inevitable. In order to maintain our high quality of life, that growth must be appropriately managed in order to avoid an undue stress on our infrastructure. Although 60 percent of the school divisions in the commonwealth are expected to have a decline in student enrollment, Chesterfield is forecast to have a significant increase. Many of our schools are over capacity, and school resources will be further stressed with the school membership increase. The Board of Supervisors and the School Board need to have a shared vision and then adequately fund that vision. Currently, 81 percent of the real estate tax burden falls on our residents. We need to take steps to provide relief to our seniors, and to distribute the tax burden more equitably between residential and commercial property. We need to provide locations for high quality office and industrial developments. We need to have all development bear its fair share of the cost of new infrastructure.
I have voted against developers when they propose development that will strain our infrastructure or would otherwise be inappropriate; I have voted for proposals that fit within our comprehensive plan and fully account for their impact on our infrastructure. For example, I negotiated with the developers of Tarrington to get the funds needed to finish the widening of Robious Road. I stood with my neighbors in Crestwood Farms to protect our quality of life. We must change our perspective with regard to development in our county.
Which political party do you more closely identify with? I am running as an independent because I want to avoid the polarization that comes from either a complete identification with a particular party or even a "close" identification. I have a long track record of public service, from being president of my neighborhood association to vice-chairman of the Chesterfield Committee on the Future to chairman of the Chesterfield County Planning Commission. I am running based on my record in those positions, the skills I have acquired practicing law and running a business, and my experiences as a homeowner and parent of four school-age children.
When I stood with my neighbors 16 years ago to protect my then-new neighborhood, I did not foresee the path my public service career would take. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to serve my neighborhood, the county and the region in so many different capacities; I look forward to continuing to serve my district and the county on the Board of Supervisors.
How do you differ most from them?
On the local level, neither party can lay claim to having all the answers. Good input can come from members of either party. My ability to work with both parties is evidenced by the fact that I have been elected to leadership positions in five of my eight years on the planning commission, including three terms as chairman. I am committed to promoting good ideas, regardless of their source.
I have experience in a number of areas that are important to the county. For example, my professional career has included many aspects of revitalization and neighborhood preservation. My first assignment as a lawyer was to assist with the rehabilitation of the Jefferson Hotel in Richmond. Since that time, I have participated significantly in the creation of homes for Appomattox Regional Governor's School and Maggie Walker Governor's School. Further, I have much experience with our school division, both as a planning commissioner and a parent. My oldest daughter will be a senior in high school this year, while my youngest daughter will begin kindergarten at Crestwood Elementary. These experiences provide me with the skills that are independent of party label or philosophy.
What changes would bring you into the Democratic or Republican fold?
I am committed to running as an independent and serving in the best interests of my constituents. I would not presume to suggest that any changes in either party would cause me to change my mind.
How did you arrive at your political convictions?
My overriding political conviction is that one should be of service to their community. I have been drawn to public service my entire life. I was a New Jersey district officer in Key Club (Kiwanis sponsored youth) and went on to become governor of the New Jersey District of Circle K International (also Kiwanis sponsored youth). My university's informal motto, "Princeton in the Nation's Service," was well taught to me. My law school, William and Mary, was founded by Thomas Jefferson with the intent that students would be trained not only to be skilled practitioners of law but also leaders for the common good of their communities, states and nation.
Are you running to win, or running to bring attention to certain issues?
Both. I will seek to address problems and issues which I feel are critical to the county. I expect that the public dialogue will be beneficial. I am running to win because I believe that puts me in the best position to guide the future of the county and to maintain our quality of life.
It is time for Chesterfield to take a fresh look at itself and decide what is the vision for the future. Too often we get mired in the past. We need to encourage more office and commercial development so that we can further lower our real estate taxes. We need to catch up with maintenance on our existing schools and provide adequate space for the students we know are coming. We need to take a good look at the services our residents' desire, and provide those in the most cost effective way.
Who is your political hero? President Reagan.
Is it wrong to steal office supplies? Yes.
What kind of car do you drive? 2004 Toyota Prius.