The Commonwealth Iconoclast

A site dedicated to covering issues relevant to the Commonwealth of Virginia, and nation at large, plus other interesting things too, as I see fit...

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

WHO IS ROBERT “BOBBY” JONES OF PRINCE EDWARD COUNTY?



AN ICONOCLASTIC PROFILE

As a new feature of the Commonwealth Iconoclast, I am pleased to introduce “An Iconoclastic Profile”… intended to examine more closely persons of interest in the Commonwealth of Virginia. There is only one basic criterion for becoming the subject of An Iconoclastic Profile: the subject must be a “public personality” in some capacity. There are probably many deserving candidates worthy of this special attention, but Robert “Bobby” Jones of Prince Edward County gets the honor this month.

Who is Robert “Bobby” Jones of Prince Edward County? Obviously, the Iconoclast cannot tell the complete story of this multi-faceted man. However, we can provide a few interesting insights regarding his public life. It is our hope that through these insights, citizens may become better informed and play a more active role in their respective communities.

So, who is Robert “Bobby” Jones and why is he a person of interest to the citizens of Prince Edward County or anyone else who is interested in local government?

Robert “Bobby” Jones was featured in a 2003 article in The Farmville Herald when he announced his plans to run for re-election to represent the Lockett District of the Prince Edward County Board of Supervisors. According to the Herald report, Robert “Bobby” Jones was a farmer in the Lockett District with ancestral roots in the area going back three centuries.

For those not familiar with the geography, Prince Edward County is a rural county about 70 miles west of Richmond. The Town of Farmville is the largest community in Prince Edward County and home of Longwood University. Farmville is a thriving and progressive community experiencing considerable change and growth.

The Lockett District is…well… out in the boonies… farm country…and home to Robert “Bobby’ Jones and perhaps his ancestors going back three hundred years.

Official public records indicate that Robert “Bobby” Jones was successful in his 2003 re-election bid against political neophyte Deborah Hicks-Shealey with a final official vote of 339 to 301.

There were questions concerning voting irregularities in the Jones / Hicks-Shealey race. However, those questions were apparently deemed insufficient to change the final vote tally. So, Robert “Bobby” Jones, on a margin of 38 votes, won another four year term to the Prince Edward County Board of Supervisors. Not exactly a mandate, but good enough.

As best we can figure, Robert “Bobby” Jones got his start in politics with an appointment to the Prince Edward County Planning Commission back in the 1980s. At some point in time, Mr. Jones ran for and was elected to the Board of Supervisors from the Lockett District. As Supervisor, Mr. Jones apparently kept his appointed position to the County Planning Commission. In this influential dual capacity as both Supervisor and Planning Commissioner, Robert “Bobby” Jones’ has played an important role in shaping the County’s future through the many decisions involving planning, zoning and development that he has taken part in over the years.

Some background might be helpful here.

Over the past several years, Prince Edward County has experienced a series of land-use and zoning controversies. Those controversies came to a full boil in October of 2005, when citizens complained that the County Planning Commission had become stagnant and dysfunctional. Worst of all, there were complaints that the Planning Commission did not fairly represent certain portions of the County.

Given that something had to be done, Board of Supervisors Chairman William “Buckie” Fore named Supervisor Jones to chair a new committee to study the problems with the Planning Commission – the same Planning Commission that Supervisor Jones served on for many years, and the same Planning Commission that citizens were complaining about.

Given this new assignment, Supervisor Robert “Bobby” Jones led his committee to develop a new County policy regarding the composition of the Planning Commission. However, instead of addressing the citizen complaints, the plan took an unexpected turn to officially exclude over six thousand citizens of Prince Edward County from eligibility to serve on the Planning Commission.

Committee records indicate that Supervisor Jones held the view that the County Planning Commission had “no direct effect on the residents of the town” and that the question of representation “was not an important concern.” With only one committee member representing the aggrieved citizens, the committee was effectively a “stacked deck” to protect the status quo and to quash any attempt to advance meaningful reform measures.

As committee Chairman, Supervisor Robert “Bobby” Jones authored the official committee report dated December 12, 2005, and forwarded that report for final action to the Board of Supervisors the next day on December 13, 2005. On Supervisor Jones’ motion, the new policy was adopted by a split vote of 5 in favor and 3 opposed – again not exactly a mandate.

Just prior to making the motion to adopt his new plan, Supervisor Jones stated for the official record:

“We want people that are residents of the area they are making decisions on… Not people who are residents of that area… I don’t want someone living on Main Street telling me how to develop property on my farm.”

Of course we understand Supervisor Jones’ concern about his farm, but in the reference to“…that area…” Supervisor Jones is talking about the entire Town of Farmville…over six thousand people…about one third of the entire County population… and the most active development area in Prince Edward County!

Not surprisingly, community reaction to Supervisor Robert “Bobby” Jones’ new policy has been somewhat less than enthusiastic. Obviously, with a 5 to 3 vote split on the Board of Supervisors, at least three Supervisors questioned the appropriateness of this new policy.

The Farmville Herald, normally quite pro-establishment, published an uncharacteristically critical Op/Ed piece on the plan in its January 4th, 2006 edition. This piece painfully resurrected the old sore subject of “taxation without representation” which royally honked off a bunch of folks up in Boston in 1765 and contributed to the late unpleasantness between the Colonies and Great Britain.

Making matters worse, the Farmville Town Council passed a formal resolution on January 11, 2006 politely condemning the new County policy and urging the Board of Supervisors to instead “appoint representatives to serve on the County Planning Commission from each of the eight (8) voting districts, of which three (3) include the Town of Farmville…”

One normally diplomatic Town official characterized the County’s new policy as “clearly out to lunch.”

Regular citizens, in numerous emails to the Iconoclast, have not been nearly as charitable as The Farmville Herald or the Farmville Town Council, raising questions concerning the ethics of certain County officials and characterizing the County’s new policy as a brazen abuse of official power to protect a corrosive system favoritism and deal making in the Courthouse.

In spite of the critics, Supervisor Robert “Bobby” Jones remains resolute and unapologetic defending the new plan proclaiming that “…In my area, people have supported exactly what we did”… maybe the same 38 people who put him over the top in 2003?

Perhaps Supervisor Jones has a point.

Perhaps it is Supervisor Jones’ three hundred years of ancestral roots in Prince Edward County that give him a special vision and legitimacy to recognize the dangers of allowing six thousand people in Farmville, many of whom are probably outsiders or newcomers, to have a say in the future of Prince Edward County. One can only imagine what might happen if these people of questionable origins were to be allowed to have a say in the County’s future.

Right....

But seriously, maybe, just maybe, Supervisor Robert “Bobby” Jones’ three hundred years of ancestral roots in the area has muddled his ability to recognize the fundamental injustice and hypocrisy of this new policy.

Why would Supervisor Robert “Bobby” Jones think that he somehow has any more right to decide the future of Prince Edward County than any other taxpayer, including those six thousand taxpayers who live in Farmville?

The role of the Planning Commission in helping to shape the future of Prince Edward County is purely advisory but far broader than Supervisor Jones’ apparently limited understanding would suggest. The Planning Commission’s responsibilities are not merely limited to approving zoning deals.

If anything, the idea of a local Planning Commission is to get citizens involved in helping to make wise decisions involving the community’s future… not to keep citizens silenced and at bay. Considering the importance of Farmville and its environs in the future of Prince Edward County, the idea of officially disqualifying one third of the County’s population from eligibility to serve on the County Planning Commission is sheer folly and reeking of questionable ulterior motives.

The Iconoclast wonders if Supervisor Jones’ ancestors would approve of his leadership and judgment in this matter. We know that most living people don’t!

Note: Supervisor Robert “Bobby” Jones position as Supervisor from the Lockett District of Prince Edward is up for re-election November 6, 2007. Persons from the Lockett District of Prince Edward County seeking further information concerning election candidacy requirements may contact the Virginia State Board of Elections. The Iconoclast encourages healthy competition and the accountability of all public officials. The Iconoclast also seeks honest and fair commentary on this piece from interested parties from Prince Edward County, including Robert “Bobby” Jones.

29 Comments:

  • At 2/21/2006 9:36 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I think that, in all fairness, the Iconoclast should publish a piece on who is "Will Vaught", along with his picture. His profile on the blogspot page is so vague as to leave a person wondering whether Will Vaught isn't just an alias for somebody in Prince Edward who wants to take pot shots under an assumed name. And, yes, I did post this comment anonymously, Will. Now you know how it feels.

     
  • At 2/21/2006 10:34 AM, Blogger Will Vaught said…

    Good question, let me first tell you this, I'm not an elected official, and therefore my actions DO NOT affect the lives of the citizens of Prince Edward County.

    Unfortunatly - or fortunatley depending on how you view it - genrally when someone chooses to enterer the "public domain" they are then subject to praise, and criticism, this is just a fact.

    Now, wouldn't it be nice if all public officials were afforded "warm and fuzzy" media coverage like many members of the County's BOS recieve from the Farmville Herald. We'd know all sort of interesting facts, but likely little substance.

    I'm sure Presidents Bush and Clinton would have loved if the media chose to handle them in this matter, or in that case George Allen, Mark Warner, Tim Kaine, Jim Gilmore, Doug Wilder, Virgil Goode, Clark Hogan, and so forth....

    But as far as my identity? I do not live in PE, but I use to live there. You can guess who I might be, and that is fine, and if I do enter the public domain you (as a resident of the USA) have the right ot critize any of my decisions that I might make, fair enough.

    Welcome to the blogosphere my friend! You have much to learn! Keep those comments coming! Democracy is a wonderful thing!

    Note: I welcome a response by Supervisor Jones. If I have mistated his views (i.e. the official public record) please let me know. If supervisor jones, or anyone for that matter, whishes to write a piece in regard to this matter, or any other matter in PE, you may submitt it to me via the e-mail address provided in my profile. I will not include your identity if you disire....

     
  • At 2/21/2006 10:44 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Go Will, go! You're a cult hero down here in Prince Edward and Farmville!

     
  • At 2/21/2006 11:30 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Hey anon. 9:36, instead of concerning yourself with "who is will vaught", why don't you concern yourself with "what in the hell is Bobby Jones doing?"

    That seems to be the real issue here to me.

    Why don't you offer up some comments on that? I'm all ears!

     
  • At 2/21/2006 1:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I agree with the last comment. We need to get back to the subject.

    In this regard, Planning Commission issue is probably a good example of what is more appropriately considered a bigger problem here in Prince Edward.

    The Plnning Commission is just for show here in PE. Bobby Jones, Bill Porterfield and Sam Coleman pretty much do what they are told or what they want (I am not sure which, maybe a little of both). The planning staff that is supposed to advise the Planning Commission is a joke... just sitting there and making no effort until citizens raise hell at the arbitraryness of their actions.

     
  • At 2/21/2006 2:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Who is Will Vaught? And why is he writing this stuff? Doesn't he relize he's upsetting the delicate balance of power in Prince Edward County? We should deny voting rights to all people in Prince Edward that can't trace thier roots back to Prince Edward himself. period. What he expects for the County government to be accountable and fair to its citizens?

    Where do you think you live?

     
  • At 2/21/2006 5:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    It's interesting that our anonymous poster 9.36 a.m. falls into the same category as previous anti-Will-Vaught posters: he prefers to launch an ad hominem attack on the blogger rather than defend the actions of the majority faction on the Board of Supervisors. Is there anyone out there who is willing to explain to us poor yokels who believe in democracy why the Board is excluding Town residents from the decision-making process? Or is it that since the BoS actions are indefensible, the only remaining option is to attack the reporter of the bad news?

     
  • At 2/21/2006 11:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    To be fair, it should be pointed out that four other supervisors, including Chairman Buckie Fore, Vice Chairman Howard Simpson, and Supervisors Charles McKay and James Moore also buy into this crazy policy. What's their excuse?

     
  • At 2/22/2006 8:11 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Most of us Farmville residents really don't have a burning desire to serve on the county planning commission. But, that is not the point. It is the principle of the matter. We would hope that our Board of Supervisors would show us the basic respect of equal treatment that all citizens deserve. After all, is the Board of Supervisors giving us Farmville taxpayers a "discount" on the taxes we pay in compensation for our "second class" status?

     
  • At 2/22/2006 9:17 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Just a quick thought before I have to run off to work. What if we Farmville "second class" citizens decline to pay taxes to the County this year? Do you suppose anyone would notice?

     
  • At 2/22/2006 10:01 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Yes, given the way things are going, the county would probably auction the town off on the courthouse steps to collect their tax assessment.

     
  • At 2/22/2006 11:04 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    So it appears that most folks posting on this issue are like minded, but still we have five BOS members and I would assume members fo the Community that still support their positions.

    But other than an intial cheap jab at Will, nothing else from this group. Have you no honor?

    Let me guess all these folks can do is launch personal attacks, because they definately can't make a cogent argument to defend their indefensible positions.

    For those of you watching from other places, welcome to our County. Where citizens ask hard questions and our elected officials (and their few supporters) stay silient.

    November of 2007 can't come fast enough! I've got a bottle of champagne on ice as we speak.

    What a bunch of cowards!

     
  • At 2/22/2006 11:40 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    What is not being said here is why the some of the Board members (Jones, Fore, Simpson) are fighting so hard to defend what is so obviously such an indefensible and wrong-headed position.

    If no one else is willing to speak up maybe I can give you a hint. It is all about control! The Board and those who are in the shaddows propping up the rickety county government doesn't want to give up control and are struggling to keep hand picked people in charge of everything. The planning commission is just the tip of the iceburg. School board, hospital...etc. Same thing.

    Sweet deals abound for favored people so long as citizens don't get too close and start asking a bunch of questions.

     
  • At 2/22/2006 12:15 PM, Blogger Will Vaught said…

    Anon.,11:04 wrote: "But other than an intial cheap jab at Will, nothing else from this group."

    I wouldn't call the first poster's comment to be a "cheap jab", just the typical response by some when they feel "backed into a corner" - which is to attack the messenger, not the message.

    Regardless, I invite all interested individuals to add their comments, even if you don't agree with the majority of the opinions being posted on this issue. Opposing views are welcomed and encouraged!

    Thanks again for all of the comments!

     
  • At 2/22/2006 12:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Will, unlike the Farmville, Herald that you seem somewhat critical of nobody knows who you are. Virtually everbody knows who Ken Woodley is and how to contact him when we agree or disagree with his paper's actions. Surely George Bush and the others you comment on know who it is in the press that is supportive or critical of hie / their actions.

    My point is not to "criticize the messenger simply becasuse I don't agree with the message". I won't let you off the hook with such an easy blow-off reply. You don't seem to understand the fundamental flaw with the blogoshpere - total unabashed unaccountability and anonimity are not healthy avenues for fair discourse on public issues. Those blogs that are not anonymous are often viewd as credible. Those, like yours, that are essentially anonymous are less credible. If you are a real person, not an alias, then show yourself. Be proud of your views and your positions. You come out of the shadows and I'll do likewise.

    Anon. 9:36

     
  • At 2/22/2006 1:21 PM, Blogger Will Vaught said…

    Your points are well taken, but I WHOLE HARDILY DISAGREE with your assessment that "those blogs that are not anonymous are often viewd as credible."

    Who is "the Virginia Centrist" or the "Virinia Moderate"...or the "Richmond Democrat", "howling latina", ...the list goes on...some bloggers chose to disclose their identity, some do...does this make them less credible? I would argue that the author's name isn't nearly as important the CONTENT..that's just me...

    Regardless, Will Vaught is my real name. Would you prefer that I also post my credit report too? Would you like my street address? If you could find my house on a map, would this change THE CONTENT of my post? Would it?

    Unlike the Farmville Herald, my blog provides a forum for open debate and discussion. Think about that, it's almost like being able to instantly critique a story/editorial that you read. I know for a fact, Mr. Woodley "filters" some letters to the editor, and from what I understand it might not be his choosing either. Still, I may disagree with you, but I promise (unless you use offensive language) I will never delete your comments.

    The point I belive is that blogs HAVE CHANGED the "traditional" channels of communcaiton and gathering facts. For some this is a good thing, for others it might make them not as happy. Some blogs are credible, some or not. If you feel that my blog is unfair and biased, then I welcome you to point out my mistakes. If you (or anyone) else wishes to submitt a piece for this blog, e-mail me and I will be happy to post it - of course I could source you (i.e. your name) or keep you identity anyonymous.....

    Once again, thanks for you comment they are appreciated!

     
  • At 2/22/2006 2:10 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Will, if I may speculate, it sounds like we may have one of those Supervisors who refuses to be accountable for his own actions now pontificating to the rest of us on the virtues of accountability. This is hilarious.

     
  • At 2/22/2006 2:31 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    how halarious is it that mr. anonymous is nowing lecturing will on blogging ethics!

    too bad he or she doesn't seem to give rats %@& about the ethics of 5 members of the County's Board. I think leaving the 6,000 residents of the town in the shadows a more serious problem than mr. vaught's mailing address!

    will, i don't know you but you sound like you could either be one of 6,000 folks!

    Keep up the good work!

     
  • At 2/22/2006 6:15 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Lets not be so hard on the commentator who is questioning the blogosphere as a sorce of information. Anyone who trusts any single source of information these days is making a big mistake.

    Even before the blogosphere was invented, smart people knew to check out multiple sources of information, weigh the facts and then make "informed" decisions. Recent events have shown that even "respected" mainstream media is fallible.

    Actually, I don't have any real problems with anonymous sources or the blogosphere so long as I am free to check out other sources. Readers are encouraged to view all sides of any given issue and to view all media coverage critically.

    Seems to me that a big problem with this current issue is that the county is not making their case. So all the critical commentary is going almost totally unanswered.

    I would encourage the commentator who is questioning the Iconoclast to take his case to The Farmville Herald in the form of a letter to the editor. He makes some good points. Also, maybe some of the county officials should be making their case to the Herald in a similar fashion. They should be able to lay out their case and let the public decide. So far, the county's position has been stated in a few in-artfully worded statements that are not very convincing. They got to do better.

    One of the reason people are curious about the blog is that they can read about important local issues not normally covered in the Herald. Also, a big advantage of the blog is that ordinary people can immediately interact with the blog. This is what makes it work. This is what makes it thought provoking.

     
  • At 2/22/2006 6:51 PM, Blogger Will Vaught said…

    good post, sounds as if you should start a blog too!

     
  • At 2/23/2006 7:51 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Thanks but no. Too much work.

     
  • At 2/24/2006 8:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    A good man. We love him here in PE County.

     
  • At 2/24/2006 8:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Super! Care to speak to any of the issues raised by this story?

    You can be a good man, but a still a lousy BOS member! agree?

     
  • At 2/24/2006 9:04 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    The town and the county have a whole different set of issues to deal with. No wonder there is some difference of opinion. Bobby represents the COUNTY.

     
  • At 2/24/2006 9:29 PM, Anonymous The Voice of Reason in Rice said…

    what part of 38 votes do you not understand?

    If an election were held today do you think Mr. Jones would survive?

    Mr. Jones at this juncture is representing a small faction of County "power brokers" that is all, to suggest otherwise is dishonest.

    Why is it that Bobby can't articulate his insane postions on matters. If he could explan his postions, i might be able to better judge him. But he seems unwilling to do this

    If you think the general discontent with Supervisor Jones and his four other collegues is limited to the residents of the Town, you are sadly mistaken. I made the mistake of voting for him last time, but after all of this mess, that WILL NOT happen next time.

    But then again, residents of the town are ALSO residents of the County! This is something that you and Supervisor Jones seem to be forgetting, and trust me I've lived in PE for 30 + years. The natives are gettin restless my friend! Reform is inevitable!

     
  • At 2/27/2006 9:31 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    The guy is right about the town and county having different issues. The big issue in the county is keeping Bobby Jones real estate taxes low.

     
  • At 2/27/2006 10:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    huh?

     
  • At 3/23/2006 10:16 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Prince Eward Supervisors were elected. They can be voted out. The board is not listening to the public comments to the board and are voting the way that they had made up their minds to do before the board meeting. I am not including the 3 board member who do listening to the public comments. In the last big issue before the board noone spoke in favor of the townhouses yet by a five to three vote it passed. I called one supervisor before when another issue was befored the board because I knew that the deed to the property was still in the name of the company who tried to put apartments on this property.This time the issue was to put a funeral home on the property. But I knew that if the zoning was changed then the deeded owners could put anything on this property. This supervisor said that if the deed had not been changed by the time of the board meeting he would not vote for it. Guess what? Ya you got it deed not changed and he voted for it. Voters do remember. Its time for these five board members to listen to the public including the issue in Pamplin.

     
  • At 3/23/2006 11:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    It does not help a county to progress with five supervisors working hand in hand to support themselves and a few select individuals in the county. This is Prince Edward County Virginia. This county will never learn from its past mistakes. With all the negative history of Prince Edward County, it seems to me that the leaders of this county would play a vital role in imporving the image of Prince Edward County. Persons elected to run the county government should fbe interested in the welfare of all citizens. From reading about,Bobby Jones and others,I cannot understand why they continue to hold such important positions and donot carry out policies they will benefit all the citizens. "Ask not for what your county can do for you but what you can do for your county." Is this asking for too much?

     

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