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Photo by Lisa HurdleFor the first time in 15 years, Fluvanna residents will elect a new sheriff at the polls on Nov. 4.
Competing for the office are Sheriff Eric Hess, 57, who was appointed sheriff when former Sheriff Ryant Washington resigned last May to take a gubernatorial appointment, and Mark Belew, 36, an Albemarle County detective who investigates Internet crimes against children.
The Fluvanna Review asked both candidates to respond to five questions.
What goals do you want the sheriff’s office to achieve within the first year of your time as sheriff?
Hess: I will continue working on the accreditation of the sheriff’s office. Our agency is in the top 30 percent of law enforcement agencies in the state of Virginia who are accredited or are in the self-assessment phase of accreditation.
I would like to see at least two satellite offices for increased access for the community and efficient sheriff’s office services. Collaborating with an established business or shopping area would be an ideal way to accomplish this. Even a small office area, where the deputies can return phone calls, meet with citizens and work on reports, would allow the deputies more visibility.
I would increase the size of our reserve deputy and volunteers in police service (VIPS) programs to relieve some of the agency workload.
Belew: Any law enforcement agency can only be as effective as the relationship it shares with the community it serves. Community policing models can be effective in encouraging dialogue, building public trust and engaging citizens to become involved in the safety and security of their community. The formation of a citizen’s advisory committee (CAC) is a proven method to bolster the relationship and bridge the gap between police and the community, and this can easily be done within the first year of office.
A CAC is a diverse committee formed of citizens from various parts of the county. The members of this committee discuss community issues with their law enforcement professionals to provide a unique insight into problems that are typically not evident through traditional police patrols. Furthermore, it allows members of the community the ability to have direct input into initiatives that directly influence their everyday lives.
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The Planning Commission met Oct. 20 and 21 to gather information about the Comprehensive Plan. Photo by Tricia JohnsonThe Fluvanna County Planning Commission and staff are busy revising Fluvanna’s Comprehensive Plan, a document heavily relied on by planning commissioners, county government, and the Board of Supervisors when making decisions about progress and preservation in the community.
Toward that end, they hosted two Comprehensive Plan Review public meetings on Oct. 20 and 21 to engage Fluvanna citizens in amending the plan that guides Fluvanna’s future.
Jay Lindsey, the county’s long-range planner, was hoping to accomplish two things with these meetings. “The planning commission and staff get a chance to involve the citizens with what we’ve come up with and what we are working on,” Lindsey said. “Just as importantly, it gives us a chance to learn more about what’s important to the citizens. We get a lot of really valuable information from having dialogue with county residents that we wouldn’t be able to get any other way,” he explained.
State law mandates that each locality have a comprehensive plan, and that it be reviewed and, if necessary, revised every five years. The goal this time around, according to Lindsey, is to better focus the comprehensive plan on practices that can actually be implemented through the commission.
That focus will be more relevant with input from Fluvanna’s citizens. Lindsey called public involvement “essential,” and added, “Citizens know things about the community that we don’t. They understand the local history and economy, and they certainly know what they want in a community. It’s our job to listen and apply planning tools to accomplish what’s important to citizens. Without public input, you’re basically driving with your eyes closed.”
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A Lafayette student grooms a horse at Charlottesville Area Riding Therapy in Crozet. Photo courtesy of the Layfayette School.After 15 years in Charlottesville, the Lafayette School for children with special needs has moved to Fluvanna County.
Co-directors and husband-and-wife team Chuck and Barret Stump have lived in Fluvanna for 22 years. “We’ve passed by this building many times,” Chuck Stump said of the school’s new home in the old S & N building at Zion Station off Rt. 250 just half a mile west of its intersection with Rt. 15. “Barret even said one time, ‘That would be a great place for a school.’ Our real estate agent showed us the building and we loved it.”
Looking for cheaper rent than the school’s former location on Fontaine Avenue in Charlottesville, the Stumps took the plunge and decided to move to Fluvanna. “I’m very, very excited about being in Fluvanna,” Chuck Stump said. “It’s a much nicer building – much more open for community areas for the students.”
The Lafayette School was established with the belief that children and adolescents with emotional and behavior problems, who are having difficulty being maintained in their own schools, could find success in a small therapeutic environment, Stump said.
“Our ultimate goal is to give the students the skills and strategies to transition back to their home schools,” he continued. “Lafayette is sort of an out – and a way back in. We are the first step when a student is moving out of their school environment. Sometimes they find success here. Other times they need to move on to a residential facility.”
The Lafayette School provides the support its students need with its 10-person staff of therapists, teachers, and program counselors. Though the school can take up to 24 students, it currently has 14. The small size of the school allows each child plenty of personalized attention, which includes individual therapy.
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Game Warden Chris Heberling, State Trooper Justin Ruhlman, Animal Control Officer Paul Sheridan,  Lake Monticello Swift Water Rescue Team member James Andrade, Fluvanna Middle School Principal Brad Stang and Sgt. Frank Lopez. Photo by Tricia JohnsonFluvanna law enforcement and rescue personnel visited Fluvanna County Middle School on Oct. 21 in observance of School Safety Week. Students were able to meet and talk with the first responders and to see their vehicles and some of the tools they use in their work to help keep Fluvanna safe.
Students swarmed out of the cafeteria doors into the courtyard, chatting excitedly. They climbed into the back of “Drive 5” – a truck used by the Lake Monticello Swift Water Rescue Team to carry their equipment; they peered into the windows of the state trooper’s car; tried on a bullet-proof vest with the game warden; checked out a battering ram and riot shield with the school resource officer; and used the snake tongs brought by animal control. There were smiles and laughter all around.
The event was the result of cooperation between school resource officer Sgt. Frank Lopez and Assistant Principal Nathaniel Wiedenhoft. “The event was organized to recognize School Safety Week which has been going on this week from Oct. 20 through the 24,” said Wiedenhoft, who described it as “a joint effort between the middle school and Sgt. Frank Lopez, our resource officer from the Fluvanna County Sheriff’s Office.”
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Ike and Django. Photo by Tricia JohnsonHunter Davis, a Fluvanna High School Junior, is a lucky young man.  Ike Wright of Scottsville – a 20-year veteran of the Albemarle Police Department and professional hunting guide - has taken Davis under his wing, and is teaching Davis everything he wants to know about both being a hunting guide and a law enforcement officer.
Last month, through the generosity of two women, and under the guidance of Wright, the 16-year-old avid hunter was able to participate in a wild boar hunt in South Carolina.
Wright teaches hunter education courses through the Virginia Sportsmen’s Foundation and the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. All people who wish to hunt in Virginia must first take a hunter education course in order to obtain their hunting license. Wright is certified to teach and hosts these weekend-long training camps at his home in Albemarle County on Liberty Corner Farm. All participants earn their Hunter Safety Course Certification, which includes 10 hours of classroom and hands-on instruction.
One of the participants in the hunter education course offered in August was Palmyra resident Rose Lemaster, who says that she and her family have been “almost adopted by Ike and his family. Any time there is an opportunity where I can get on board with something Ike’s family are doing, I know it is an opportunity for an adventure,” she said with a grin. She added that she truly respects Wright’s emphasis on safety in his classes, and his commitment to young people.

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