Many residents want five districts

By Heather Michon

If the Board of Supervisors had any doubt where the public stood on redistricting, the special public hearing on Wednesday night (Dec. 1) made it clear: the majority of residents commenting want to stay at five districts.

The county had produced five potential redistricting maps for the supervisors to consider. Two maps looked at redrawing the boundaries for the existing five districts to equalize the population within each district. Two others looked at ways to expand to seven districts. One looked at a six-district plan.

While the six-district map didn’t seem to hold much interest for supervisors during their discussions in late October, when it came time to pick one map to attach to the Notice of Public Hearing approved at its Nov. 3 meeting, Supervisors Donald Weaver (Cunningham) and Patricia Eager (Palmyra) voted in favor of Map 6, while Tony O’Brien (Rivanna) and Mozell Booker (Fork Union) supported five-district plans. Chair Mike Sheridan, who has been in support of a seven-district scenario, voted with Weaver and Eager to break the tie.

The selection of Map 6 for the public hearing is non-binding, and supervisors can ultimately choose any of the maps, or even something entirely new, when they make their final selection on Dec. 15.

But the selection of Map 6 seemed to galvanize public opinion, and comments began to arrive shortly after the Nov. 3 meeting.

Assistant County Administrator Kelly Belanger Harris told supervisors that of the 113 written comments received by the county since Nov. 4, at least 90 were in favor of proposed redistricting Map 5-2. The remainder were in favor of Maps 7-1 or 7-2, and just one person supported Map 6.

In-person comments reflected the same sentiment, with all six speakers at the Nov. 17 meeting and 32 of the 35 comments at Wednesday’s meeting calling for the adoption of Map 5-2.


Harris addressed some of the questions and concerns that had come up in various comments.

Many objections to expanding the number of districts come down to cost. Each new district will have a supervisor, a new School Board member, a new Planning Commission member, and a Social Services Board member.

Harris said the estimated cost per district would be $69,755 in the first year, and $57,555 in the second year, although this could vary depending on whether new board members elected to take options like health insurance.

There were also questions as to whether the county could wait to vote on county redistricting until the state had completed its own maps. Harris said there was no provision in the state constitution to extend the deadline beyond Dec. 31.

As to questions of what would happen to those who had been elected in November but hadn’t yet taken their seats, Harris said “the big answer is: we don’t know. That is the answer and there is no guidance that seems to be forthcoming from anybody who actually knows the answer. It’s a terrible answer to give, but it’s the answer we have.”

Once the supervisors select a final map, it will be submitted to the Attorney General for approval in the form of a “Certificate of No Objection.” The Attorney General’s office has a maximum of 60 days following the county’s submission to approve or reject the plan, and certification is unlikely to come before the end of January.

In the opinion of county attorneys, the new district maps wouldn’t take effect until the certificate is issued.


This could, in theory, preserve the seat of School Board member-elect Gequetta Murray-Key, who was elected to the Rivanna seat in November and whose term will start Jan. 1.

Map 6 would put her outside her current district. Existing Virginia laws state that incumbent members who lose their districts are allowed to serve out their full terms.

However, because this is a unique redistricting year, it is not entirely clear that Murray-Key would be able to take her seat, and this has led to suggestions that some supervisors are trying to prevent her from serving.

Jessica Jackson, who spoke at the November 17 meeting, renewed her objections to Map 6 on Wednesday night.

“If you pick Map 6, I’m going to do everything I can to get it overturned,” she said. “If there’s a way I can object to the Legislature, that’s what I’m going to do. I will contact the national NAACP and I will tell them that you have knowingly chosen a map that would take away the only African American elected official, and that makes no sense.”

Andrea Overweg called it “an injustice.”

“Removing an African American woman in a majority-white county out of a seat that she fully, fairly won, is absolutely revolting.”

Because Murray-Key defeated the chair of the local Republican party, Overweg implied that the Republican-leaning members of the Board of Supervisors might be trying to override the will of the voters and place more conservatives on the School Board.

“Our votes matter, racism is real, she won that seat,” she concluded. “I want to see the Board do their right thing. I want 5-2, that is my choice, and I want to see the Board make this decision taking into account that overwhelmingly, people support 5-2.”

Cunningham Supervisors-elect Chris Fairchild spoke late in the meeting, saying he didn’t necessarily support six districts, but “I am less in favor of five.”

Fluvanna had a six-member board from 2001-2011, with Rivanna having two representatives within one district. He served as one of the Rivanna supervisors and said it had not only functioned without gridlock, supervisors were more inclined to seek compromise.

The supervisors made no comments during the hearing. They will debate and select a final map at their Dec. 15 meeting, which will take place at Carysbrook Performing Arts Center at 7 p.m.


County Administrator Eric Dahl told supervisors that the Fluvanna County Library has been distributing between 40-80  COVID-19 test kits per day under a Virginia Department of Health program designed to get free, rapid, at-home tests into the homes of those in need.

Residents don’t need a library card to get a test. Call 434-589-1400 to check on availability and to arrange contact-less pickup at the library at 214 Commons Boulevard in Palmyra. You will also need to be able to access the internet so trained guides can walk you through the testing process.


— Also in COVID-19 news, supervisors unanimously approved a resolution that gives county employees up to 80 hours paid leave to cover illness or quarantine. The hours will be paid out of funds provided through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) and will run until at least June 30.

— The Wheelin Sportsmen, a nonprofit that organizes hunts for the disabled, will return to Pleasant Grove for their annual deer hunt on Dec. 31.

— Supervisors approved $87,000 in carryover requests from several county departments from their FY21 to FY22 budgets. Of the nine requests, three did not meet the criteria for carryover, but they have in recent years, supervisors exercised their discretion to approve the request regardless. One of the items was an $11,000 carryover to cover the increased cost for fuel at the sheriff’s office. With the nationwide rise in prices, the department believes they will be spending an additional $1,000 a month in gassing up their vehicles in the coming months.

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