The Chairman of the Board of Supervisors comes not with only a gavel and running the Supervisors’ meetings but with a bit more responsibility.
“There is an expectation that the Chair attend many events outside of their district, which is very time consuming, and the Chair is more involved with the administration,” said former Chairman of the Board of Supervisors and the Bermuda District representative on the board Dorothy Jaeckle. “When a citizen calls or emails me about an issue, I usually try to set a time to meet with them on site with the appropriate staff member. This enables me to get a better grasp of the issue. This past year I found myself just forwarding some of the emails and calls to staff and I would only get involved if the issue was not resolved to the citizen’s satisfaction. Meeting with my constituents is my favorite part of the job so I really missed that.”
Sometimes referred to as “The Fixer,” Ms. Jaeckle was the Board Chair for 12 months and transferred her seat last week to Jim Holland, the District Supervisor of the Dale District.
It can be difficult to convince any board member on any board to take on the Chairmanship, mainly because the Chair is the spokesman; there are more hours that have to be put into the job and they can be the glue that holds the board together.
Jaeckle said, “At this time last year, my fellow board members asked me to be chair. I never had a desire to be the chairman; I prefer to work out of the limelight, though I know some may think that sounds strange coming from someone in politics. I also prefer paying most of my attention to the citizens in the Bermuda District and helping them with issues versus countywide policy issues. I certainly had no desire to run the meetings.”
With any new job the first hours, days, months can be daunting responsibility to a number of jobs.
Someone who not only volunteers but has the courage and energy asking your community to place you in the job can be a hair-pulling experience.
Jaeckle started her job as Bermuda’s Supervisor in 2008 and won her bid for the seat in 2011. When her term ends she will have put in eight years.
After six years, Jaeckle was asked to captain the ship and she was sure she could keep the boat off the reef.
“It was nervousness and fear,” Jaeckle said. “When you are the Chairman of the Board, you are representing the County of Chesterfield, not just yourself. I would never want to do or say anything that would negatively affect the citizens of Chesterfield.”
Jaeckle quickly got up to speed on what she had to do and how she had to do it last year and one could see she got better at the job as each meeting went by. But what kind of power or more directly capacity helped move the county in what she thinks as the proper direction?
“The Chairman has more pull in the sense that he or she is the first notified of situations and also goes over the agenda with the County Administrator. The Chairman with the Vice-Chairman has the opportunity to pull something from the proposed agenda before it goes public. Of course, if it was an agenda item requested by another board member, I know none of us on this board would pull it without getting into a discussion with the board member who proposed it.
Everyone faces challenges in their job and their personal lives, but what types of challenges does a community leader face?
“Look at a day when you are supremely satisfied at the end. It’s not a day when you lounge around doing nothing; it’s a day you’ve had everything to do and you’ve done it.”
― Margaret Thatcher
For Ms. Jaeckle, there is not a single most challenging issue. The greatest challenge being on the board is when both sides of an issue have merit and a decision needs to be made, leaving one side very disappointed. She said, you have to look at such issues from both sides and perspectives and then make what you believe is the best decision for the majority of the County’s citizens.
One challenge that Chesterfield faces is the aging of its neighborhoods and decaying business strips. Jaeckle is proud, she says, that the county is working at focusing on its older areas.
Don’t we know that time passes quickly and even more quickly if we are busy. There are times when you don’t have time to look at the clock. And many people say that the older you get the faster time goes by.
“I am at an age where everything goes by quickly,” Jaeckle said. “This past year flew by, but if history is an indicator so will the next year.”
A Supervisors’ job is not required to be full time, but one supervisor who made his tenure a full-time effort, said it can be a full-time job. This former supervisor, though he was a business owner, put his county-elected position first and now says that the position could be a full-time job. During his term, he said he would have like to have Supervisors have an office at the courthouse. For him, he said, it would have been so much easier.
Jaeckle, along with Matoaca District Supervisor and Vice Chair, Steve Elswick, work as full-time Supervisors.
“I did enjoy the chairmanship more than I thought I would. I was able to get away from time to time, though in this time of instant communication, I guess we never quite get away completely,” Jaeckle said.
How does a year-long Chairmanship and family mix?
“I can never have too much time with friends and family. I was able to enjoy planning for my daughter’s wedding, but there were a couple of things I missed due to being Chairman.”
Jaeckle was the oldest of six children and “the fixer.”
“There were nine years between the oldest and the youngest. My mother always counted on me to help her out. I guess I was in charge of fixing the things my mother could not get to. When I was an adult, she told me she thought I would not want to have children because she had me helping so much, but I loved it. I hated that she felt guilty about it.”
Many citizens in the Bermuda District have wants and needs, but these days and there is only so much to go around. What can Bermuda folks expect by way of improvements in the coming year?
“You always wish you could do more,” Jaeckle said during this interview. “Bike lanes will be striped when Route 10 is paved. I was happy that Kent Dodd brought this idea to me because the planning had to be done ahead of time. The sidewalks on Old Centralia and Osborne roads should be done within the next two years. The pedestrian upgrades throughout the Village should be done this year. If you recall, when the planning was done for the Jefferson Davis Bridge over the railroad at DCR, I had to commit my allocation of sidewalk money to have sidewalks included in the plan. This delayed all of my other sidewalk projects.”
Could there be a community center for Chester in the future, possibly in the old public library?
“There is currently no talk of a Community Center for Chester. The Board has stayed away from any project that would involve operating costs. The old library is currently being used,” Jaeckle said.
The former Perrymont Middle School that was once used for Community High School has not been used in several years. Although that is under the purview of the school board is there anything that can be done with the vacant building?
“I am a supporter of Charter Schools. I would love to see the School Board move in the direction of Charter Schools and use Perrymont.”
One of the big feathers in the cap of Chesterfield’s Economic Development Department has been the Meadowville Technology Park. But the business park has had some setbacks lately.
Jaeckle said, “My heart went out to the people in Enon that dealt with the traffic from Thanksgiving to Christmas. The answer there is to work on the shift changing. If you go down there at any other time of the day, there is very little traffic. I do not see negative traffic impacts from a Town Center and there are future plans to widen Enon Church Road.
Fellow Board member Dan Gecker has mentioned parity many times when talking about one district compared to another. Does Midlothian get more attention on schools and other improvements than Dale, Bermuda or eastern Matoaca?
“I would like the schools in the Bermuda District to be on par with the other end of the county. It is delightful working with [Bermuda School Board Member] Carrie Coyner. We are both on the same page as far as wanting to make improvements in the Bermuda District. I loved that we were able to get the track reopened at Thomas Dale. I think it is very important that the County and Schools are seen as one Chesterfield County.
“Much of the Bermuda District has great accessibility to get anywhere in the region. I would like to see our real estate valued for its location with property owners making home improvements to stay in the area.”
After six years on the Board and one year as Chairman, Ms. Jaeckle has to pinch herself once in a while.
“There are times that I still cannot believe that I am on the Board of Supervisors. It is an unbelievable opportunity to serve citizens. I love doing it. As it stands now, I plan on running in 2016.”