3 run unopposed for local offices

Posted: October 26, 2013

The Winchester Star

WINCHESTER — Jeff Barbour, Ann Burkholder and Alex Iden will ask the electorate for jobs on Nov. 5.

Though the election is 10 days away, the three Republican Party nominees have a pretty good idea that they’ll be selected to fill the city’s treasurer, commissioner of the revenue and commonwealth’s attorney positions, respectively, for the next four years.

After all, they’re running unopposed.

Barbour, 55, is a political newcomer. He is seeking the office held by the late Mark Garber, who died in May after a long illness.

But Barbour isn’t new to treasurer’s duties, having served as deputy treasurer for the City of Fairfax for more than 11 years. He has also been certified as a master deputy treasurer by the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Policy at the University of Virginia.

The Frederick County native and lifelong area resident said he has been knocking on doors as part of his campaign even though he has no opposition, and he thinks he will have covered about 90 percent of the city by Election Day.

That, he said, is a pledge he made to Garber, who backed Barbour’s candidacy after announcing in March that he would not seek a fifth term due to his health.

“A number of people thanked me for walking the streets and shaking hands,” the candidate said. “I’m doing it for myself and the citizens of Winchester. I want them to know who I am and what I stand for.”

Barbour said he plans to have an open-door policy, just as Garber did, so residents with questions can obtain answers directly from the person charged with tax collections if desired.

He also said he hopes to continue efforts to improve the office’s technological resources to enhance efficiency and convenience.

“I’d like us to be able to upgrade the computer software used by the city,” he said, “to make it more user-friendly for us in-house and for those trying to pay their bills.”

Given his tenure in a fast-paced Northern Virginia city, Barbour said he might have hands-on experience that can help Winchester’s treasurer’s office.

“Once I’m elected,” he said, “I hope to spend some time in the office to get familiar with their system so that on Jan. 2 I’ll be able to hit the ground running. I’ve got some ideas from things I’ve seen down here that maybe will work in Winchester.”

Barbour will work closely with Burkholder. The treasurer collects the taxes billed by the commissioner of the revenue.

She was elected in 2009 to fill the office, capturing 42 percent of the vote against Democratic and Independent opposition.

Given her lack of opposition, Burkholder said she has spoken to a few groups but otherwise has focused more on performing her duties than on campaigning.

“We have a heavy workload here in the office,” she said. “I really hope I’m earning the privilege to continue serving as the commissioner of the revenue by what I’m doing every day and not what I might do during an election season.”

Burkholder, 53, said she is pursuing software upgrades for her office and the expansion of the online services it offers to make filing tax information easier for residents and businesses.

In addition to increasing the use of technology to enhance efficiency, she said that in her first term she has focused on customer service, working cooperatively with other departments and improving the office’s procedures.

“The best computer system in the world is not a replacement for poor procedures,” Burkholder said. “I’ve had a real focus on updating our procedures so we are more efficient, so we have more audit trails and edit reports.

“My goal is always that if something’s wrong, we’re catching those errors and fixing them before they reach the taxpayer.”

While Barbour is a newcomer and Burkholder is completing her first term, voters are familiar with Iden.

Born in Winchester and raised in Clarke County, he was elected as the city’s top prosecutor in 2001 and ran unopposed in 2005 and 2009. Counting his five years on the City Council before winning the commonwealth’s attorney’s position, Iden is the city’s second-longest-serving elected official, behind Mayor Elizabeth Minor.

Iden, 51, said he has not actively campaigned, but stays in touch with local residents, attending the North End and South End citizens association meetings.

“It’s important,” he said, “to stay open-minded and discuss things with the public all the time.”

He meets with the attorneys in his office weekly, he said, “to discuss what’s working well and what’s not and make changes so we don’t get stale.”

Technological advances, Iden said, must be used in the process of apprehending and prosecuting criminals, but with individual liberties in mind.

“To stay on the ball,” he said, “every elected person will tell you they need to introduce new technology. We need to see how the law is going to react to new technology.

“There are a lot of issues in the law that the Supreme Court is wrestling with, such as putting [Global Positioning System] devices on the back of a car. It’s a matter of staying on the ball and making sure you’re using new technology for the good of society to solve crimes while protecting people’s rights at same time.”

— Contact Vic Bradshaw at vbradshaw@winchesterstar.com