WINCHESTER — Aerospace engineer Josh Ludwig is challenging David Stegmaier for the Republican nomination for the Shawnee District seat on the Frederick County Board of Supervisors.
Stegmaier won a special election for the Shawnee seat in November and has been on the Board of Supervisors for about four months.
Ludwig, 57, said several community members urged him to run because “quite a few people aren’t happy with what [Stegmaier] has done so far in a short time.”
“He told people when he ran that he was conservative,” Ludwig said. “That he would be voting for lower taxes and all of the typical issues that conservatives would want in their local government and he hasn’t done that.”
Ludwig objected to comments Stegmaier made at the board’s Dec. 9 meeting, when Stegmaier joined three other board members in voting to appropriate a $500 one-time, state-funded bonus to nearly 200 employees in the county Sheriff's Office and at the Northwestern Regional Adult Detention Center. County Administrator Kris Tierney said at the meeting that the state legislature mandated that $500 bonuses be given to sworn sheriff's office and jail employees funded by the state's Compensation Board. Stegmaier said that he supported bonuses for all county employees — not just the ones funded by the Compensation Board — and that the General Assembly had created an unfairness that only the county could correct. Later at the meeting, Stegmaier changed his mind and said he would instead want to give bonuses to all employees who had medium, medium-high, high and very-high risk of contracting COVID-19.
Ludwig believes that advocating for the bonuses while many county residents were unemployed due to the pandemic is irresponsible government.
“Some people are really hurting due to shutdown of businesses,” Ludwig said. “Some people have lost their livelihoods. They had a family restaurant and it's gone. So, at the same time you are telling them we are going to take some of your tax dollars and instead of offering you relief, we are going to give it to people who haven’t missed a paycheck.”
He also objected to Stegmaier supporting a 61-cent real estate tax rate, which due to a recent reassessment will result in most county residents paying higher property taxes, and he accused Stegmaier of failing to push for more budget transparency and line-item budgets from the the school division. Ludwig believes “transparency reduces waste” and that parents should know exactly what the school division is spending taxpayer money on and teaching children.
“As a parent, I don’t want to be surprised,” Ludwig said.
Ludwig also supports getting a second opinion to assess the cost of replacing the county's public safety radio system, currently estimated at more than $21 million.
He objects to a proposed 2% meals tax increase that has been supported by Stegmaier and several other members of the Board of Supervisors. The goal of the increase is to generate an additional $2.6 million annually.
“I can’t imagine [the increase] during the pandemic,” Ludwig said. “Anyone can drive down these streets and see all of these restaurants going out of business. Some of our favorite ones have left forever. And I don’t see why now we would be raising sales tax on food.”
Ludwig was born in California and raised in Missouri. He graduated from the University of Missouri-Rolla with a bachelor's degree in aerospace engineering in 1986. He has lived in Virginia his entire adult life. He moved to Frederick County in 2013 from Fairfax, saying that he preferred the country life to the city. He and his wife Rani have four sons ages 11 to 21.
He said he was raised in the Lutheran church and never held office as a Democrat or “worked on Democratic campaigns, liberal campaigns.” While Stegmaier has been active in Republican politics in recent decades, Ludwig noted that when Stegmaier served as a representative in the Hawaii State Legislature from 1988 through 2000, he was a Democrat.
“In this primary, I am the conservative voice, the conservative choice,” Ludwig said.
The Shawnee, Red Bud and Stonewall District seats on the Board of Supervisors are up for election in November. Supervisors serve four-year terms.
Frederick County Republican Committee Chairman Allen Sibert said that the committee plans to hold a party canvass to select the Republican nominees on May 8 but noted that the date could change.