STEPHENS CITY — Interim Stephens City Town Council member Steven Happek has entered the race for a special Town Council election Nov. 5.
The election is being held to fill to a seat vacated by Kelly Ann Thatcher, who resigned from the council in June to become the town clerk. The winner will fill the remainder of Thatcher’s term, which expires on Dec. 31, 2020. So far, Happek and Tina Stevens-Culbreath are the only candidates who have filed paperwork to run. The filing deadline with the Frederick County Office of Elections is 5 p.m. Friday.
Stephens City Town Council members serve four-year terms and are not paid.
Happek, 47, served on the Stephens City Planning Commission for five years and was appointed an interim Town Council member on Aug. 6 to fill Thatcher’s seat until the special election is held. He ran unsuccessfully for Town Council in 2016. A Stephens City resident since 2007, Happek is the owner of GenOne Technology Services, an IT consulting business.
He said he enjoys “small town life” in Stephens City and wants to give back to the community by serving on the council. He graduated from the University of Virginia with a bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary studies and is pursuing a master’s degree in data and analytics at American University.
Happek wants to address traffic congestion in the town, particularly during peak commuting times. He said the problem is only going to get worse as more development occurs.
“What needs to happen is in order for the city to grow, we have to fix the problem of traffic,” Happek said. “We can’t necessarily ask businesses to move into Stephens City when we can’t even get people through and out of Stephens City in a reasonable amount of time.”
Happek said the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) has studied the Stephens City area, but its studies were done in the summer when school is out, which he maintains lead to skewed results. “They don’t think we have a problem,” despite the fact that many town residents have to sit through four cycles of a traffic light to get off Main Street, he said. He would like Town Council and VDOT to partner on a traffic study sometime in September or October. He also wants the town to partner with other communities for events and attract more businesses.
Right now, Happek said Stephens City does not have businesses that encourage people to stay in the town for a few hours. He would like to see coffee shops, mom and pop stores and restaurants there. He noted that he has lived in Stephens City much longer than his opponent, who has only been in the town for two years.
“I understand the changes the town has gone through with the multiple mayors we have had over the past 12 years,” Happek said. “I’ve been actively involved with the town government for the past five years. I’ve got the background.”
Happek said his time on the Planning Commission familiarized him with city ordinances and zoning, and he has been exposed to the way the town’s government works.