Independent Candidates

Gary Oates

WINCHESTER — Frederick Water Chairman Gary Oates was narrowly reappointed Wednesday to serve another four-year term on the panel’s board of directors, with three members of the Board of Supervisors expressing concerns about the appearance of potential conflicts of interest.

Oates, president of a land surveying and civil engineering firm, has been Frederick Water’s chairman since 2015.

Reached by phone, Oates said he has always been proactive in recusing himself in matters where a conflict of interest, or the appearance of one, may arise.

Frederick Water provides water and sewer service to more than 17,000 residential, commercial and industrial customers. Established by the Frederick County Board of Supervisors in 1967, it is a Virginia corporation existing under the provisions of the Virginia Water and Waste Authorities Act. Its five board members are appointed by the supervisors.

Two supervisors — Shawn Graber (Back Creek) and Josh Ludwig (Shawnee) — indicated they would not be support Oates’ reappointment ahead of a 4-3 vote.

“The reason I believe it is a conflict of interest is his line of work as he negotiates and works with various individuals to develop properties or bring properties here for discussion,” Graber said. “And while it may not be a conflict of interest, it could certainly have the appearance of such.”

Earlier this year, Oates launched a campaign to become the next chairman of the Board of Supervisor, running as part of the “Frederick First” political movement — a slate of independent candidates who feel they can best serve residents if unfettered by party politics.

He is running against Ludwig — a conservative Republican — in the Nov. 7 election. The chairman at-large post is one of four seats on the board that will be on the ballot.

Supervisor Robert Wells (Opequon), who serves as the supervisors’ Frederick Water liaison, noted that Oates helped steer Frederick Water out of a difficult period.

“Several years ago, Frederick Water had some serious issues, and it was affecting Frederick County. [Its] board was changed and Mr. Oates was appointed leader of that group, chairman,” Wells said. “And when you look at where Frederick Water was then and where it is now, significant positive changes have been made.”

“I think he’s done a great job of being a true leader of the committee,” Wells said. “That being said, in all of those years, I’ve never seen any problems with conflicts of interest in property or water rights.”

Earlier this month during a Board of Supervisors meeting, Ludwig asked former Frederick County Republican Committee chairman Tim Stowe, an engineer who was recently appointed to fill a vacancy on the Planning Commission, about conflicts of interest prior to his appointment.

Stowe has represented clients with rezoning applications coming before the Board of Supervisors and the Planning Commission on multiple occasions. Stowe told Ludwig he waited to submit an application for the Planning Commission vacancy until almost all of the rezoning applications he had dealings with were no longer active.

Wednesday, Ludwig aired similar concerns about Oates.

“Last meeting I brought up some questions about an individual who was being appointed to a commission and that appointment did go through. But it’s concerning: we have quite a few people on county boards and commissions that also have business before the county, as that gentlemen [Stowe] at the last meeting did as well,” Ludwig said.

He continued, “We don’t want to make it appear to the county residents that we may have individuals with a conflict of interest. I think in the future, I’ll be voting, including in this case, more in favor of voiding those appearances, so I won’t support this either.”

Heather Lockridge (Gainesboro) joined Graber and Ludwig in opposing Oates’ reappointment. Chairman Charles DeHaven, Judith McCann-Slaughter (Stonewall), Wells, and Blaine Dunn (Red Bud) voted in favor of it.

“Based on that discussion and the possibility of it being a conflict, no,” Lockridge said when voting on the matter.

— Contact Cormac Dodd at

(5) comments

Seth Thatcher

Gary Oates is a good citizen who gives time to his community on various boards without receiving compensation and has done so for years. Those who attack him, don't know him, and they only idict themselves.

Just Jess

I’m sure there was absolutely no conflict of interest in Ludwig voting against his political opponent. And as usual Graber and Ludwig vote hand in hand. As far as Lockridge the only thing she has accomplished so far is showing that she is clearly on that board to give Ludwig and Graber more backing without any clear knowledge on what she is voting for.

B Weller

"Frederick First" political movement — a slate of independent candidates who feel they can best serve residents if unfettered by party politics.

If you put lipstick on a pig it's still a pig. You can't have a political party of Pockets First that is supposedly unfettered by party politics when that's your party. Pockets First. They protect their own at the expense of others.


Why didn't you run, "B"?

Catherine Giovannoni

Gee, imagine Ms. Lockridge voting in lockstep with Mr. Ludwig. Who didn't see that coming?

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