Brian Withnell Speaks

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[The following was submitted by Republican candidate for nomination for Clerk of Court Brian Withnell. Withnell lost out for the nomination to incumbent Clerk Gary Clemens at yesterday's convention.]

Now that the contest is over, I'll actually make some comments.

First, I wish Gary all the best. In fact, I hope--very definitely hope--that the problems in his office are over (and they might be). I hope I also had a part to play in that correction.

Now, why run. From a very strict point of view, the running is just part of who I have always been. Not that Loudoun County would ever know it. I used to live in Maryland many years ago (where being a Republican was equal to having no voice in politics) and still managed to work toward moderating the liberal bent there. I happened to have worked in Maryland political circles many years ago, mostly on an issues basis. Bethany Christian Services got a lot of work from me helping them establish a home for unwed mothers. I set up the Annapolis chapter's computers for them (and donated computers to them). I worked in Wicomico county with the local Life Line Pregnancy Center in much the same way. I worked with the College Republicans in Salisbury.

Why not around here? First, when I moved here, my wife became pregnant soon after. When the child was one year old, my first wife was diagnosed with breast cancer, and for the next 3 1/2 years, my focus was helping her. After she died, it took a lot out of me, and I was a single Dad. Try that with 3 children for a while. It is busy.

Then I met a wonderful woman, and we married. My top priority in this world was then integrating her into a family of five. After that, we had my second, then third son (that's right, we have five children in all).

At this point, time is just now starting to be something other than "already taken" by higher priorities. Oh, sorry, I believe all those things are in fact higher priorities--disagree if you wish, but you never have to worry about me doing something for ulterior motives.

Now again, why choose to run for this office? First, I really do believe Gary had done a rather lame (at best) job. His record speaks for itself. I love the fact that he stated he had two clear audits from the accounting office (he actually had three, the first one was the first year he was in office--the errors were not left over from the prior clerk, the prior clerk had clean audits at the end of his term, and Gary's first was clean also). The fact is that it takes time to get things into a mess, and the audit I cited was almost three years into his term. So just from the standpoint of audits, out of the seven years he was in office, he had only three years that were "okay." The first was okay (from the prior clerk's work) and the most recent two. What that says to me is that he mismanaged the office for at least 4 of the prior 7 years. 3 of 7 right (at best) is a failing grade in every math course I've taught.

But why run? If you aren't willing to be part of the solution, you don't have any right to complain about the problem. I was willing to run for two reasons. First, I really believe I could have done a better job. Believe it? That is a little weak. I know I could do a better job. It may have been a lot better for me to become involved sooner, let myself be known more, put in an appearance for a year or so ahead of time. But that isn't what I thought I could do at the time. And guess what? This only opens up once every eight years. I certainly hope Mr. Clemens doesn't repeat his prior performance (i.e., do poorly for five years, followed by getting his act together at the last 2 prior to election). I threw my hat in the ring the only time I could have, and while that did not allow for a thorough campaign, it will have at least made it plain that people do care about his performance.
Would I run for a different office? Perhaps I would. But I would want to know that I would be able to do the best job of those that are running. That said, I also have to admit that part of the job (getting a nomination, and then being elected) is not my strong suit. But then, I have always thought that while that is the most important part of actually getting the job, it may be the most contrary indicator of who is best for a job. (For example, Clinton was elected easily, but I certainly think he was one of the worst people for the office of President yet).

As I said before, I wish Gary Clemens all the best. He is unopposed in November, so he should sail into another eight years. I hope I don't have any reason to run for that office again.

Brian Withnell

P.S. as a corollary to not being able to complain if you aren't willing to be part of the solution, I now have earned the right to complain. :)

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6 Comments

Dean Settle said:

You know they are, Mr. Withnell.
He initiated the very investigation that you drew your criticism from.
His office has won awards in 2005 and 2006 for leading the change and accountability in the office.
He has also initiated a numer of policies that have circulated around the state to all of the State's Clerks offices.
And he has been voted to the Vice-Chair of the representative group for the State's Clerks.

It may be that he cleaned up his act. The audit I cited was one he requested (after his office lost money). That audit also sited another audit which is not available. What is incredible is that the audit cited states that improvements had been made since the prior audit (i.e., the prior audit was even worse). The one I cited was bad enough that in any private industry, he would have been fired on the spot.
While his recent audits are clean, I have to believe what is published. I have to believe the 1999 and 2000 audits are just as accurate as any other (including the 2005 and 2006 audits -- I'm not disputing he is doing better now). But you have to wonder what happened after the 2000 audit, and you have to wonder just how bad the audit is referenced in the Sept. 2002 audit.
I see (very clearly) how good Gary is at influencing people and getting support. What I had serious questions about is how things went from fine in July of 2000, his first year in office, to so bad in Sept. of 2002 that the audit sounds like a letter of termination for cause. If the reasons it went bad were related to inability to come up to speed in a reasonable time, then there could be more problems if the office is perturbed greatly. I don't know what caused the failures in his office. The individual issues have never been answered. But that might just be how politics works. It might also be why we have swings between one group of supervisors and another every four years. I tend to think less politicking and more working by conviction would slow that down. In the years I've been here, I think I've seen at least 3 times when the citizens did a "throw the bums out" election, rather than "This is a really good person for the job" election.

There goes "angry Dean" Settle again.

Dean, you could have earned a big pile of beets and potatoes churning out agitprop before the Wall came down. You missed your calling.

Speaking of substance, B.J. Ostergren, of www.thevirginiawatchdog.com, has graciously agreed to do a guest blog here at novatownhall.com. Stay tuned.

Just to make absolutely sure everyone ... and I mean everyone ... knows, when I lost, I stated without equivocation, duplicity or any ulterior motive, that the convention should nominate Gary Clemens by acclimation, I was a delegate to that convention, and I was among the "ayes". I will vote for Gary Clemens in November, and I encourage anyone else to vote for him. I do not now, nor will I ever support anyone that signs a pledge to support the Republican nominees for office, and then decides to run as an independent. It is just not honest. From my point of view, it is clear evidence that the person who so chooses is unqualified for the position from the standpoint of character. There is no honor in it; I do not vote for those with no honor.

Dean Settle said:

We agree on that much, Mr. Withnel. Thanks for your response. I enjoy reading your posts because you are often informative, and you're not the asshole that John can be from time to time.(see above).

Can "Angry Dean" Settle post without dipping into the potty?

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