The Brian Withnell Conundrum

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The guys at Too Conservative are having a conniption over the fact that Brian Withnell is challenging Gary Clemens for the Republican nomination for Loudoun County Clerk of Court.

The gist of the argument seems to be "How dare he!"

While I will admit, in the spirit of full disclosure, that I seem to be on the other side of pretty much every political contest from the TC folks, I think there is room for objective discussion here.

[More full disclosure: My totally non-political wife, a couple months ago, said this about TC following her initial naive surfing of the blogosphere: "I thought 'Too Conservative' meant they exposed people they thought were too conservative." Heh. From the mouths of babes...]

Anyway, whatever the relative qualifications of the two men, let's examine a simple fact about the Clerk of Court:

The Clerk of Court gets elected for an eight-year term, and the salary is $130,000 a year - and as some insiders have said, it's not exactly a brutal job.

Interesting factoid: If you state the above sentence to anyone in Virginia, 99% of respondents will reply "reeaally??"

So I would say: Considering all the calculations that go into deciding whether one should run for office, this Clerk of Court deal has the added bonus of being a pretty friggin' good job. Better than the governor's or your average congressman's, in fact.

Yeah, it is "public service." But it is also pretty sweet public service.

The outrage at TC, I would therefore submit, is misdirected. I would say, in fact, that if there is any job that we should expect to see contested every eight years, it might be this one. It's a little surprising to me that people are not falling over themselves to line up for the primary.

Hell, it would be an upgrade for me, that's for damn sure.

I wish I had more information on the issues of the campaign. So far, Brian Withnell has established he is a nice guy but has not made it exactly clear why he would be the better man for this cherry position. Gary Clemens has made it clear he is also a good guy, and who can blame him for wanting another eight-year stint.

While I respect Loudoun Insider much of the time and read his posts pretty regularly, I have to think he is overdoing it a bit to hyperventilate over the fact that Withnell is trying to get this job. We do have a democratic process in this country, and oftentimes it is fought over jobs far less remunerative than the Loudoun County Clerk of Court. Supervisor, for instance. I think Gary Clemens should expect a challenge once every eight years and be ready to defend his position.

Brian Withnell is a tech-wonk guy - this is one of the things he did communicate the other night at the LCRC meeting. A lot can change in eight years, and in a data-intensive environment as a court oversees such a person has solid standing to say he should be considered for the position.

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2 Comments

Linda B said:

Babe? Well, I guess I have to take my compliments where I can get them these days ....

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. I 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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