You can also download the original PDF file.
Press Version (110 MB)
Web Version (33.5 MB)
Middletown Continues to Sort Itself Out
By Sue Golden
Frederick County Report
At a special meeting on Tuesday evening, the Middletown Town Council appointed two members: Clarence “Trip” Chewning and Thomas M. Simon. The council also appointed Charles H. Harbaugh IV as interim mayor.
A close to capacity crowd filled the council chambers. Many of the attendees applied for either one of the council positions or the mayoral position. The meeting began with each applicant for the council openings making a brief statement.
Gilbert “Gil” Barrington started by apologizing for resigning from the council. “I let my emotions get the best of me.” Although, he added, he was not alone. He stated that normally, no one comes to meetings. And he exhorted the crowd to stay involved, saying “it’s about time you got involved.”
Trip Chewning went next. Trip explained that he got involved about a year ago, when there were items in the budget he did not agree with. At the time, he said, he was very upset and vocal, calling on the council to dissolve the charter, and return to Frederick County. Now, Chewning says, he is starting with a clean slate. He called dissolving the charter “impracticable”, and said he would not go after any of the jobs of town employees. Chewning’s starting over means getting along, listening, and discussing issues thoroughly. He understands that people are angry that the comprehensive plan has not been followed, and that the water and sewer rates continue to rise. While he hopes to “serve the people of Middletown,” he also hopes “people will take more interest.”
Kathryn “Kathy” Corderro moved to Middletown three years ago. She said she made Middletown her home because she loves history and tradition. She wants to use the history and tradition as the stepping stone for economic growth and development. She wants to “move forward and change.” Corderro wants to be a voice for Middletown, saying she would go door to door to represent the people.
Gerald “Dave” Sinclair was succinct; he has been on the council for sixteen years. He always “goes with what the people want.” He has worked with the current council, while serving as an appointed member after John Owings resigned. “I want to do it again.”
Thomas M. Simon is an eight year Middletown resident. He said he was sitting on the sidelines watching all of the activity over the past year. Finally, he knew he had to get involved. He likes the small town of Middletown. He is raising his family here. “Growth is unavoidable, but do it the right way.”
Carol Snyder came to Middletown with her husband. When he died, she chose to stay. “I love Middletown.” Snyder was a program manager at a major company, and has sat on lots of committees. She knows how to listen and how to get things done. She thinks she can be an asset to Middletown.
Councilor Mark Davis effused that he felt good that so many people applied for the council positions. He also mentioned that a number of seats will be voted on in November. He said the town hired an attorney for the day to file a writ for elections, which also was due today.
Councilor Davis explained the voting process. Each of the four councilors would rank each candidate. Town manager Joan Roche and Treasurer Sharon Fadely would add the votes. The two lowest vote getters would be eliminated. In the first round Barrington and Corderro were eliminated. In the second round Snyder and Sinclair were eliminated.
As the voting and counting took place, there was a palpable sense of suspense in the crowd. Then nervous chatter ensued. Councilor Donna M. G. Gray said she felt like the theme music on “Jeopardy” should be played, which Councilor Davis immediately took up humming. All joking aside, Councilor Davis said he did practice ballots in advance, to make sure the system worked.
The winners of the balloting, Chewning and Simon, were asked to go to the Frederick County Court to get sworn in as soon as possible.
The council then turned its attention to the mayoral appointment. John Copeland has been a resident of Middletown for forty years. For over twenty of those years, he has served in some capacity on the council, whether as councilor or mayor. He said he was seeking the office “whole heartedly.” And he thanked the crowd “for showing an interest in your town.” He then had Councilor Davis read from his resume, because he did not want anyone to think he was “embellishing.”
Councilor Gray spoke next. She is a forty eight year resident of Middletown. She raised her family here. She worked for the town for nine years, and has been on council for two. She loves Middletown, and the people that make up the town. She knows that she is a minority voice on the council, but she tries to listen to the people who elected her. She wasn’t intending to “upset the apple cart” by running for mayor. She thinks Councilor Harbaugh is a “real nice guy,” but she thinks she has more experience than Councilor Harbaugh, and therefore would be a better mayor.
Councilor Harbaugh spoke of growing up in Middletown. He has worked for the town. He has multiple degrees. He played three years of semi-pro football. He began running the July 4th festivities in 2009. He was elected to council in 2010. He became vice mayor in 2011. He wants to “build a team” to “get things back on track in Middletown.”
Councilor Harbaugh was appointed mayor. Councilor Gray was next in line in the voting, ahead of Copeland. Councilor Harbaugh relinquished his council seat, so he will be out of office unless elected again in November.
The council was asked numerous times during the meeting about not having four elected officials to vote on financial issues. Councilor Carl Bernhards, Jr. responded that “we will cross that bridge when we come to it.” Councilor Davis said it was “a grey area.” He said “technically it is not appropriate. We cannot raise taxes, spend new money or sign big contracts. For the budget we are fine. We will hire an attorney soon, who will guide us in the right direction.”
The council is looking for applicants for the open council position vacated by Councilor Harbaugh. Applications can be picked up at town hall and are posted on the town’s website http://www.MiddletownVA.gov. There also are vacancies on the planning commission. The council will vote on a new appointee at its next meeting on April 2nd.
By Sue Golden
Frederick County Report
It was a capacity crowd for last night’s Middletown Town Council meeting, and the council did not let the crowd down. The meeting started with Mayor Mark Brown reading the letter of resignation from the new Town Attorney J. David Griffin. Mr. Griffin began representing the Town on January 1st. Then the mayor read his own letter of resignation. True to form, the mayor did not go quietly into the night. The mayor read from a prepared statement that blasted Councilors Mark Davis, Carl H. Bernhards, Jr. and Donna M. G. Gray, calling them egotistical, deceptive, and vindictive in turn. He also had harsh words for members of the planning commission, accusing all of the above of preventing doing what was best for the community.
The mayor then turned to Councilor John Blaisdell. Councilor Blaisdell read his letter of resignation, again with harsh words for the council and planning commission. Then it was Councilor Gil Barrington’s turn. Barrington, who ran for a vacant seat on council saying he was going to be a conciliator, blasted the council for being totally dysfunctional and a laughing stock. All four resigned effective immediately. The now former mayor and councilors quickly left the dais.
Some in the crowd were clearly delighted; the antics of the council were beginning to wear thin for residents. Others, and the remaining members of council remained respectfully silent throughout. Councilor Harbaugh moved to the mayoral chair and resumed the meeting.
Councilor Gray expressed surprise, but wondered about the commitment of the aforementioned since they walked out without consideration for the Town. Councilor Davis said he had tried to talk the Councilors out of resigning, calling them good people. He disavowed a number of the former mayor’s contentions, and hoped council could get back to work. Councilor Bernhards had heard there might be resignations at the meeting, but assumed the former mayor would call for his resignation. He said the remaining three councilors had its work cut out for them, seeing as a new budget needs to be drafted in the next 30 days. The new Mayor, 25 year-old Charles H. Harbaugh IV, vowed to bring “stability and civility” back to the council. “I always wanted to be mayor, I just never thought I would be the mayor this young.”
The remainder of the meeting was almost light hearted. There was not much on the agenda, and council and the audience bantered with the new mayor. At the close of the meeting, there was a round of applause from the crowd.
The media (except this one), had been called in advance. Channel 3 TV was there, as well as the press media. The evening police shift was in attendance, which is irregular. After the meeting, the employees made for the door. Citizens inside the chamber discussed the surprise events. The former mayor and councilors appeared to continue to hold court in front of town hall.
As predicted, it was worth being there. Now let’s see where we go from here.
Oh, and it goes without saying, that there are openings on both the council and planning commission. Anyone interested should contact town hall.
A beloved grandparent, husband, military officer and inspiration to a generation of young students died today at 78 following a fire near his home in Amissville, Va.
Family members report that retired Air Force Col. Ivan G. Mieth was discovered by his son-in-law following a sweeping brush fire around 5 p.m. today. An autopsy will be performed in Manassas.
Col. Mieth was perhaps best known locally as the Commandant and Chief of Staff of Randolph-Macon Academy, a co-educational boarding school with a strong Air Force JROTC program which Mieth headed from 1984 to 2005.
Prior to moving to Virginia, Col. Mieth served in the Air Force for 29 years including a tour in Vietnam from 1966 to 1967.
Funeral arrangements are pending.