Three incumbents return to the race as the Williamsburg City Council election heats up.
Mayor Clyde Haulman, Vice Mayor Paul Freiling ’83 and council member Judith Knudson are each seeking re-election to the governing body in the May 1 election. Members serve six-year terms, with elections held on even-numbered years.
According to Kate Hoving, communications specialist in the city manager’s office, there were five candidates for two seats in 2010 and six candidates for three seats in 2008.
The incumbents compose the majority of the ballot, with Ginger Crapse ’89 as the only newcomer in the race.
City council work is continuously changing as the economy imposes budget constraints and the town’s leaders look to develop better relations with the College of William and Mary. In fall 2009, nine houses were charged with violations of the three-person rule. In May 2010, Scott Foster ’10 J.D. ’14 was the first College student ever elected to the council.
Haulman believes the relationship has continued to steadily improve.
“Those types of relationships don’t change overnight, and I think over the last couple of years we worked really hard, and over the least three or four years it’s really paid off,” Haulman said.
To encourage the relationship, Haulman meets monthly with College President Taylor Reveley to discuss issues affecting the College.
Pressure from the General Assembly has recently dominated the conversation. The College, along with several other Virginia universities, has agreed to admit additional in-state students over the next four to five years. The Class of 2016 will have an additional 38 in-state students. The increase will serve as part of the plan to add a total of 150 in-state students to the College.
With state-mandated growth, the College faces problems of housing and funding. Haulman noted that cooperation between the city and the College will help with the growth. He plans to continue his monthly meetings with Reveley to maintain the communication.
“We have to work with the College to see how they plan to handle the growth,” Haulman said. “If it needs students, where are they going to be housed? What do we need to do?”
Serving as a faculty member from 1969 until his retirement in 2011, Haulman believes he understands the College’s perspective while also sharing the view of a city resident.
“I feel like I have a foot in two worlds,” Haulman said. “It’s been very useful for me. I talk with students and have feedback about where they’re coming from.”
Haulman served as the dean of Undergraduate Studies, chair of the Music Department, assistant to the president and chair of the Economics Department during his time at the College.
As an alumnus of the College, Freiling also believes that he understands the two perspectives well. He noted the importance of town-gown relations in response to the pressures coming from the General Assembly.
“The best thing we can do is support Reveley and the administration’s position on that,” Freiling said. “The primary way is communicating regularly with our state legislators, Watson and Senator Miller.”
Freiling currently serves as director of the special gifts program for the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. As vice-mayor for the city council, Freiling noted that fiscal concerns dominate the majority of the current conversation in the local political environment.
“We have a real financial challenge facing us. We have to do everything we can to sustain our efforts while keeping a realistic budget,” Freiling said. “We need to try to grow the business contribution to the budget and concentrate on our tourism efforts. All of those could help bring in revenue which would take the pressure off the budget.”
Freiling credited the recent adoption of themed months to encourage tourism in the city. In September 2011, the city kicked off arts month with a concert by the Virginia Symphony at Matoaka Amphitheater that had an overall attendance of approximately 1,200.
Freiling also said that the synchronization of the comprehensive plans for Williamsburg, James City County and Yorktown will help all areas. While each jurisdiction will adopt its own plan following a public hearing in November 2012, they will hold joint work sessions to discuss the issues brought up by citizens at public forums held in February and March.
“It allows us to look at some issues that cross over our boundaries,” Freiling said. “There are lots of things that don’t begin and end at the Williamsburg border. We should take into account what each other is doing to lead us to greater cooperation down the road.”
Cooperation among the communities has taken off in the recent year. The economic development authorities of the city of Williamsburg, James City County and York County participated in Arts month in September, hoping to spike tourism throughout the area.
All of the incumbents noted that the revitalization of downtown, with the proposed Prince George Street housing and retail complex, is another development plan which should attract tourists to the city and boost revenue.
Council member Judith Knudson said that while the fiscal constraints facing the city council in the coming year would prove trying, the revitalization of the downtown would be an innovative step for the city.
She also noted the importance of town-gown relationships alongside the recent state mandates for growth.
“I think [the relationship] is going really well right now,” Knudson said. “It has a lot to do with the efforts of Reveley. He’s really been involved. But we have an enormous problem that the state insists that the College gets bigger without providing funding.”
For Knudson, she hopes to encourage the public’s role in city council decisions.
“It would be my goal to continue whatever it is we’re doing,” Knudson said. “If it’s not working, I would like people to call me and say there’s this problem — that’s why we’re elected.”