James Kindig’s roots in Augusta County stretch back to the 1840s when his ancestors emigrated from Pennsylvania to settle along the South River. A product of Stuarts Draft schools — except for three years at Wilson Memorial High while the high school was being built — he is a member of the Stuarts Draft High School Class of 1972, the school’s second graduating class.
A retired engineer, Kindig, 65, built a career in information technology following graduation from Virginia Tech. He also earned master’s degrees at Marymount and George Washington universities. The father of two grown children, he is the grandfather of a 9-month-old granddaughter.
Although his career took him outside the Valley, particularly to Northern Virginia, Kindig said he always came back to the homeplace — 250 acres known as Kinmont Farm.
The connections to the land and the community are among the driving factors for his decision to seek a seat on the Board of Supervisors representing the South River District. He’s also seen the many changes around Stuarts Draft over the five decades, which he said has produced a mixed bag of results.
“It’s evolved quite a bit. I don’t think anyone was anticipating the kind of growth that came with Hershey and McKee,” said the first-time political candidate. “There’s a lot of different ways of looking at it.”
Kindig said a neighbor once noted that the farm where Hershey is now supported several families. But, he said, the jobs created by the plant supports hundreds directly and indirectly around the community and beyond.
Still, Kindig said, he believes the county should do more to support agriculture and provide more opportunities for farmers to stay on their land.
Kindig’s property was included in a solar farm project that stalled in May when the Board of Supervisors voted 4-3 to deny a special-use permit needed for the proposal to go forward. Landowners and the company, Augusta Solar LLC, have appealed the county’s ruling to Circuit Court in a case that has yet to be heard.
If elected, Kindig said he would take the advice of the county’s attorney on when he should, if necessary, recuse himself on any decisions regarding the solar farm.
“Augusta County has a solar ordinance. As long as [a project] conforms to top the ordinance, I think it should be fully supported by the board,” he said of any future proposals.
The board has begun a process of reviewing the county’s comprehensive plan as it pertains to utility-scale solar projects. Kindig faults county planners for not giving more weight to property owners’ opinions on the future use of their land when crafting the Stuarts Draft Small Area Plan.
Kindig said that he and neighboring property owners he’s spoken to would like their land to be put in an ag district, but the county prefers that it be part of an urban service district.
“That really stretches the limit of what you can call an urban service district,” Kindig said. By definition, he said, such a district must have access to public water and sewer. He argues that is not economically feasible for many of the parcels that have been included.
Kindig said the county’s expectation for commercial or industrial growth in the South River District seems far too ambitious when considering the next 20 years’ growth. Based on current growth, he said the area is likely to require an additional 1,200 acres for intensive development.
“That’s minor compared to what the plan calls for,” Kindig said. “You need to look at a data-driven model where [growth] is occurring.”
Kindig also advocates the county making agriculture a bigger focus in decision-making and supporting programs such as 4-H and FFA in the schools. He wants to give youngsters more opportunities to become involved, especially with new research and technology that’s transforming how farmers work.
The goal, he said, is to maintain as much of Augusta County’s agricultural base as possible.
“If we want agriculture to remain viable, we need to have more programs,” he said, adding he would support giving a greater role and responsibilities for members of county staff and advisory committees to focus exclusively on ag.
Other priorities if elected, Kindig said, would be taking a hard look at property taxes. He said the county’s current real estate tax rate was “like a double whammy” because it also came in the wake of higher assessments.
Kindig said he also wants to see the county adopt a standardized procurement process to ensure the local government is following state guidelines when it comes to awarding contracts and making purchases.
“How well those guidelines are followed is something that needs to be looked at closely,” he said.