Until early September, District 3 supervisor Teel Goodwin was running unopposed and thus assured of victory in November— just like the other two Orange County supervisors up for re-election. But that assurance vanished when Ellen Pitera announced her write-in campaign for the seat he’s held since 2008.
During an interview last week, Goodwin, 61, pointed out he has served as chair or vice chair of the board of supervisors for eight of the past12 years and thus has played a key role in setting the direction of the county. He said he believes a fourth term will enable him to finish major projects he helped begin, including the new county public safety center on Route 20, the public safety radio system and the expansion of broadband services.
Asked to describe his most rewarding accomplishment while in office, he said that during his tenure the conflict between county residents who are pro-development and those who oppose it has died down.
“Normally, you find the PEC [Piedmont Environmental Council] and the board are not at battle, where they were when I first came in. And we’ve all learned to coexist and listen to each other and try to do what we think is best for the county—and that includes everyone.”
“All we want to do is be heard”
Goodwin grew up in Orange, graduated from Woodberry Forest School and attended the College of William & Mary. He then took classes at Germanna Community College before graduating with a degree in psychology from Mary Washington College (now the University of Mary Washington) in 1982.
He met his wife, Linda, when she was a student at Orange County High School and he was at Woodberry. He said they’ve known each other for 43 years and have been married for 37. They have a son, Spencer, 21, an engineering student at Virginia Tech.
Although he had planned on a teaching career, Goodwin went into the family business instead. He worked at Goodwin Brothers Lumber Company for a total of 13 years and became manager after five years.
In 1990, the lumberyard closed when the economy faltered. He worked as a painter, furniture refinisher and handyman for a year before joining the sales staff at Union Corrogating Company in Orange. For the past 19 years, he has been general manager for the local plant, one of a number of locations the roofing company owns across the Southeast. He is currently a consultant/trainer and plans to retire in December.
Goodwin said he first ran for supervisor after Clement L. “Sonny” Dodson had retired from the post in District 3. He explained that “about a dozen businessmen” invited him to a meeting and asked him to run.
“They were looking for somebody to run, somebody that they knew, and [the group consisted of] people I had grown up with. And so I asked them what they expected, and I remember the one answer was ‘All we want to do is be heard.’ That’s fair,” he recalled.
Goodwin said that when he became a supervisor in 2008, the depressed economy made the board’s job difficult. Money was so tight the county had to dig into its reserve funds.
“Capital projects in general got put on the back burner because we didn’t feel we could raise taxes. We had a lot of people unemployed and so we tried to be very conservative with the money—buy what we had to have and push some of the other things out until we had more money,” he said.
“Realistically, the first five years were tough,” he said of his early years in office. By 2013 or 2014, he recalled, the economy had improved and the pressure had eased up.
Gentle in manner and quick to make a lighthearted joke, Goodwin smiled when recalling how, back when he lived in Rapidan, he noticed broadband reception improved considerably when the trees dropped their leaves. But he was all business discussing the initiatives he hopes to see through to completion during a fourth term, which he expects would be his last.
Why are you running for re-election?
I enjoy what I do. We have a couple of things we’re working on right now, a new public safety radio system and broadband. So I want to finish up the last big initiative that we have going. I think broadband’s the most important thing. Realistically, it is the most important thing since the REA [U.S. Rural Electrification Administration] of the [1930s]. It’s no longer the thing of, “it’d be nice to have it.” It’s basically required for everything you do. If you go to apply for a job, it’s online. If you have to do homework, it’s online.
How is it coming for District 3 with the broadband?
District 3 and District 5 are on the back end of [the county’s broadband initiative] because we both have Comcast. The majority of my district is still in the [Town of Orange,] and District 5 is Lake of the Woods. And so there’s decent coverage in most of it. We have some bad areas. I used to live in Rapidan. That's not a good area [for broadband or cell signal reception]. … So we’re trying to improve all of that.
What are the skills a supervisor needs?
The first thing you have to do is learn all the acronyms. That literally takes a year. Someone had told me that, realistically, it takes four or five years to figure out how everything works. That’s about right—the first four years you’re trying to figure out where you’re going, what actually is happening. And once you get into your second term, then everything sort of falls into place, and at that time you can actually get down and get some real work done.
What are the key strengths that you bring to the role of supervisor?
I think for me personally, it was in developing grand plans of what we wanted to do. I’m not really a “down in the weeds” guy. It’s more the big picture and direction of where I wanted to go, and that's why I was chairman for four years—to direct the county and the way I wanted it to go with not so many restrictions [regarding land use]. We don’t need as many restrictions as we had. And just to get everybody [in] consensus of where we are.
What are the issues that you consider crucial to District 3 right now?
The [main issue] has been getting all the infrastructure for broadband laid through the town. Because, of course, we didn’t just go put it in. We had to negotiate with the [Town of Orange] for where everything was going to go and how it was done because the town is its own entity. And I worked with the county administrator, the town manager, and also with the town council, whenever there was any kind of issue to try to make sure that everything worked … and everybody got on the same page.
The general election is on Tuesday, Nov. 5. For more information, go to https://orangecountyva.gov and click on Voter Registration & Election in the list of county departments, call the office at 672-5262 or visit the Office of Voter Registration & Elections in the Sedwick Building at 146 N. Madison Road, suite 204, in Orange.
Note that the last day to apply for an absentee ballot by mail is Tuesday, Oct. 29, and the last day to apply for an absentee ballot in person is Saturday, Nov. 2.