JAMES CITY — This year, voters in James City County will decide on a new makeup for the county’s Board of Supervisors, with three of the five seats up for grabs.

Two incumbents, John McGlennon of the Roberts District and Ruth Larson of the Berkeley District, take on challengers Trevor Topping and John Curran, respectively. Sue Sadler of the Stonehouse District is not running for reelection, leaving Barbara Null and Lisa Ownby to compete for her spot.

The election comes at a pivotal time for the county. In July, the current board decided to terminate its longtime joint school division contract with Williamsburg, meaning that it’s possible the system will split in the not-too-distant future. A new police chief is heading the county police department, and efforts to preserve the county’s rural character are facing pressure from a growing housing stock and proposed solar farms.

The next board will steer the county as it navigates these issues. Here’s an outline of the candidate positions and their backgrounds.

Roberts District

A longtime political figure in the county, John McGlennon has served on the Board of Supervisors since 2001 and won the past six elections for his seat. McGlennon said that his record on the board demonstrates his priorities.

“I want to make sure that all of our citizens, neighborhoods and businesses are treated fairly,” McGlennon said, “whether it is building a new park in an underserved community or restoring a stream bed eroded by stormwater runoff.”

Earning a master’s degree and doctorate from Johns Hopkins University, McGlennon has taught at William & Mary since 1974, heading the government department from 1993 to 2001. McGlennon said he’s worked hard to provide a voice to constituents.

“My support for public safety is reflected in my endorsement by organizations representing our police and firefighters,” McGlennon said. “My record on taxes and spending is clear in our Triple-A ratings by the three major national rating agencies, and I’ve worked to make our taxes reasonable and fair. Finally, as the leader of a statewide group of ‘high growth’ communities, I have been able to help shape state policy and advocate for more local decision-making authority.”

Going forward, McGlennon said he has shown he can work across party lines to solve the problems ahead.

McGlennon’s opponent, Trevor Topping, has lived in the county since 2019 but is a native of the Peninsula. A graduate of East Carolina University, he works as an independent financial services professional and said he will bring that business experience to the board.

“I want to serve to bring conservative values, common sense and someone who is willing to do what is right for the residents (of) the county,” Topping said.

Topping said his priorities will be focused on scrutinizing the budget to keep taxes low while still being able to provide raises to public employees, especially school staff.

“Parents are concerned about the cost of the administration in the school system, while our teachers barely make enough to survive with inflation. A new, younger set of eyes and ideas will bring a real change to the county,” Topping said.

The future of the county should be shaped in part by the younger generation, Topping said. He said that counties across the state and country have become less safe and less sustainable. He said he’s committed to protecting and preserving what makes the county an amazing place.

Berkeley District

Incumbent Ruth Larson also has a long track record with the county, elected to the board for the first time in 2016 after serving 10 years on the Williamsburg-James City County School Board. Currently, she serves as vice chair on the Board of Supervisors and also works with her husband, Craig, on several business ventures, including Cornerstone Hospitality. Larson touts JCC as being a fiscally well-managed county.

“The last two fiscal years we took a penny off of our tax rate to help our citizens recover from the impact of COVID on the economy, and we continue to have a Triple-A bond rating,” Larson said.

Larson is also chair of the Williamsburg Tourism Council and vice president of the Virginia Association of Counties. She traces her political experience back to when she participated in her children’s PTA and cites her family’s deep roots in the area that gives her context on local issues.

“This is a beautiful community that retains a much-appreciated rural feel,” Larson said. “I care about the residents here and want to enhance the environment we share through smart governance and planning.”

John Curran, Larson’s challenger, has lived in the county for three years, but visited his parents in the area long before that. Since moving to the area, he has served in leadership roles at the Two Rivers Country Club and a local Knights of Columbus chapter.

“I want to invest my time and experience into the community I live (in), to help it develop in positive ways and to preserve the quality of life that my friends and neighbors of James City County value,” Curran said.

A graduate of George Washington University, Curran served in the U.S. Navy, had leadership roles in construction and defense contracting companies and consulted on growth and technology plans for developing countries. Curran’s priorities included working closely with the school board, providing police with resources and securing an affordable and self-reliant water supply.

“I am also committed to exploring ways to attract new businesses into JCC to diversify our economic base and bring new jobs with career paths for new college graduates and recently separated military personnel to stay in our area,” Curran said.

Stonehouse District

Barbara Null moved to the county when she retired six years ago after a career at United Airlines, and now serves on the county Planning Commission. She’s the former chair of the Williamsburg-James City Republican Committee and former president of the Greater Williamsburg Republican Women. After moving to the area, she started volunteering for the police department and said her spirit for service has been true her whole life.

“I love our county and want to do what I can to keep it beautiful, rural, safe and a community where people want to visit and enjoy all the history and other fun amenities that we have,” Null said.

Null said her time with the Planning Commission has made her familiar with county processes, and that the due diligence she demonstrated in that body will be brought to the Board of Supervisors. Her priorities include proper compensation for public employees, which she said she believes the county has ensured in recent history.

“Collective bargaining for unionized employees, which my opponent supports, is not the right way to continue achieving these positive results for our employees and for taxpayers,” Null said.

Lisa Ownby, also running for the Stonehouse seat, has lived in Williamsburg since 1992 and has had a career working with children with disabilities. While employed at Child Development Resources, she was appointed by then-Gov. George Allen to the state Rehabilitation Advisory Council.

In 2016, Ownby was elected to the WJCC School Board and served as vice chair and chair at different times. She now works as director of operations at her family’s Landtech Resources civil engineering company.

“My wheelhouse is K-12, and that represents 50% of James City County’s annual budget. Good schools keep folks moving to and remaining in our county, and that keeps property values high,” Ownby said. Ownby’s experience on the school board, she said, is what inspired her to run for the Board of Supervisors, and her background in education has equipped her to take on the role as a board member.

“I will work to ensure the board focuses on community needs,” Ownby said. “Decisions need to be evaluated both in terms of how they impact services and amenities today, and 20 years from today.”

Other than enhancing public education, Ownby’s goals include improving emergency response times in her district, preserving the small-town feel of the county, developing more solar energy capacity and widening broadband internet availability.

“I am deeply invested in our county’s future,” she said. “Our local government should be responsive to our diverse community and our diversified economy.”

Want to learn more?

There will be a forum at 6 p.m. Sept. 28 at the Williamsburg Regional Library auditorium to meet the Board of Supervisors candidates as well as those running for school board. The event is sponsored by the Williamsburg Area League of Women Voters and the York-James City-Williamsburg chapter of the NAACP.

n John McGlennon

Age: 74

Family: Wife Terry; two grown sons, Andrew and Colin

Occupation: Professor of government and public policy, William & Mary

Political experience: Member of James City County Board of Supervisors, representing the Jamestown District initially and then the Roberts District due to redistricting.

Party affiliation: Democrat

Education: Bachelor’s, Fordham University, Bronx, New York; Master of Arts and doctorate, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore

Website: johnmcglennon.com

n Trevor Topping

Age: 31

Family: Wife and three dogs

Occupation: Topping’s Financial Services

Political experience: First run for office

Party affiliation: Republican

Education: Bachelor’s degree from East Carolina University in business management

Website: toppingforsupervisor.com

n Ruth Larson

Age: 60

Family: Husband Craig; three grown children

Occupation: Ventures with husband including Cornerstone Hospitality

Political experience: 10 years on school board; member of Board of Supervisors since 2016

Party affiliation: Independent

Education: Attended Virginia Peninsula Community College; graduate of the Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership and the Virginia Association of Counties supervisor certification program

Website: voteruthlarson.com

n John Curran

Age: 59

Family: Married with two daughters

Occupation: Business consultant

Political experience: 30 years dealing with U.S. government in areas of contracting, policy and fiscal support for projects. Testified multiple times to Congress as a subject matter expert for multiple committees on alternative energy.

Party affiliation: Republican

Education: Bachelor’s in political science, Master of Business Administration in economics, The George Washington University

Website: vote4curran.com

n Barbara E. Null

Age: Did not disclose

Family: One son, daughter-in-law, two grandchildren

Occupation: Retired commercial pilot

Political experience: Previously on planning commission in New Oxford, Pennsylvania; former chair of the GOP committee in Charlottesville and Williamsburg-James City; presently serving fourth year on JCC Planning Commission; past president of Greater Williamsburg Republican Women.

Party affiliation: Republican

Education: Oregon State University, UCLA

Website: barbara4stonehouse.com

n Lisa Ownby

Age: 54

Family: Husband Matt Marshall; three children, Briar, Oakley and Townsend

Political experience: Served on the Williamsburg-James City County School Board from 2016-2021, with terms as vice chair and chair

Party affiliation: Democrat

Education: Master’s in social work from the University of Maryland; bachelor’s in social work from George Mason University

Website: ownbyforsupervisor.com

J.W. Caterine, jwcat757@gmail.com