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Elected Officials, Veterans Support Trenum in Deployment

| August 4, 2016 | 0 Comments | News

Del. Rich Anderson in front with other speakers at the Aug. 4 press conference.

Speakers, who stood outside the Kelley Center, argued that the Prince William County School Board should select one of the individuals that Trenum had recommended to serve as his proxy.

The suggested that Trenum’s service to his country should be taken into account as well as his devotion to his district.

However, the school board voted to contact Attorney General Mark Herring (D) for a recommendation and are awaiting his ruling before moving forward.

Del. Rich Anderson (51st) organized the media conference. State Senator Dick Black, Delegate Tim Hugo (40th), Del. Scott Lingamfelter (31st), Delegate Bob Marshal (13th), Delegate Jackson Miller (10th), Mark Dudenhefer (2nd), and Brentsville Supervisor Jeanine Lawson attended.

With the exemption of Marshal and Lawson, the rest were all veterans. Local military veterans Steve Boteloo, Rick Tirrell, George McKay and Kurt Ashpole also joined the elected officials at the conference.

Brentsville Supervisor Jeanine Lawson speaks.

Brentsville Supervisor Jeanine Lawson speaks on behalf of Brentsville District School Board Representative Gil Trenum, who will be deployed to Africa as a Naval Reservist.

The speakers gathered mainly to discuss Trenum’s deployment. Trenum who had been elected three times to serve on the school board by the citizens of the Brentsville District was not in attendance as he was at Andrews Air Force Base, preparing for his deployment.

Speakers said that allowing one of Trenum’s chosen replacements to serve in his place is it “the right thing to do” for both the veteran community and the Brentsville District.

“I got involved,” said Botello, “because I work at the Veterans Service Office and saw this issue with Commander Trenum not being taken care of the way it should be.”

The speakers argued it was not a partisan issue, but an issue that resonated with veterans, and Anderson said it was an issue that residents continue to bring to his attention, especially veterans.

In June, Trenum announced that as a Naval Reservist, he had been deployed to Dijbouti, Africa to serve in“Operation Enduring Freedom.”

As a result, he said he would not be able to attend the next session of the Prince William County School Board, which resumes in September.

Veteran Steve Botello is a resident of Brentsville.

Veteran Steve Botello is a resident of Brentsville.

Knowing he would be absent, Trenum sought advice from the Division of Legislative Services with the Virginia General Assembly. They informed him that he has the right to keep his elected office while serving in the military as long as he did not make an official announcement of his absence to his board in writing.

Wanting to keep his seat, Trenum made only an unofficial announcement and recommended three temporary replacements. He asked the board to choose the individual members felt they could work best with.

Trenum said he would still remain in contact with his constituents via email.

Questioning the legality of Trenum’s solution, the majority of the school board voted for clarity on the issue and turned to the Attorney General.

However, speakers at the press conference felt the law was clear enough that the Attorney General did not need to weigh in. Linghamfelter said it would be unnecessarily disruptive.

PWCS Director of Communications, Phil Kavits, said the board is awaiting Herring’s opinion on the matter.

Anderson explained that in Virginia, there have been two similar cases where the individuals were allowed to keep their representative positions. He cited Virginia Code 2.2-2802 and the ruling of Virginia Attorney Generals in 2002 and 2004.

Anderson said he did not know if proxies were allowed in the past, but felt that Trenum’s recommended replacements could be trusted to best represent him.

During the conference, speakers addressed the matter as an issue of respecting the sacrifice that service members make for their country.

Del. Anderson emphasized that soldiers serving abroad “face conditions of maximum peril,” and their families undergo significant stress.

“We are not here for partisan reasons, but to support a patriot,”Lingamfelter said.  “[Trenum did not choose the deployment,] but his country called him forth.”

Lingamfelter said the school board should not create “a froth of partisanship” that takes the focus away from educating children, asking them to “do the right thing.”

Del. Black, a veteran, said he knows “it’s serious, serious business.” As Trenum will be engaged in “the most crucial battle against ISIS to date, ”to politicize that is “truly an outrage.”

Del. Jackson Miller noted that Trenum won 98 percent of the vote in the last election and ran unopposed because residents support his performance as their school board representative.

Miller also accusing the School Board Chairman At-large Ryan Sawyers of being fiercely partisan and using his position to further his personal agenda.

He said Sawyers and his board attempted to terminate the employment of a popular principal, Dr. Michael Bishop, Principal of Patriot High School, and renamed Godwin Middle School to George Hampton Middle School without input from its community.

Supervisor Jeanine Lawson said  Trenum has strong support among residents.

“Clearly, the folks of the Brentsville District want his leadership and trust his judgment,” she said.

Lawson said she knows first hand how difficult the time is for his family from working with Trenum’s wife, Michelle.

Harry Wiggins, Chairman of the Prince William County Democratic Party, pointed out to television reporters that although the representatives claimed the conference was nonpartisan, only Republicans attended.

He said that the school board simply wanted to open up the process to all members of the Brentsville District so they could apply to be Trenum’s replacement. He also said it makes sense to seek clarity.

Following the press conference, Sawyers sent a statement accusing the speakers of being hypocritical. He also accused some of them of being racist for not supporting Dr. George Hampton, an African American veteran who was in the running for having a school named after him, but instead, requiring him to produce evidence of his military service.

© 2016, Bristow Beat. All rights reserved.

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