Lovettsville’s two mayoral candidates faced off for the first time during a campaign forum Wednesday night.
Nearly 50 people crowded into the former Providence Primitive Baptist Church to hear Councilman Nate Fontaine and Keller Williams Realtor Kris Consaul discuss utility rates, commercial development, ways to retain Lovettsville’s small-town feel and government transparency.
One topic raised was the town’s utility system and rates. Fontaine said although rates have increased by nearly 40 percent over the past three years, the town is on the “correct path” moving forward. Consaul was more direct, saying that rates would not go down anytime soon.
“The cost of clean water is the cost of clean water,” she said. “The town is doing the best that it possibly can.”
Another frequent talking point revolved around protecting Lovettsville’s small-town feel. Fontaine said that community involvement is key, saying town events and block parties are important to keeping that sort of atmosphere alive. Consaul agreed and said that a small-town feel has to do with “knowing who your neighbors are.”
When asked what the Town Council could do to help attract more businesses, Consaul and Fontaine agreed that big box retail stores would never end up in Lovettsville because it is too small of a town and the focus will be on small, independent businesses. Fontaine said that the town could host business forums, set up a town chamber of commerce, and promote the current town events and create new ones.
“It’s simple to make these changes,” he said. “The events are a huge driver.”
The candidates also highlighted efforts to improve transparency in town government.
Again, Fontaine and Consaul agreed on tactics that could help to keep residents informed. Consaul initially cited the town’s new website, which should be active in the next couple of weeks, as vital. Fontaine, noting that he was a “driving force” in the town’s website project, said that community engagement was another way to keep the town’s actions transparent.
After giving responses to about 10 questions, one resident pointed out that Consaul and Fontaine seemed to agree on most issues and asked what their differences were.
In response, Fontaine said it was his experience that separates him from his opponent—as a current councilman, the former vice chairman of the Planning Commission and his involvement in the Coalition of Loudoun Towns and with the county Board of Supervisors. Consaul, who has not previously served on a town commission or committee, said that being a servant leader sets her apart.
“I have tried to be a servant leader my entire adult life,” she said. “When people come to me with an issue, I want to make sure that I hear them first.”
Another resident raised concerns about Consaul choosing to not attend a previous candidate forum that was held March 10 and organized by Warner Workman, owner of the Minuteman Arms gun store in town and known for his strongly held conservative views. “I hoped you were going to be there because I had questions for you,” the resident said.
In apologizing to those who were disappointed that she didn’t attend, Consaul said she made her decision as a private citizen who does not support Workman’s views.
“I have wrestled with this like I have not wrestled with anything before,” she said. “My responsibility if I am elected mayor shifts dramatically.”
Fontaine’s mother was one of the last attendees to address the candidates, saying that she was impressed that both candidates had run clean, positive campaigns. “In this time and age of hate … I’m just so proud of both of you for the campaigns you have run,” she said.
Consaul and Fontaine are on the May 1 ballot to replace Mayor Bobby Zoldos, who is not seeking re-election.