Ever since Michael Frey was elected supervisor of the newly created Sully District in 1992, it's been his full-time job and main focus.
Although his accomplishments are many, he's running for a fourth term because there are still things in the works that he'd like to see completed. But besides that, Frey, 47, of Centreville's London Commons community, truly finds pleasure in the job.
"I take satisfaction in the small stuff — helping get pot holes and stop signs fixed and getting the system to meet people's needs," he said. "I still enjoy meeting new people and helping people," he said. If it weren't for this job, I wouldn't have met 95 percent of the friends I've made — and my life would have been the poorer."
One of them is Bill Schmidt, Sully District Republican Committee chairman and an enthusiastic Frey supporter. "Mike's doing great," he said. "He represents the whole spectrum of residents in the community. He was extremely helpful with the renovation of Centreville's Fire Station 17, he's fiscally responsible with people's money and he knows what's going on in the district."
FREY SAID either he or a staff member returns every phone call and he'll meet with every constituent requesting it. "I listen to everybody, and one of the things I'm proudest of is that I'm fair," he said. "There are people who'll say I didn't do what they wanted me to — and sometimes I can't. But I'll do the best I can and will explain to them the constraints I operate under and why I do the things I do."
A Republican, while out campaigning he's found that transportation is uppermost in area residents' minds. "Knocking on doors, by far, the most frequent comment I hear is transportation-related," said Frey. "They just want something fixed. Depending on where they live, it's the Route 28 improvements or I-66; everybody's got a different concern."
He said the Route 28 interchanges project is moving along and, as Sully's supervisor, he's played a leadership role in them. "I had a major part in the creation of the public/private partnership [that's building the interchanges]," said Frey. "If the county hadn't stepped forward to guarantee the bonds, it never would have happened."
Now, he said, Barnesfield Road is well underway, and he helped get the Westfields Boulevard interchange moved up some nine months — from mid-summer 2004 to this winter. As for I-66, said Frey, "Everybody thinks rail should come to Centreville, but nobody wants the rail station, end of the line or maintenance yard near them. The decisions aren't easy because they all involve tradeoffs — every issue is that way."
Noting that Sully District has one of the highest percentages of families with children in Fairfax County, he said education, understandably, is also a high priority with residents. But there are challenges, including overcrowding, day-to-day operations, funding, obtaining the latest technology and remaining competitive regarding teachers' salaries.
Still, said Frey, people keep flocking to Sully because of the quality of its schools and principals — "and that's clearly something I'm going to work to keep up. The supervisors provide the money for schools, but fitting their needs into the overall budget — and meeting all the other county needs — will be tough. However, I've always believed, historically, the mission of government is public education and public safety."
HE NOTED, though, that the county isn't going to receive financial relief until Virginia implements some new procedures for tax reform. "We're too reliant on the property tax," he said. "We've got to look at the taxes we propose — such as taxes on services — and whether they're appropriate."
Stressing that the tax structure's based on a rural, agrarian society that is no more, Frey said, "We can't continue to get 59 percent of our revenue from property taxes. We're driving homeowners out of the county."
Also important to him are youth sports. "I don't think there's a higher priority than kids, so I'll continue to try to find recreational opportunities for them, outside of school," he said. "Youth sports teaches kids how to win and lose with respect and dignity, provides opportunities for leadership and shows them how to work with others."
He said he'll keep looking for places for them to play, as well as ways to pay for the facilities. Said Frey: "We clearly have to look for leverage with the private sector and things with broad-based support."
As in past races, he's running on his record of service to his constituents. "I've tried to be responsive to the community's needs and be a leader in areas important to the community," he said. These include the National Air and Space Museum Annex opening in December and the protection of green space.
"Three or four years ago, I started taking [the annex's program manager] Lin Ezell out to our communities to make sure the museum was complementary and compatible with our neighborhoods," said Frey. "[Del.] Gary Reese [R-67th] and I put the superintendent of schools in touch with the Smithsonian people to discuss educational opportunities, and now both Fairfax and Loudoun will have a full-time teacher in residence to run the educational programs there."
Frey's also proud of the 2,000 acres of parkland he pushed the Board of Supervisors to acquire. "You hear people talk now about the need to preserve open space," he said. "We started those efforts, five years ago."
Despite whatever his opponent says about him, he fully understands "what challengers do" in political campaigns. "It's a lot easier to look back and say, 'Should have,'" he said. "It's a lot tougher to look forward and say, 'We have to' — and I've shown an ability to do that."
Republican Frey believes he's been "relatively bipartisan" in his dealings. "I'm supposed to represent all 112,000 people in Sully," he said. "I've put Democrats on boards and commissions, I've worked with the civic groups and, a few years ago, the Sully District Democratic chairman asked me for help. That's the type of reputation I've tried to develop."
With new residents in Sully and voter turnout historically low, he's not taking anything for granted in his re-election bid. Still, he believes he's the best person for the job. "I've proven that I'm effective and get things done," said Frey. "And I think my record shows I deserve another term."
CENTREVILLE'S BILL SCHMIDT agrees. "Michael listens and is open to suggestions," he said. "He's certainly experienced, and he has a thorough understanding of land-use issues — which have been key to Sully in the past 12 years. And he's been great at getting proffers from developers for the betterment of the infrastructure of the community."
Oak Hill's George Thigpen recalled the time when his subdivision was having a speeding problem and VDOT refused to give it the three stop signs it requested. "We fought VDOT, about eight months, but I called Michael and he supported us," said Thigpen. "[In the end], we got the stop signs."
Although he's a Democrat, he's voting for the Republican Frey and wrote a letter asking other members of his community to do likewise "because of his support of our neighborhood and his interest in his constituency," said Thigpen. "Very seldom do you find politicians who will go to work for a whole community — and he did. He said he'd help us, and he was a man of his word."
John Thillman, a former Fairfax County planning commissioner and planner, has known and respected Frey for 20 years. "He impressed me because he always wanted to get the job done and do the right thing," said Thillman. "He's personable and down-to-earth, always takes phone calls and helps constituents. And he helped our community when VDOT didn't want to give us a left turn out of our subdivision."
To Frey, said Thillman, being supervisor isn't about politics, but about helping people. "We've got an effective person as [Sully supervisor] — I don't see any need for a change," said Thillman. "I've never, ever hosted a political event for anyone, but my wife and I did it this year, for Michael, because he's so deserving. I'm 100 percent behind him."