November 2, 2015
Faces of Fauquier: Civics a passion for poll worker
“Voter apathy is still the number one reason why people don’t vote,” Ben McCartney says. “They tend to believe my vote won’t make a difference and they are wrong, especially at the local level.”
It means you are returning to the community for one thing. The second thing is you’re showing some sense of civic pride, civic decision to do something for the good of the community.
He takes his civic responsibility seriously.
Ben McCartney has worked the county polls on Election Day for eight years, since retiring as a government and psychology teacher at Fauquier High School.
“You get to see civics in action. You get to see government in action,” Mr. McCartney said. “It doesn’t get any more grassroots than that.”
He approaches the election process with a commitment to encourage citizens to vote.
“It’s the little engine that could,” Mr. McCartney said. “Anyone that says their vote doesn’t count is wrong. Votes do count, especially in a local race.”
Before polls open at 6 a.m., he helps set up the Airlie precinct at C.M. Bradley Elementary School with about eight other election officials.
“One of the rewards is it stimulates camaraderie amongst the poll workers in my precinct. It’s fun to see people you don’t normally see. We have a great time,” he said. “We collaborate on meals. I make pork barbecue.”
He also fosters civic responsibility among high school students as the election page program coordinator in Fauquier. Students earn community service hours for their help.
“Poll workers aren’t paid lavishly, and it’s a long day, but somebody’s got to do it,” Mr. McCartney said.
“It means you are returning to the community for one thing,” he said. “The second thing is you’re showing some sense of civic pride, civic decision to do something for the good of the community.”
Setting up equipment and signs before polls open and tallying votes at the end of the day present challenges, according to Mr. McCartney.
“We cannot be off. Our electronic poll book has to match identically with what the machines say and/or the casting of provisional ballots,” he said. “There is a degree of nervousness . . . at the end of the day because no one can leave until the numbers jibe and everyone signs off.”
About 150 citizens will work the polls in Fauquier this year.
“Without people like Ben or others, we wouldn’t have a democratic process,” Registrar Alex Ables said.
Mr. Ables anticipates a low voter turnout — 40 to 45 percent — in Fauquier on Tuesday, Nov. 3, but Mr. McCartney still encourages citizens to cast their votes.
“Local races are far more important than even the presidential race,” Mr. McCartney said. “It’s the local race that is going to decide the lion’s share of budget expenditures and the lion’s share of request of revenue from Fauquier County by homeowners.”
“Voter apathy is still the number one reason why people don’t vote. They tend to believe my vote won’t make a difference and they are wrong, especially at the local level.”
Part-time international student facilitator for Fauquier County Public Schools. Fauquier election page coordinator for high school students, two years. Election Day poll worker, Airlie Precinct at C.M. Bradley Elementary School, eight years. Government and psychology teacher at Fauquier High School, 1978 to 2008. Social studies teacher at Cedar Lee Middle School, 1974-78. Science teacher at H.M. Pearson Elementary, 1973-74.
• Why do you do the job?
Because I believe in it. Because I believe every vote counts and I want to do my part. If I can influence someone else to come out to the polls, so be it. That’s great.
As far as the election page program, if I can engender a spirit of participation on their part, that’s great.
Wife, Mary Pat; daughter, Erin Burroughs; son, Andrew, and two grandchildren, Mitchell and Elise.
Master’s degree, administrative and supervision of instruction, George Mason University, 1982. Bachelor’s degree, history, University of Richmond, 1972. Endorsed in comprehensive social studies.
• Civic and/or church involvement
Former volunteer with Boy Scouts. Member of St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church in Warrenton.
• How long have you lived in Fauquier?
Since 1973 — 42 years.
• Why do you live here?
When I graduated college in 1972 I took a job in Alexandria teaching social studies. Last one hired, first one riffed — reduction in force. I came out here for an interview and took a job teaching science at H.M. Pearson. The kids I had at H.M. Pearson, they were delightful. It was a pretty easy decision to stay. My wife came down from the north and she was a teacher here and we met and we stayed.
• How do you describe this county?
It’s a bedroom community of Washington, D.C. It’s not as rural as it once was. Politically, it’s a bedrock Republican community. I know it’s a very conservative area. I’ve been involved in education all my life here and fought for education dollars. There is something to be said about the quality of life. That’s important.
• What would you change about Fauquier?
Education is so critically important for society. To be a well-educated society means success. I don’t care what anybody else says, it takes money to do it. Our conservative nature of the population here has not acquiesced to a tax rate that supports everyone, and I guess that’s what I would have liked to have changed. That affects me, but I’m willing to pay it.
• What do you do for fun?
Help raise my two grandchildren.
• What’s your favorite place in Fauquier?
Any classroom, working with students. That’s what I like to do. I still do psychology seminars at Mountain Vista Governor’s School. I still go in and lecture in some classes; so that’s fun.
• What will Fauquier be like in 10 years?
Based on what I’ve seen in the past 30 years, it won’t be much different.
There is inevitable crawl and sprawl, inevitable growth corridor. I don’t think we will see dramatic shift in thinking, population increase. Ten years is too short to see a dramatic change.
• Favorite TV show?
• Favorite movie?
“Gods and Generals.” As my wife would paraphrase, shouting and shooting.
• Favorite book?
“The World is Flat” by Thomas L. Friedman.
• Favorite vacation spot?
My wife and I went to Nashville last year and that was so nice. We haven’t been back, so I can’t say it’s a favorite vacation spot.
• Favorite food?
• What is the best advice you have ever received? From whom?
To work hard at your craft. I don’t think that was any one person who told me that. It was an amalgamation of people that I had to make sense of.
The best advice I gave to young teachers that I hired was you have to work hard at your craft. Teaching is not a 9-to-5 job. There is a lot of work that goes into it to get that lesson crafted properly.
• Who’s your hero and why?
He’s not my hero, but one of my colleagues, a good teacher, Bob Jacobs. He taught social studies at Fauquier High School. Hero, no. Good friend and someone who I think would be an exceptionally good teacher and I tried to emulate his energy. We taught together for years.
• What would you do if you won $1 million in the lottery?
I would help my two children and grandchildren out financially.
Suggest a profile candidate
Previous Faces of Fauquier:
• Philip Mulford makes a career of the search for middle ground.
• “Midland to the bone,” says native Matthew Smith.
• Sherrie Carter’s creativity becomes her business.
• Starting her career, Liberty graduate Judy Heflin wants to be a great teacher.
• Social Services Director Jan Selbo has devoted her career to helping others.
• Jim Cirillo’s call to Casanova extended.
• Don’t tell Angela Deal, Ms. Wheelchair Fauquier, that she can’t do something.
• FHS graduate and business owner Cathy Dodson finds all she needs right here.
• Mike Harvey’s sweet work takes lots of sweat.
• Warrenton native Joan Williams still serving her community.
• Classic cars consume engineer Matt Innocenzi’s free time.
• Wood transformed in the hands of Edward Fox.
• Earl Arrington serves printing customers and his community.
• Michael Hughes wears music, threater and equestrian hats.
• Store in Goldvein part of Susan Leopold’s family legacy.
• County native Maggi MacQuilliam devoted to the great outdoors.
• Health care for the needy Rob Marino’s mission.
• Daphne Latimore focuses on human capital.
• Horses extend Louise Summers’ work as teacher.
• As volunteer coach, Jeff Budd develops young wrestlers.
• Fraces Allshouse’s jobs focus on preservation.
• Jessica Smolinski’s book introduces children to Old Town Warrenton.
• Margaret Rice’s job all about fitness and fun in Warrenton.
• Robert Sturgeon has built his 70-employee businesses in Bealeton from scratch.
• 4-H leader Zach Woodward relishes the lessons of farming.
• Hospital auxiliary volunteer Alison Lee also earned fame in drag racing circles.
• Highland School veteran staff member Lise Hicklin always wanted to teach.
• As 9-1-1 dispatcher, Kateland Rich works to maintain calm during crisis.
• Chaplain Liz Danielsen finds a giving community.
• 9-1-1 response in Rodney Woodward’s bloodline.
• Fast talk a tool of the trade for auctioneer Kathy Shumate.
• Sam Poles takes care of varmits.
• Diane King mentors student performers at Fresta Valley Christian School.
• Lewis F. Lee Jr. followed his father into taxidermy business.
• Edward Payne returns to Orlean and to photography with passion.
• Janet Metzger’s Old Town Warrenton shop a hub of creativity.
• Pablo Teodoro bakes to build community.
• Community trails have become passion for retired VDOT engineer Bob Moore.
• Teresa Reynolds makes transition from butcher to museum director.
• After working in New York and Italy, Christine Fox moved home to open fashion boutique 25 years ago.
• Steve Lewis develops hunting reality show on Dish Network.
• Julia Trumbo grew up in the family grocery business.
• Tax preparer Renée Turner enjoys owning a business in Old Town Warrenton.
• ICU staff Carol Jones values patients’ trust.
• Wilson Sanabria grew up working in his family’s Warrenton restaurant and learning to box.
• One-man band Peter Fakoury quit 9-to-5 to learn from children.
• Liberty graduate Brittany Aubrey works in the smile business.
• Walmart cashier Lulu Baer loves to play violin and several community roles.
• In Sandra Alm, SPCA dogs have a loyal companion.
• St. James’ Episcopal new Rector Ben Maas appreciates community’s embrace
• Bicycles dominate work and play for Brian Larson.
• Teaching music therapy combines Abigail Newman’s passions.
• Brenda Rich leads volunteers who organize and run the Fauquier County Fair.
• 1st Sgt. Greg Harris stresses empathy in his job as a supervisor at the county detention center.
• Chuck Tippett challenges the “rich guy” stereotype about pilots.
• County government employee Surja Tamang previously worked as a Mt. Everest sherpa.
• Woody Isaac found his calling as a chef at age 16.
• Horses take Tommy Lee Jones all over the county.
• Retired nurse Angela Neal continues to volunteer in hospital ER.
• Gilmer Lee really knows high school sports in Fauquier.
• Stage remains central to Tim Bambara’s life journey.
• Bus driver Melissa Strain’s weekend job all about “fun.”
• Bartender Taylor Edgar has a pretty good standup routine.
• A nomad childhood led Paul Schmeling to start a moving company.
• Adam Lynch’s family owns café with local food focus and a special name.
• Patricia McMahon Rice turns passion for art into her livelihood.
• Cindy D’Ambro works as “director of first impressions” at LFCC.
• Ginger Hilleary leads local literacy organization.
• Farmers with groundhog problems call Rod Kirkpatrick.
• Horses “retire” to work with Jeanne Blackwell.
• Remington cattle farmer Doug Linton loves his home and work.
• Sports central to Robert Glascock’s life’s work.
• For Richard Mast, company ownership started with his summer work as a teenager.
• Bernice Simpson knows northern Fauquier back roads and the people who live along them.
• Eddie Payne has logged 38 years as a volunteer firefighter in Marshall.
• Stephanie Layton turns her lifelong passion for dance into her livelihood.
• Shawn LaRue matches children and adoptive families.
• Biker and psychology major Clif Stroud makes music in a big way.
• Becky Crouch greets lots of visitors.
• She helped blaze trail to equality for black teachers.
• Family and food come first for Marshall pizzeria employee.
• Rural “closeness” of Fauquier appeals to Kansas native
• A “spoke” in the wheel of preservation.
• His job dovetails with passion for hunting
• Veteran educator sees the potential in every child.
• His passions: Fixing cars and helping people
• Habitat ReStore volunteer appreciates Fauquier’s diversity.
• Dad’s example led to new career at Fauquier Hospital.
• He lives and works in a beautiful place.
• The Goldvein firehouse ranks as his favorite place.
• Pretty things everywhere she looks.
• Through scouting, he encourages girls to explore.
• One day, he might run the company.
• FISH volunteer likes to help others.
• She sees the community’s generosity.
• Cop patrols while most people sleep.
• Pastor a constant in Calverton.
• She keeps the courthouse spotless.
• He loves working working outdoors at the park.
• She sees “everyone” at Carousel
• Library assistant works in a “fun place"
• Hat lady sets up shop in Old Town Warrenton
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Rover 530 · November 2, 2015 at 11:45 pm
Ben is so committed to the democratic process, I'm sure he would file a missing person's report if I didn't show at the polls to vote. He influenced thousands of young people in this county to be good citizens while he was a teacher. A legacy for which to be proud.
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