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July 9, 2018

Q&A with Carter Nevill, Warrenton’s new mayor

“Everything we look to achieve is dependent on the private sector,” new Mayor Carter Nevill says. “We can attract, pitch, sell and do what we can to draw in the businesses we want, but . . . it’s a free market. ”
I think the more citizens are involved in our government, the more we as council members are responsive to them.
Carter Nevill
• Age: 48

• Warrenton government experience: Elected as mayor, May 2018; chairman of Warrenton’s Architectural Review Board, 2014-18.

• Stipend as mayor:
$800 a month.

• Work: Co-owner, Carter & Spence, Main Street, Warrenton, 14 years; regional sales manager (Mid-Atlantic and Southeast), Cape Classics Wine Imports, 4 years; district sales manager, National Distributing Co., 6 years; ladder runner, prep cook and bartender, C&O Restaurant, Charlottesville, 9 years.

• Education: Bachelor’s degree, English, University of Virginia, 1991.

• Family: Wife Kathleen, son Hugh and dog Rosie.

• Hobbies: Mushroom foraging, cycling, running, hiking, cooking and traveling.
By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Staff Journalist
Warrenton’s new mayor hopes to involve more citizens in town government.

Carter Nevill, co-owner of the Main Street jewelry and gift shop Carter & Spence, breezed to victory in the May election and took office last week.

Among his top priorities for Warrenton, Mr. Nevill wants to focus on increasing citizen engagement, boosting economic incentives for businesses and continuing to create a more efficient government during his four-year term.

“I hope to be a positive force in the role as mayor,” says Mr. Nevill, 48. “I have been overwhelmed and humbled at the support I’ve been shown.

“This is not about me. It’s about Warrenton. I’ve been entrusted with speaking on behalf of all of us, and it’s a privilege to have been selected for that. It’s a responsibility that requires continuous thought and care.”

During an interview last week, Mr. Nevill discussed his new position. Edited excerpts follow.

• What are your top five priorities for Warrenton?

Five is a nice lofty list. I think if we can complete one, we will be on course to marked success.

First: Continued economic improvement and ensuring business in town limits are surviving and have the opportunity to thrive. To help further, that is to draw new businesses, so that we are a destination and providing goods and services not only for our community but counties that are surrounding. We should be looking toward Warrenton as a destination for tourism, visitors and shoppers.

Economic development has to be our priority. The business community drives our revenue. To be able to build the things we need and provide the services for citizens, we need a strong, booming economy, and we need to do whatever we can to ensure that happens.

Second, looking at internal infrastructure projects that will help foster the community. Part of that is bringing a swift resolution to the Broadview Avenue project. We cannot see Broadview as a thruway for commuters. It is a business district. That road and project need to serve its business community in the best possible manner.

Pedestrian safety, making sure our neighborhoods are all connected and people feel safe walking from the Gold Cup neighborhood to Old Town. That it’s a pleasant, desirable walk to make.

We need to look for a parking solution that accommodates not just our current needs. We do have a surplus of parking, based on our current needs. But, project towards a future to where we have . . . a thriving tourism and entertainment district. We need to have the capacity to store those cars as people come and shop.

Perhaps look towards expanding our streetscape to make Old Town a place where people want to linger. That it is a social space where you’re going to come and eat, hear live music, visit an art gallery. Not a place where you’re looking to spend 15 minutes and get in and out within a metered parking time frame.

We need to adapt our core business district to the changing needs of retail. Retail is definitely fading in the age of Amazon, drone delivery and soon, autonomous vehicles. Experienced-based businesses, where humans interact with one another, have to be our vision we build so we’re not left behind. Where there are people, retail shops will thrive.

Third on the list would be as growth occurs, making sure we are properly managing and ensuring we are providing living space for future generations and not further dividing the town.

Any new construction has an impact on its immediate surroundings. In the past, we have seen developments with only one ingress and egress. Those neighborhoods are cut off from the rest of town. Communities have always been stronger where they are connected to neighboring communities . . . through walkways, connector streets.

Parks and recreation remains a vital source of our quality of living. Ensuring the Timber Fence Trail construction, a connected trails system. Recreation goes back to the experiential goal/draw. We (Fauquier County) are the first breath of fresh air as you leave the congestion of Northern Virginia. People come to enjoy our recreational opportunities. A strong and vibrant parks and recreation department reinforces that. It’s a sign of a healthy community. It’s a fantastic thing we should be selling ourselves on.

Four: Part B of all of these things is to continue to foster a strong relationship with the county. That cooperation between us is essential for both our successes.

Five: Encouraging property owners to invest in their properties would be a huge goal of mine — façade improvements, internal improvements, making them more attractive to businesses. In whatever way we can find incentives for them to want to do that. If we are going to be truly successful, we are going to need partnership and buy-in from the county (with incentives). Ensuring a good strong, urban core in Warrenton is very strongly symbiotic to the conservation goals of the county.

• Do you have a plan for attracting new businesses and making sure businesses thrive in Warrenton?

Everything we look to achieve is dependent on the private sector. We can attract, pitch, sell and do what we can to draw in the businesses we want, but . . . it’s a free market.

My plan is to ensure all the assets we (the town) control are strong . . . an efficiently functioning government, permitting processing system.

The more we can encourage our local residents to walk and spend time in our business districts . . . the more they are out frequenting those businesses.

When you have incomplete sidewalks and (force people) into their cars, often enough it’s just easier to drive into Gainesville. When we take care of our infrastructure, roads, recreational areas, the more reasons we provide for people to be out and about in our community. That’s goosing the engine to attract businesses. Any large corporation is going to look at demographics, flow of people. When we have a well functioning and active and engaged community, we are attractive to independent and corporate investment.

The historic district is always going to be a draw. I don’t think we are capitalizing on it. Bold changes to that streetscape could unleash an interest in businesses wanting to locate, but it’s going to take investments on our part to enhance the streetscape.

If we could widen the sidewalks to allow for café seating, benches, better landscaping; the more we can enhance the pedestrian experience, the more likely we are to have traffic slow down.

• Broadview Avenue accounts for most of the town’s tax base. Would you suggest any improvements there?

I think it needs to be improved, whether it be a single turn lane instead of two turn lanes in the center . . . side street and sidewalk enhancements. The beautification, improving it to make it more identifiable. New street lamps . . . things that bring a lot more pride or identity to something that still has its vestiges of when it was a bypass. I think we can do small things that don’t impede upon businesses, that are not extraordinarily costly, that hopefully would induce businesses or property owners to renovate. Make it a safer, more enjoyable place for pedestrians.

• How will you communicate with citizens as mayor?

My door is always open and with social media, we are all easily accessible. I’ve been stopped in the street and I enjoy that. I am a very visible person whether it is from walking our dog or working in the store (at Carter & Spence). My door will always be open and my ear will always be ready to listen. I’ve been engaging the public and discussing issues for the last 14 years. I’m willing to talk about anything.

As we work with council and look towards various issues in the community, one-on-one is good, but a dialogue among many is better.

I think we could have some well-organized community visioning meetings to address specific issues before they percolate up to council to the point of policy. It’s better that we as a community and government work towards working together, rather than each individual person thinking they can be the solution.

It’s important for all of us to hear other people’s opinions. Providing forums on a regular and predictable basis.

• How do you describe your commitment to open government?

I’m 100 percent in favor of it. We cannot function without that openness. If we try to operate behind closed doors or with a sense of deceit, then it leads to deceit.

We are a public institution. This government belongs to the residents, and it must be open at all points and there should be encouragement when all possible.
It’s more open and accessible than it’s ever been in the past (with agendas and meeting recordings online).

I’m an advocate for a strong press. We can’t let social media alone direct our flow of information. Having a strong local press and journalists keeping us accountable and following through and asking the tough questions.

• Why do you propose to have citizen members on all town committees?

It’s true, and that’s going to be a work in progress. Any committee would be suggesting or recommending policy, not enacting policy. But if we can bring more residents into direct and meaningful involvement with the town government, long term, we are investing in providing future council members to participate.

Part of it is accountability. I think the more citizens are involved in our government, the more we as council members are responsive to them. If we exclude them from the process, then projects become seen as pet projects or coming from within our own bubble.

There are citizens among us who perhaps have more direct experience working with related projects.

I think the previous council and town manager have done a great job to ensure that there are no dark corners where government is functioning or keeping things secret.

I am also interested in establishing a citizen-led public art commission to explore and promote public art in our community, to pursue grant funding to support public art and advice council on public art project proposals.

• What will be your first action/recommendation as mayor?

No single one among us is the solution. Things can only be accomplished through forging partnerships and relationships working with the council and members of the community.

If there’s one change, it will be for council to sit together as a unit and the town manger and attorney to sit at the flanks (during meetings). We are a unit and should act as one.

Bringing in more citizens into committees.

While I propose and advocate for radical vision, I think it can only be achieved through small, incremental, but definitive steps.
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