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May 15, 2020

Kevin Carter seeks second term on Warrenton council

Kevin Carter
Kevin is a consummate business person. He understands that the town, although it’s not a business, has to run like one. I like the way he approaches things.
— Walter Story
Kevin T. Carter
• Age: 54

• Work: President and director of operations, Guests Inc., Strasburg, 2016-present.

• Home: Old Orchard Lane, Warrenton.

• Office sought: Re-election to Ward 5 seat on Warrenton Town Council; four-year term starts July 1.

• Experience: Managing director, Airlie Foundation, 2000-16; food and beverage manager, Benchmark Hospitality, 1997-2000; management consultant, Ameristar Casinos, 1996-97; director of operations, ClubCorp, 1995-97; resident manager, Jack Tarr Village Resort, St. Kitts, West Indies, 1995-96; food and beverage operations director, Kiawah Island (S.C.) Golf Resort, 1993-95; food and beverage director, Rancho Valencia, California, 1990-93; assistant food and beverage director, U.S. Grant Hotel, San Diego, 1985-90; captain, JC Resorts, 1980-83.

• Education: University of San Diego High School, 1984.

• Organizations: Fauquier Bankshares board member, former Fauquier Chamber of Commerce board member, former St. James Episcopal Church senior warden, former Fauquier Health and Fauquier Health Foundation director, former Fauquier County Republican Committee past chairman.

• Family: Wife Carrie and three children, Madison, Emma and Jack.

• Hobbies: Fishing, hunting, biking and golf
By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
The condition of Warrenton’s infrastructure “shocked” the new town councilman as he began to learn more about municipal operations after taking office almost four years ago.

On one hand, he appreciated the fiscal conservatism of his predecessors, Kevin Carter (Ward 5) said. “But, that comes at a cost.”

Over the last four years, Mr. Carter and his six colleagues have authorized about $15 million in expenditures to upgrade water, sewer and computer systems.

The utility systems “were incredibly neglected,” he said. “We literally had water pouring into the ground because of pipes that hadn’t been replaced . . . . Some records were maintained on microfiche.

“We’ve come a long way.”

A veteran hospitality industry executive, Mr. Carter decided to run for the town council in 2016 because of concerns about the lack of transparency in the town water and sewer system finances, which ultimately required sudden rate increases — after cuts in previous years.

So, why does he seek another four-year term in the May 19 election against challenger Michele Ferri?

“I think the most compelling reason is this is the town where my wife and I are raising our children,” he said. “And, we still face many challenges.

“We have gone to great lengths to make Warrenton a business-friendly environment, and I want to help continue that.”

A self-described small-government conservative, Mr. Carter admitted that he walks a fine line.

“I’ve never met a tax I like,” he said.

Still, it seems “inevitable” that Warrenton eventually must raise its real estate tax rate of 5 cents per $100 assessed value — among the lowest in Virginia. (Town residents also pay county real estate taxes 20 times as high.) “There is no question we need to diversify the revenue stream. But, we have options.”

Meanwhile, the town probably will continue to dip into its healthy reserve funds to balance the annual budget. Business, meals and lodging taxes serve as the largest sources of Warrenton’s revenue.

The council soon will consider an updated comprehensive plan that will serve as the town’s blueprint for development and redevelopment in the years to come.

The draft of that plan calls for mixed-use redevelopment of some older commercial areas and opportunities for different housing styles.

“We have gone out of our way to engage people” in the plan’s drafting, Mr. Carter said. “We don’t write the plan. But, I feel good about what I’ve seen of it.”

He perceives strong support for the type of development that would let town residents “age in place” and for a stronger “live/work environment . . . . We need to be open to what the future holds. Sixty percent of people here head out to work each day. That mind-numbing commute is something people would like to avoid.”

Mr. Carter added: “One of the big issues for me is the walkability of our town.”

Warrenton continues to make improvements, with the bump-outs on Main Street and upcoming crosswalk improvements on Waterloo Street. But, he sees the need for more projects that would link different areas of town with sidewalks and trails.

What about potential annexation of the commercial “Panhandle” north of town and open land just outside the Eastern Bypass?

“I am not emotionally invested in any options out there,” Mr. Carter said. “At this point, we don’t have enough information to make a decision.”

But, he supports the county’s service district concept for development and believes Warrenton provides the only opportunity for its realization in the center of Fauquier.

“The things that need to be respected are the historic nature of our town,” Mr. Carter said. “Any development should respect that.”

The town faces significant costs — soon rising to about $1 million a year — to meet stricter stormwater management and quality standards.

“I think it’s good for us to be concerned about the Chesapeake Bay,” Mr. Carter said. “But, it’s hard to pay for,” and most of the development that exacerbated the problem took place before the local government had standards to address that issue.

Warrenton real estate investor Walter Story enthusiastically supports Mr. Carter’s re-election.

“I think he’s as honest as the day is long,” Mr. Story said. “There’s no hidden agenda with that young man; you know exactly where he’s coming from.

“Kevin is a consummate business person. He understands that the town, although it’s not a business, has to run like one. I like the way he approaches things.”

For 16 years, Mr. Carter worked as the general manager of the Airlie Conference Center just north of town. More than three years ago, he joined Guests Inc. as president, director of operations and an equity partner. Headquartered in Strasburg, the company owns nine hotels and manages eight others in six states.

He cites the Warrenton council’s promotion of Brandie Schaeffer from planning director to town manager as one of the most important decisions of his first term.

“We’re very, very fortunate to have her,” Mr. Carter said. “She’s dedicated, hardworking and she leads people in a collaborative way. “I’m thrilled with that decision.

“I think we’re going in the right direction.”

Contact “Lou” Emerson at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or 540-270-1845.
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