- Published on Wednesday, 21 November 2012 12:04
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Mayor Frederick C. Rummage won his seat as mayor in 2008 beating three current council members Gary Seeber, Stephen Kennedy and Linda Crandell. Rummage replaced G.W. “Pete” Bone who served as mayor for 12 years and decided not to run again.
Rummage took office running on a platform of transparency and open government. He promised many changes in Colonial Beach. Having a strong political background coming into office, Rummage was ready to get down to business; but was the town ready for him?
Within his first two years in office much controversy sprung out of Rummage’s practices.
Rummage was accused of trying to consolidate the town’s school system with Westmoreland County, which he promptly addressed in a school board meeting saying, “I have never in my entire adult life not supported public education! I have not in my entire public life not supported teachers and the people working in the schools! And I have never suggested eliminating the school system or closing down the school system!”
Another controversy stemmed when he asked a reporter, Ann Congdon, to leave town hall after several hours were spent pouring over town documents, accusing her of trying to get inside information on the inner workings of the town.
But the worst blow came when the town took steps to remove Rummage from having an office in Town Hall.
In April of 2009 the council approved two resolutions, closing the mayor’s office and restricting Rummage’s access to certain areas of Town Hall. It was conveyed to the public that several incidents had taken place between the mayor and unnamed employees of Town Hall, which resulted in employees being unable to perform their duties. It was decided that the mayor’s presence in Town Hall was disruptive to the day to day functions of the staff.
Rummage proceeded to fight a hard battle to have these resolutions rescinded, and despite hiring an attorney and hearing several town members in support of the mayor, the council stood its ground.
Rummage cautioned the council that this decision would affect future mayors and suggested to the council, amending the charter to elect the mayor as simply another member of council if they did not consider restoring the physical office to him or future mayors.
On Nov. 18, 2010, in a last ditch effort to accommodate the mayor, council members offered a resolution to set up an office in the old public works building located at 700 Colonial Ave. To which the mayor replied, “Hell no!”
The proposed draft was reportedly decided on by members of council through phone conversations and emails which excluded Rummage, who stated that he was made aware of it by the Town Manager Val Foulds during a conversation concerning other town matters.
“I was given a draft yesterday,” Rummage said in an interview after the meeting.
The council attempted to add the resolution to the agenda, which stated it would become effective if Mayor Rummage accepted it. When brought up, the Mayor stated, “I do object to this being added to the agenda it is nothing more than an absolute insult and I would not in any way accept it.”
Although the matter was not up for discussion Mayor Rummage made the following statement at the end of the meeting, “I absolutely would not accept that under any circumstances. For the last 16 months I have been kept almost completely in the dark, but for the opportunity I’ve had to discuss issues that come up at town hall with the town manager.”
Rummage concluded by saying, “If you want to continue under those circumstances, that’s fine, but to render me a room in the out-house which is the public works department; no thank you.”
Despite these setbacks Mayor Rummage has persevered and many of his efforts have come to fruition.
Rummage managed to get a 25¢ a pack tax imposed on cigarettes, netting between seventy to eighty thousand dollars a year in revenue since it was put in place.
Rummage set out to have all town owned property identified and evaluated to determine if it was currently needed or would be in the future. Many parcels, too small to be built on, have been successfully sold to adjoining property owners and Rummage is confident the current council will continue to manage the remaining parcels.
Riverwood Apartments had a high crime rate and police were discouraged from going on the property according to Rummage. The town council took necessary action to legally include the property as part of the police department’s jurisdiction.
As a result of efforts by the former Police Chief Hawkins, under the direction of the council, CBPD, Westmoreland County Sheriff’s Office and Virginia State Police began to work together to fight crime and drug activity in the entire town and surrounding areas.
Another one of Rummage’s endeavors, and a big campaign promise, is being realized. Paving Santa Maria was not only a goal for Rummage, it was a promise many said he used to get elected.
“Santa Maria is paved, and Meadow has been approved,” Rummage said in an interview on Monday. “If I had my way we would have had Meadow completed and we would have been working on other side streets but the council, then, would not agree to another phase. Now we are behind the 8 ball, but it is being worked on. When Meadow is completed we will have about a third of what I tried to attain, completed.”
Many of the council members present during the first few years of Rummage’s term have moved on or resigned their positions. The current council and Mayor Rummage seem to have a cohesive relationship. But Rummage isn’t without his losses.
Rummage has been pushing the council for several years to pursue interest shown by Marriott hotel chain to erect a multilevel hotel with a convention or conference center in Colonial Beach.
Rummage said, “The Marriott chain was interested and the sitting council decided that, I guess the timing wasn’t right. But certainly what has transpired since then, and some of us anticipated this, that Dahlgren, not only on base, but off base, has grown.”
Rummage added, “If we had that hotel here now, it certainly would have gone a long way towards revitalization in this town and I hope the current council will continue to work on that.”
Rummage said that it will probably be a while before the construction trade picks up, but believes that within the next couple of years there will be interest here, with the expansion of Dahlgren.
Rummage was an advocate for participating in the Dahlgren Outreach Program, which he said is going well. “I didn’t accomplish as much as I would have liked. But I have been talking with the incoming Mayor, Mike Ham and Councilman Tommy Edwards is interested.”
Rummage explained, “What I was trying to do was to encourage new members assigned to Dahlgren to relocate their families in Colonial Beach. We have made some progress there, but not nearly as much as I would like to see.”
Rummage has had some run-ins over the years with citizens, during events and council meetings, he is well known for being outspoken and accepts criticism during public comments, but Rummage will not allow personal attacks on other council members from audience participants.
In the beginning of his term Rummage opened the floor for public comments during council meetings and allowed total public participation during committee meetings, which eventually led to some heated discussions between council and the public and some long meetings; making it necessary for restrictions to be imposed during public comments.
Rummage has fought through some health problems, gallbladder surgery and heart procedures, only missing a few meetings as a result of his health.
Throughout his term supporters have turned against him, critics have stood with him. Despite the trouble and turmoil throughout his four year term, Rummage stood proud and steadfast, in the face of total opposition. He has been forgiving of criticism, sometimes bending but never breaking. Long working relationships with staff have softened his hard exterior and some of the people who were not happy about his election will miss his presence when he turns over his gavel.
Passions run high in little towns and Colonial Beach is no exception; with high passion comes high anxiety, out of pride comes perseverance, hate fosters opposition and love fosters loyalty. In the end Colonial Beach is no different than the average family; passionate, prideful, hateful, dysfunctional, loyal and loving.
In January Colonial Beach will say goodbye to Mayor Rummage, an old friend, and welcome Mike Ham to fill his position. Will the road be as rocky for Ham as it was for Rummage?