I interviewed Karla Justice, whose running for the Prince William Board of County Supervisors Occoquan District Supervisors seat on Twitter Spaces on May 15, 2023. During the interview, I asked her about the growing politicization of local politics, about the county’s controversial meals tax, and her position on the proliferation of data centers in the county.
Justice, whose running as a Republican, aims to replace Kenny Boddye, a Democrat who has held the seat since 2020.
Here’s a portion of our interview:
PLN: Why did you want to run for the Prince William County Board of County Supervisors Occoquan District Supervisors seat?
Justice: It’s several different issues. My two reasons for running, number one, to be a voice that the Occoquan District can count on. Our current supervisor has broken more promises than I think we can all keep track of. And the second reason is I know that I can serve the Occoquan District better.
PLN: When you talk about so the current supervisor, Kenny Boddye, who’s been in office since 2020, what are some of the specific things when you talk about promises, what are they that have been broken?
Justice: Well, let’s talk about the biggest one. Before getting elected, he went to the County Board of Supervisors meeting and made promises about the rural Crescent and ensuring that that was preserved. He made promises to protect our environment. And then, shortly after that, you can look at his voting record. It’s not just one vote. It’s multiple votes that he’s done where he’s voted yes to do just the opposite of that.
I think a lot of people were counting on him to do the right thing, and he didn’t. So when I sit down and I look at something as huge as that, the environment is hugely important to me. Making sure that our drinking water is safe, that’s a huge issue for me. So that was big for me because you’ve got to have people in office that you can count on. You’ve elected them to be your voice.
Boddye took heat from residents and fellow supervisors in 2021 after voting in favor of rezoning land in the Rural Crescent for 99 new homes as part of the Preserve at Long Branch. About a year a before the vote, Boddye vowed to preserve the Rural Crescent, an area between Quantico Marine Corps Base and Manassas National Battlefield.
PLN: The Democrat majority on the Board of County Supervisors has shown through their actions that they support rezoning more rural land for data centers to increase the county’s commercial tax base. The data centers are being built in the western part of the county, while those who live in the east don’t see the construction, as that area is mostly built out. Where do you stand on data center development?
Justice: It’s a good question because if you live on the east side, it’s “not in my backyard.”. But there are a lot of people from the east side of the county that travel to the west side of the county. They visit the Manassas battlefield. There’s a lot of hiking out on that side. So they’re definitely out there, and they’re definitely enjoying that open space. And don’t get me wrong, I’m pro-smart growth, but I think on a case-by-case basis, as long as we protect the environment and are doing the right thing by our residents, I’ll always listen to the community input to ensure that I’m representing the best interests of the community. A lot of people in the Occoquan District are very concerned about the Occoquan Reservoir and about protecting our drinking water. So that’s an issue that impacts everybody in the county.
The proliferation of data centers in the county has sparked concerns about electricity and water. Server farms use large amounts of both to power and cool the servers.
PLN: Do you think the Rural Crescent is as relevant today as it was when it was created about 25 years ago?
Justice: It’s completely irrelevant now, I guess, because they decimated it. So there is no Rural Crescent anymore. And I would say as the county grows, we’ll have to grow with it. But I think that there’s a smart way of doing that. And again, I think we’re going to have to look at these on a case by case basis. I had a meeting where somebody was sitting and showing me some of these data centers and how they’re going right up against our [Manassas National Battlefield]. There’s a lot of people who live all over the county that I think would have serious concerns about that.
PLN: Since the current Board of County Supervisors took over in 2020, the board has become highly political. This past week, Gainesville Supervisor Bob Weir presented a resolution to provide property tax relief to the Willing Warrior Retreat near Haymarket. Afterward, Supervisor Ann Wheeler At-large lumped in CASA in Action for tax relief, which has donated more than $24,00o to her campaign. Has the Board of County Superviosrs become too political?
Justice: It’s crazy because growing up in the county, obviously we had essentially the same supervisors…and they would have fundraising events or cookouts. And as a family, we would go to most of them. And I can tell you, I don’t think there was ever a discussion about he or she’s a Democrat, he or she’s a Republican. ‘We don’t like them. We’re not going.’
Everybody just kind of got along with each other. And they would have differences of opinions, obviously, sometimes very tense differences of opinion on the deus. But I know at the end of the day, they would all be out to dinner or they would find common ground and work with each other.
I’m running to represent all residents. That includes Democrats, Independents and Republicans. I think running in a community race, I don’t think there should even be an R or a D next to anybody’s name, right. Because we’re not running on national issues, we’re running on local issues. And then it’s important that we listen to everybody’s input, work for the public and serve everybody. And the only way you can do that is by listening to community input.
PLN: During the county budget session that ended in April, multiple business owners asked county supervisors to repeal its meals tax created in 2022. They said rising costs on almost everything and fewer people eating out have negatively affected their business and that repealing the tax would help them. They were met with silence. What is your stance on the meals tax?
Justice: If you look back historically, it used to be that to do a meals tax, and this is my understanding, there would have to be a referendum. And years ago, the community was asked, and the community overwhelmingly said no.
So now a referendum is not required. And then our current board decides it would be a great idea to smash restaurant owners, even though they’ve overcome COVID. Then they got hit with inflation. So why not hit them with a meals tax. Let’s kick them while they’re down.
And the argument that the board members have right now is that the restaurant is not paying the tax. The customers are. In reality, who’s really getting hurt the most with the meals tax is our waiters, servers, busers. Because the customer gets that bill, it immediately turns into an argument. They’re not aware of what it is or why they’re being given this extra 4%.
It reduces the tips that those servers and busers and everybody working within the restaurant would have gotten. Right. Another thing is, I support tax breaks for families. Families right now are being crushed by inflation, rising costs of living, just gas, groceries, and supplies. They’re more expensive now than they ever were before.
So my goal as a supervisor is to reduce the cost of living. To that end, I can tell you, Uriah, my first act will be to eliminate the meals tax. The current board just gave themselves a 67% pay raise. That’s absurd. How are we bringing relief to our residents while giving themselves that is a massive pay raise?
Justice was born and raised in Prince William County. She attended elementary, middle, and high school there. Justice graduated from George Mason University, earning a Bachelor of Arts in International Politics and Business. Justice is the single mother of a four-year-old girl and operates a local small business.
Hear the full interview:
Thanks to @justiceoccoquan for joining me on Twitter Spaces this afternoon to discuss her run for the Occoquan District Supervisors seat on the @pwcgov Board of Supervisors. Listen below. I'm also creating a story on the web for our members. https://t.co/XghuqmarJW
— Potomac Local News (@PotomacLocal) May 15, 2023