Slutzsky and Thomas’ Comparative Views on Leadership

The candidates for the Rio BoS seat held a debate last night, Bryan McKenzie writes in today’s Progress, with the two candidates highlighting a sharp difference in their philosophies of leadership. On the question of how a supervisor should figure out what side to support in dealing with hot-button issues, incumbent Democrat David Slutzky says that public wishes should be considered along with the supervisor’s own knowledge of the facts, recommendations of staff, and the results of research. The challenger, Republican Rodney Thomas, says that the best decision for the people is the one that most people want—majority rules—and he views it as his job to vote based on their wishes. The two also discussed additional taxes, what to do abut the reservoirs, Places29, and land use planning.

For my money, this is the most interesting local race this year, with two sharply contrasting candidates campaigning on opposites sides of some of the most important and interesting topics facing the county today. The outcome of this race will be fodder for weeks of analysis in an effort to divine the wishes of county residents on the topics of growth, planning, water supply, and transportation.

16 Responses to “Slutzsky and Thomas’ Comparative Views on Leadership”


  • The real takeaway from that debate, I thought, was that Rodney Thomas gave 30 second soundbite answers to most questions, while David Slutzky used the full 3-minutes allocated to the candidates. The issues facing county government these days are challenging ones, with no easy solutions, and David Slutzky demonstrated at the debate that he understands these issues more than almost anyone in the area, and gave them the thought they deserved. Thomas, on the other other hand, sounded like he would be woefully unprepared to take on the serious business of local government.

  • I agree w/ fishing. I thought it was a good debate, and Rodney is by all accounts a very nice man. However, it did seem like Rodney was reading from bullet points, and (in my opinion) not even truthful bullet points – I have yet to hear from Rodney how “zero-based budgeting” is going to “fund excellent education in Albemarle” and “increase transit in Rio” while we’re going to simultaneously lower taxes. These are complex issues, and the answer is not talking points and empty promises. The answer is to re-elect a man who – while we not all agree with everything he says all the time – will always be honest with us on where he stands and has proven time and time again he has the dedication, leadership, and intelligence to tackle these issues.

  • Isn’t the point of representative democracy that you DON’T reduce every decision to a simple test of what does the majority want? I mean, if you did that, why even have a representative–just go straight to direct democracy. Does Thomas understand this distinction? It kind of reduces the representative’s role to a simple automaton–he finds out (somehow) what the majority wants and then pushes that button. We hardly need him, or anyone, if that’s going to be the process.

    I prefer a system in which we elect representatives whom we choose for their greater expertise in the issues they’ll be deciding, we let them know what we want, and then we let them do their job of looking at all the relevant factors.

    Honestly, it seems like people in this country want to reduce everything to a giant tug-of-war contest in which the side with the most muscle can yank the other side into the mud.

  • A good man always knows his limitations, per Hollywood.

    Well here is what some of the citizenry heard at the Slutsky and Thomas Forum last night:

    You hired me to do a job for which I needed an intense training period in order to deliver D work. I subsequently raised my work to a C. Now I need 4 more years to deliver A work.

    Wow Mr. Slutsky, how would I convince an employer to hire me under these parameters?

    Please excuse the Albemarle county tax payers for being candid: we cannot afford to re-hire a trainee for this important job.

  • David Slutzky is a good public speaker, Rodney Thomas is not. However the concepts Thomas talked about at the forum can work. Using a zero-based budget, keeping taxes & spending low while simultaneously funding education is possible (though more details are needed by Thomas). I also do not think Thomas was advocating mobocracy; rather he was emphasizing the importance of constituent will as the most important factor when making policy decisions. You do not have to be a good speaker to be a good leader. Thomas has a good record as a successful small business owner for 30 years, involvement in numerous non-profit organizations and 8 years on the planning commission. This is the proven track record that makes an effective leader at the county level.

  • David Slutzky demonstrated at the debate that he understands these issues more than almost anyone in the area, and gave them the thought they deserved. Thomas, on the other other hand, sounded like he would be woefully unprepared to take on the serious business of local government.

    The incumbent, if he has done his homework, should always be more conversant in the current issues because the staff has provided him with reams and stacks of papers with information about them. The challenger usually has to rely upon the more shallow coverage of the media. This should be taken into account when evaluating a debate. In debates, I’m more imfluenced by statements of principles than knowledge of facts. I’m also impressed if a candidate can discuss and issue in it skeletal form, bullets, than with verbosity.
    “will always be honest with us on where he stands and has proven time and time again he has the dedication, leadership, and intelligence to tackle these issues.” Also I consider where he is taking us, do I want to go in that direction even if he makes a case for it? An example of directions are the proposed regional transit authority and the 50-year water supply proposal.
    “…simple test of what does the majority want?” Why would individual voters vote for someone again if he’s not voting the way they want?
    “…we choose for their greater expertise in the issues they’ll be deciding” Cecil are you saying you’ll vote for someone who you think knows more about something than you do and you’ll trust that he’s right? I did that with my father, but, now that I’m a man, I’d rather trust my expertise and common sense.
    @Karen G. Roberts, I’m probably one of the few that would hire an employee if he is showing “annual yearly progress.”

  • @Karen G. Roberts – David gave an answer in which I believe he acknowledged that some of his constituents have felt that he has been less than responsive. I don’t know whose fault this is – the truth may lie somewhere in between. Honestly, when I see someone in a McDonnell t-shirt with a Rodney Thomas sticker accusing Mr. Slutzky of being less than accessible, I can’t help but think he or she might be an ulterior motive somewhere. Regardless, his answer acknowledged the problem – or perceived problem – and gave a positive, honest answer which I believe we can have faith in. Mr. Slutzky is also a notoriously hard grader (particularly of himself), as any of the students who have taken his courses at the University can attest to. Rodney, on the other hand, gave a cheap, politically easy throwaway answer. It was an easy applause line that completely dismisses the complexities of the job and the political complexities surrounding these sorts of issues. I for one don’t think complexity is a vice, appreciate Mr. Slutzky’s explanation, and would take it any day over a cheap, overtly and obviously political throwaway.

    @ReasonedResponder – I agree with your points, but I unfortunately think Thomas does not have the details. I would be perfectly happy to listen to them if he could provide them, but I have seen no indication as of yet from his campaign that he will do so. The ball is in Mr. Thomas’s court on this one.

    @Cville Eye – actually, I believe that debates are the one chance in which the media is forced to cover a challengers knowledge of the facts and the conclusions that his or her principles guide him or her to based upon them. Mr. Slutzky is an intelligent man, and if Mr. Thomas were willing and/or able to step up to the plate and show that he would be equally as adept at tackling the complex issues facing our County, Thursday night would have been an excellent time to do it, in my humble opinion. I believe that statements of principles belong on postcards, on websites, on TV commercials – when I go to a debate, I want to hear issues debated, I want to hear people discuss and weigh the merits and facts and figures and present their conclusions that they’ve drawn from them. As I mentioned above, complexity should not be the vice it is considered to be by many in the political arena – I personally love watching two candidates go toe to toe in a robust debate on the issues where their conclusions are drawn from a careful analysis of the pertinent facts.

    Just my $0.02.

  • @ 21stCenturyVoter, verbosity is not going to win you any points here.
    “…Thursday night would have been an excellent time to do it…” In that particular format, nobody can explain the complexities of anything in 3-minute answers. They pretty much can say what some of the complexities are then time has run out.
    “…he would be equally as adept at tackling the complex issues facing our County…” Being to identify some of the complexiities does mean that one can tackle them, juist that one has taken the first step in problem solving.
    “…people discuss and weigh the merits and facts and figures and present their conclusions…” That can’t be done in this debate format. It needs something akin to hous-long work session. I’ve gone to quite a few local political debates and have never gotten what you are looking for. They’ve always used that 3-minute format.
    I have found the radio interview format of individuals to be far more informative and that’s why I’ve stopped wasting my time on the local debate format.
    “I personally love watching two candidates go toe to toe in a robust debate on the issues where their conclusions are drawn from a careful analysis of the pertinent facts.” Similar to watching a football game, great entertainment.

  • “We need to listen, think about what they’re saying and balance it against our knowledge of the facts through our research and staff,” Slutzky told the Hollymead Elementary School audience. “Then we need to make a decision on our best information and our best guess.”
    Thomas said discerning the public’s will is paramount to any decision.
    “It’s not about balancing competing interests but about the will of the people,” Thomas said. “If I’m elected, I’m elected to represent the will of the people. As long as I do that, I will support the best decision for the people.”

    One says, “We know what’s best foryou. Sometimes you don’t.” The other says “We will listen to what you want because you know what’s best for you and government officials and bureaucrats do not.”

  • The trouble is that we don’t often know what’s best for us. What’s better—consolidating southern county schools or keeping them separate? I have no idea. The amount of information required for me to know that is just beyond what I have the time to do. It’s not going to happen. At the moment, if asked in a survey, I’d say that they should be kept as they are. Why? I don’t know, it just seems better. Is it possible that I’m wrong? Absolutely! Which is why I’m glad that there is a school board whose job is to figure that out.

    There’s a reason why the United States is a representative democracy, rather than a direct democracy. An excellent example of the failings of direct democracy is California and its referendum system. The state is an abject failure, with a totally incomprehensible constitution and a financial system that makes it literally impossible for the state to remain fiscally solvent, a result of people voting both for lower taxes and more services.

    I want people to represent my general interests, but to worry about the specifics and not conduct a poll to find out what 51% of us think. Is that an over-simplication? Absolutely. But no more so than your last comment, Cville Eye.

  • Now, Waldo. You figure out waht you’re interested in very sensibly.
    ” The amount of information required for me to know that is just beyond what I have the time to do.” If you had access to the same information the county staff provided to the two committees that were charged to look at the issue of the schools, do you feel, for reason, that the people on those committees are any better qualified to come to a good conclusion better than you can? They have no more expertise in these matters than you do. (Good example BTW). Yes, it often is a question of time, and, if it’s important to you you’ll take the time. In our representative form of government, it was never meant that each election would send people to office with the power of kings. We may petition the king, but, in the end, it’s up to him to decide and justify his decision by saying, “I have information that you don’t.” If you’re not interested then you wouldn’t have the information. If you are interested, then you should have the information, express your opinion, and, if the official votes another way, then you can campaign against him against at the next election to hold him accountable.
    I’m curious. Do you really believe that elected officials should gather information from, say, the insurance lobby and then vote on it in favor of the insurance companies provided them with data and your constituents just expressed their opinions of how, say, health insurance, should work? I know I’ve been misreading some of your posts occassionally, but bear with me.

  • Do you really believe that elected officials should gather information from, say, the insurance lobby and then vote on it in favor of the insurance companies provided them with data and your constituents just expressed their opinions of how, say, health insurance, should work?

    What in the world makes you think I believe that? My thesis was pretty simple, but I’ll simplify it further: My representative’s job is to take the time to study matters in greater detail than I have the time or inclination to, and to come to conclusions that are more informed than mine, regardless of whether I agree with them in my less-informed state.

  • “My representative’s job is to take the time to study matters in greater detail than I have the time or inclination to, and to come to conclusions that are more informed than mine, regardless of whether I agree with them in my less-informed state.” That’s not my representative’s job. Quite frankly I have rarely seen a Councilman, for example, perform that exercise and I don’t trust one to do it. Councilmen usually go through notoriously bad decision-making processes in my opinion.
    If all of the representatives get the same information, why don’t they agree on the same conclusion?

  • “An enlightened citizenry is indispensable for the proper functioning of a republic. Self-government is not possible unless the citizens are educated sufficiently to enable them to exercise oversight. It is therefore imperative that the nation see to it that a suitable education be provided for all its citizens. It should be noted, that when Jefferson speaks of “science,” he is often referring to knowledge or learning in general.” http://etext.virginia.edu/jefferson/quotations/jeff1350.htmWaldo, please follow the link and read a few of Jefferson’s quotes on the relationship between the citizens and the government and tell me what you think.

  • We will have the audio and video of the forum posted to our news center within a couple of days. In the meantime, readers can compare the responses of Mr. Slutzky and Mr. Thomas in our candidate interviews.

    Rodney Thomas’ candidate interview
    David Slutzky’s interview

    Sean Tubbs
    Charlottesville Tomorrow

  • And now, the audio and video of the Slutzky-Thomas forum is posted as well. Contact me if you want the embed code to put the video of this event on your website.

    Sean Tubbs
    Charlottesville Tomorrow
    434-295-4955

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