Have you attended a recent meeting of the Roanoke County Board of Supervisors, or watched one of its sessions on TV?
No offense to the staid public servants on the dais, but those events are far less exciting than watching cement cure. It hasn’t always been that way. Remember earlier in this decade, and the days of ex-supervisors Ed Elswick, Butch Church, and Al Bedrosian?
Those guys could turn out the crazies, for meetings almost comparable to “The Jerry Springer Show.” The public comments portions were the best part. They were can’t-miss entertainment for anybody tickled by paranoid fantasies.
Now there’s a chance for some relief on that boredom front. Tuesday, Republicans in the Windsor Hills District are holding a firehouse primary. That pits incumbent Supervisor David Radford, who was appointed to fill the unexpired term of former supervisor (and now state delegate) Joe McNamara, against RoxAnne Christley.
I don’t know Radford, but he seems cut from the same cloth as McNamara — competent, reasonable and boring. I would never apply those last two adjectives to Christley. Say what you want about her — and people sometimes do, with their eyes rolling — she’s anything but dull.
Christley is a pistol, the kind prone to popping off rapid fire, with a seemingly endless supply of ammo. I cannot vouch that she always has her facts straight. But if she doesn’t, she more than makes up for that with tell-it-like-it-is, overwhelming passion.
For example, can anyone imagine Radford calling another supervisor a liar to her face? I certainly can’t. But back in April 2014, at a board of supervisors work session, that’s what Christley did.
It happened as the board discussed the future of a local environmental group, RCCLEAR, and the county’s recent disassociation with another environmental group, the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives, or ICLEI.
For months, Tea Party activists had clamored for the county to withdraw its $1,200-per-year membership in ICLEI. They claimed it was a part of the United Nations and that membership in the group would presage turning over local land-use decisions to the UN.
Charlotte Moore was defending ICLEI and RCCLEAR, and arguing the former was not associated with the UN when Christley loudly whispered to Moore, “You’re a liar!”
Four months earlier, in a January 2014 interview with a reporter from this newspaper, Christley accused a county staff member, Anne Marie Green, of lying about the same subject. At the time, Green was involved with RCCLEAR and ICLEI, and had publicly denied to supervisors that ICLEI was an arm of the UN.
“She did lie. She lied straight out,” Christley said at that time. “She said that ICLEI was not a part of the United Nations. She lied when she said that.”
This week I contacted both Green and Moore and asked if Christley had ever apologized.
“No, I’ve never even spoken to the woman,” Green said. Moore laughed and answered: “No. That’s an easy question.”
Wednesday afternoon I called Christley and asked if she felt she owed either of them an apology.
“You’re asking me this over the telephone and you think I’m going to answer you?” Christley replied, sounding incredulous. She offered to sit down for a discussion, but my deadline wouldn’t permit that. “I’m not going to talk about it on the phone,” she added.
About 30 minutes later she called me back.
“Roanoke County hasn’t had any economic development since 2013,” Christley said. “And you’re going to call me and ask me questions about the past? I’m not going backward. . . You can’t build a future if you continue to look to the past.”
That was not the first time we tangled on the telephone. Back in 2015, I noted in a column she was a Roanoke Tea Party member who had lost the 2013 Windsor Hills District Republican primary to McNamara by five votes.
Christley called me later and vehemently denied she had ever been a member of the organization. I tried to explain the Roanoke Tea Party had called her a member on its website. But I couldn’t work a reply into her long and angry tirade. At one point I asked her to let me respond, and Christley shot back, “No, you may not!”
The harangue went on and on and on. At one point I passed the phone to a colleague, and he listened for a few minutes.
I’m not the only person in the newsroom who’s put up with that stuff.
Earlier this week, Christley was calling some of my colleagues, demanding to know why letters to the editor supporting her candidacy had not been published. Answer: The authors had not confirmed them, and we don’t publish letters without confirmation. She seemed hard to convince, though.
She even left a voicemail for the news/editorial aide who seeks the confirmations. Here’s the last sentence of that message: “I need you to call me back as soon as possible, or I will be going to the news — and I’m not kidding.”
Did you get that? She threatened to call the news — if the news didn’t call her back. My brain is still doing backflips from that one.
I dearly hope Christley’s sitting on the supervisors’ dais soon. That board is plagued by terminal tedium — and she’s a surefire cure.