HOTSEAT- Supe's on: Former farm manager runs organic campaign
A southern Albemarle farm at the end of a long dirt road in the middle of fields– with a barn, no less– may serve as the perfect venue for meeting Kevin Fletcher.
He's so determined to keep the county's rural areas rural that he's running for the Albemarle Board of Supervisors again, despite failing to win the Democratic nomination in May and despite getting trounced by incumbent Lindsay Dorrier four years ago when Fletcher launched a late-breaking write-in campaign for the Scottsville seat.
(Also in the three-way race is Denny King, another independent.)
A lot has changed since 2003. when Fletcher was the farm manager for the Scottsville area farms that John Kluge donated to UVA and Dave Matthews purchased in 2002.
"Dave bought these farms and said he wanted them to be organic," says Fletcher. "I learned on the fly. Now I do a side business to help people get certified organic. There are a few hoops you have to go through."
He no longer works for Matthews, and neither does his wife, attorney April Fletcher. Now Fletcher landscapes and does property management and maintenance.
His first farm gig was at another high-profile estate: Enniscorthy, then owned by New York Islanders hockey team owner John Pickett, whose sale of the estate in 2001 for an estimated $17 million was Albemarle's highest at that time. (The historic estate gained further notoriety when its subsequent owner, Tyco CFO Mark Swartz, was convicted of bilking Tyco out of $600 million.)
Fletcher worked on estates in Farmington and White Hall before coming to work at Matthews' farms in southern Albemarle. "That made it a lot easier when the cows get out," says Fletcher.
He admits his campaign is pretty low-key. "I'm not a big fan of the little signs all over the place," he says. "Nobody picks them up. I have a website."
And he's doing the obligatory door-to-door. "Mill Creek makes up half my constituency," he says. Add in gated-community Glenmore and Southwood mobile home park, and "It's quite a diverse district," notes Fletcher.
Although he's been unable to unseat Dorrier twice now, "I'm still not happy with my representation on the Board of Supervisors," he says– especially with the county's biggest development ever, Biscuit Run, approved and looming on the horizon. "Southern Albemarle has been targeted as the next growth area, and we don't even have a master plan," he complains.
Fletcher calls southern Albemarle "the last bastion of agriculture in the county." And he's living the ag life, milking goats, raising horses and collecting eggs from free-range chickens. And after raising free-range, organic certified broilers for Matthews, "I can dispatch 'em and clean 'em," he says.
His family owns a farm in Wise County in southwest Virginia, where his mother was a school teacher and his father serves on the School Board. "He's probably campaigning as we speak," says Fletcher.
"I'm not going to give up," says the younger Fletcher candidate. "I'm not a quitter.... I don't subscribe to the thought 'There's nothing you can do about it, so why try?' Growth is not inevitable."
Why here? It's the 17th-best place to live in America.
What's worst about living here? We were number 1.
Favorite hangout? The 1,000 acres that I walk in behind my house.
Most overrated virtue? There are no overrated virtues.
People would be surprised to know: I make a darn good oatmeal raisin cookie.
What would you change about yourself? I wouldn't be bald. If I bump my head, everybody knows.
Proudest accomplishment? I helped to create the state's largest certified organic farm.
People find most annoying about you: I'm too critical.
Whom do you admire? People who are not afraid to stand up for what they believe in, no matter the cost.
Favorite book? Dune
Subject that causes you to rant? Apathy
Biggest 21st-century thrill? The space station
Biggest 21st-century creep out? There's a pill for every emotional or physical ailment.
What do you drive? 2002 Dodge 2500 pickup.
In your car CD player right now: I listen to the radio– 'NRN, NPR, or 1070
Next journey? Hopefully New Zealand to visit friends
Most trouble you've ever gotten in? When I was 11, I shot my neighbor with a BB gun. A manhunt ensued, ending in my eventual capture and punishment.
Regret: A man I knew in White Hall was dying of cancer, and he said his greatest regret was that he had never seen the ocean. I should have taken Hobert to see the ocean.
Favorite comfort food: Grilled cheese
Always in your refrigerator: Raw goat's milk
Must-see TV: Morning news
Favorite cartoon: Calvin and Hobbes
Describe a perfect day. Get up, go for a horseback ride with my wife, Sage, my horse, and my six dogs. Get home, have a big breakfast, then go play golf at Swannanoa and later have friends over for a cookout.
Walter Mitty fantasy: To travel with Jacques Cousteau on the Calypso and swim with the porpoises.
Who'd play you in the movie? Meryl Streep– she can play anybody.
Most embarrassing moment? I drove my tractor into a tree to try to "fix" it, but ended up having to have it hauled away.
Best advice you ever got? Pay attention to the little things in life. They are what matters.
Favorite bumper sticker? "Farm land lost is farm land lost forever"