Unknown: Schoenewald takes on Rooker
Christian Schoenewald has no name recognition. But although he's lived here only two years and almost no one knows who he is, he's challenging Dennis Rooker, chairman of the Board of Supervisors, for the Jack Jouett seat.
"I'm a newcomer," concedes Schoenewald. "There are college students who've been here longer than I have."
But obviously he doesn't consider his newcomer's status as necessarily a bad thing. "Time in a place is not the best measure of someone's effectiveness in a place," says the communications consultant who won the Republican nomination in June.
After seven years in the Washington area, "I've seen explosive growth rates," he explains. "I've seen governments make mistakes. With an outsider, you get an outsider's perspective." And Schoenewald thinks he's the man to say, "Stop, you don't want to go down this road."
He and his wife lived on Pantops mountain for a year. "It was strange," he says. "It was like moving from Northern Virginia– to Northern Virginia."
Now they live in an older subdivision off Barracks Road, and he likes the pedestrian friendly cul de sacs and having a little space between neighbors– despite the steady drone of traffic on Barracks Road and the fact these older neighborhoods are often blamed for sprawl.
"I believe in 'a' neighborhood model, not 'the' neighborhood model," he says. "The county makes it very difficult to develop in the designated growth area. The neighborhood model is making it easier to build in rural areas we want to preserve."
Schoenewald shares the plight of the middle class in Albemarle County: he can't afford to buy the colonial he lives in, and he can't find a job that uses his American University degree and the experience gleaned from his job at the White House Office of Management and Budget. "There's a severe underemployment situation, even with 3.5 percent unemployment," says Schoenewald, who commiserates with other trailing spouses.
Besides being the unknown underdog in the supervisor's race, Schoenewald has another problem– he's legally blind, and that makes campaigning door to door problematic.
He describes the condition as like looking through the wrong end of binoculars. "I have a hard time making eye contact," he says. And his campaign wonders whether the problem will put some people off.
So for now he's telephoning constituents in the Jouett district, and he finds that more efficient.
When he was growing up, Schoenewald spent time in Reston, Roanoke, Minnesota and South Dakota. "The place that had the most impact on me was Virginia," he says. "When I think of a place that's home, I think of the Blue Ridge Mountains."
But it was progressive Minnesota and the help the state tried to give him with his disability that sparked his distrust of government and set him on the path of conservatism.
"It gave me the mindset that a lot of people in government are well intentioned– but out of touch," he says. "I have been disserved by well-intentioned liberals because they think government can do things better than the private sector."
Why here? My wife and I decided after visiting the area that we wanted to live here.
What's worst about living here? The lack of jobs that pay well, and the rapidly rising cost of real estate.
Favorite hangout? Anywhere with lots of trees and mountains
Most overrated virtue? Living by my ideals; it can lead to an uncomfortable life.
People would be surprised to know: That I'm a conservative even though I graduated from American University.
What would you change about yourself? I'd fix my eyesight.
Proudest accomplishment? Working for the White House Office of Management and Budget
People find most annoying about you: I say what I mean.
Whom do you admire? R. E. Lee– he lived by and accepted the consequences of his beliefs and obligations.
Favorite book? The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara
Subject that causes you to rant? The government treating us like an endless supply of money
Biggest 21st-century thrill? The real possibility of a cure for the problem with my eyes
Biggest 21st-century creep out? The push to have cameras everywhere in public spaces
What do you drive? That would be illegal: For some reason, blind people are not allowed to drive.
In your car CD player right now: Home CD player: Tales from Topographic Oceans
Next journey? The Blue Ridge Parkway to Mill Mountain Zoo to see the red pandas
Most trouble you've ever gotten in? I had a party when I was in high school when my mother was in Chicago for the weekend, and it was so worth it.
Regret: I did not learn to like roller coasters until I was in my late twenties.
Favorite comfort food: BBQ. Slow-cooked meat always makes things right.
Always in your refrigerator: Real butter
Must-see TV: The new Battlestar Galactica
Favorite cartoon: The Simpsons
Describe a perfect day. Early- to mid-November drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway with my wife, with many stops along the way to listen to the silence
Walter Mitty fantasy: I play keyboard on tour with the band Yes.
Who'd play you in the movie? Someone who'd make me look good
Most embarrassing moment? Every time someone reaches out to shake my hand and I don't see it
Best advice you ever got? My father told me, "Never take no for an answer."
Favorite bumper sticker? Don't Loudoun Albemarle County
PHOTO BY JEN FARIELLO