Grant's charge: BOS with no BS
Gary Grant acknowledges that he's brutally honest. "I think that's what we need in government," says Grant, the Republican candidate for the Rio District Board of Supervisor's seat. "Some people don't want that, and that's fine."
Of course, he concedes such candor can make his campaign advisers just a little bit nervous.
Grant is no stranger to controversy. When the longtime journalist wrote education stories for the now-defunct Observer, critics called him the "education assassin."
His bluntness, coupled with his mantras that government is there to serve the taxpayer and that information belongs to the people, made him a lightning rod in his last elected position on the Albemarle County School Board.
When Grant, in his newsletter to constituents, published the names of teachers fired by the county, he sparked a firestorm. His fellow board members quickly enacted a gag order on closed-door information, and Grant decided not to seek reelection in 2003 following the uproar.
He's still unrepentant about publishing information he says is in the public domain. And when his opponents contend he doesn't play well with others, and consensus-building is not his strong suit, Grant is unfazed. He'd rather make a point than go along with the crowd.
"Government is serious business," he says. "You have to be hardnosed. Voters want answers."
On foot or by bike, Grant has been traveling the district since June to find out what's on voters' minds. So far he says he's been to 1,600 houses.
"Gary's skill as a campaigner and an elected official is going to be his keen ear in listening to constituents," says Albemarle Republican chair Keith Drake.
What's Grant hearing? "Transportation is the number-one concern," he says– people in the Rio District want a bypass of some sort.
The three-way contest in which he faces Democrat David Slutzky and independent Tom Jakubowski is a different kettle of fish from 1999 when he ran for School Board with $3,500. He's raised $16,000 so far and now has advisers with voter lists telling him which doors to knock on.
They also like the fact that Grant has worked as a government employee, a private sector employee (including several years with WINA radio), and now works as a self-employed professional soccer ref.
After a stint working for the U.S. Postal Service, Grant didn't go "postal," but admits, "When people in government don't respond, it aggravates me no end."
Transportation plays a significant role in Grant's personal life: He drives a school bus part-time for Albemarle County and wheels limos and vans as a chauffeur for A. Goff Transportation.
Besides getting elected to the Board of Supervisors, Grant has another dream: "I've always had this fascination with truck driving," he admits. "Is 56 too old for that?"
PHOTO BY GEORGE KAMIDE