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Discover Fauquier February 2019
6
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Last May, local business owner Carter
Nevill was resoundingly elected to
the mayorship of Warrenton with a
vision to increase citizen interest in
local government and boost economic
incentives for small businesses. That
vision has only deepened and evolved
since he first took the helm. And
that has had much to do with
the telephone.
"I've been surprised
by some of the
phone calls I've
gotten," shares
Mr. Nevill. "When
people need
something and
they're not sure
who to turn to,
sometimes they
turn to their mayor.
I've had some
heart-wrenching,
e y e - o p e n i n g
conversations."
Over the course of these
calls, the mayor has
noticed one overarching
theme: a shared desire to see Warrenton
thrive. He says that more often than
not, he hears hope, willingness, and
excitement for an improved future. The
truth about initiating positive change,
however, is just a little more complicated.
Mr. Nevill's business background (2019
marks his 15th year as co-owner of Carter
& Spence, a Main Street jewelry and gift
shop) gives him an important perspective
when it comes to understanding where
the town stands economically. "We're
unique in terms of our regional location,"
he explains.
Warrenton is neither completely rural
nor completely suburban, he says--it
falls somewhere in the middle, both
figuratively and literally. Though bucolic
views and thoughts of a simpler past
are tied firmly to our identity, our
economy is very much dictated by the
Northern Virginia market. Warrenton's
property, grocery, and commercial space
prices, for example, are influenced by
densely populated eastern neighbors
like Gainesville. This means our local
economy faces singularly challenging
circumstances.
"We're a flyover spot between pure rural
and pure suburban," he says. In other
words, it's far easier for consumers to
hop in their cars and drive 15 minutes to
go shopping than it is for dynamic growth
to occur in our own commercial corridor.
But the mayor wants to change that.
This starts with making zoning
ordinances less prohibitive for local
entrepreneurs. Mr. Nevill believes that
loosening up these regulations could
bolster one of Warrenton's biggest
assets--tourism. Folks from
DC looking for a break
from the fast pace of
city life could find their
breath of fresh air
right here. And the
local government
has the ability to
promote tourism
by making its
roads--including
Main Street--
d e s t i n a t i o n s
where people want
to linger rather
than car-centric
cut-throughs. "We
need more human-
scaled commercial
and historic districts,"
says Mr. Nevill. "We
want to accommodate
socializing and walkability, not cars."
He also believes it's important to provide
incentives for property owners to
renovate and improve their properties,
making them more appealing spaces
in which dynamic businesses can
settle. The cost for this kind of work is
often prohibitive, but cooperation from
the county and local banks could help
break the ceiling. He stresses that it
is counterintuitive for businesses to
compete independently; we are stronger
together.
Another big question that will not be
answered overnight is how to generate
interest in local government for younger
crowds. "Until we can find reasons for
young people to live in, work, and shape
our community, it's going to be hard," he
says. "The goal is to give them reasons
to stay after they turn 18."
"I'd love to see a hip young vibe hit
Warrenton," he continues. "Soon we're
going to see a generational shift, but we
can keep our rich historic identity. "Hunt
Country Hipness" will have to define itself
organically, but it is within our grasp. It
starts with making small changes that
bring out a sense of enthusiasm for
social spaces. As that vibe grows, other
businesses will be attracted. It's about
turning lights on."
Community
Profile
Turning Lights On:
Mayor Carter Nevill Talks About the Future
~ Caitlin Scott
Carter Nevill