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Trenum says so long for now

Pastor Scott Libe of Chapel Springs Church gathers community members around Gil Trenum, his wife Michelle and their children to pray for Trenum and his family as the Brentsville representative leaves on his deployment to Djibouti, Africa. Photo by Doug Stroud.
“We’re here because we love Gil.”

That statement, voiced simultaneously by Mindy Masters and Kim Simons Tuesday night, Aug. 9, could have been said by anyone at Brentsville District Representative Gil Trenum’s last town hall and send-off before his deployment.

Trenum left last weekend for his year-long deployment in Dijbouti, Africa as part of Operation Enduring Freedom. He serves not only on the Prince William County School Board, but also as a commander in the United States Navy Reserves.

“I expect to be back for the 2017-2018 school year,” Trenum said.

The Brentsville representative is one of the more reserved members of the board, but Tuesday night in the Marsteller Middle School’s cafeteria he was anything but reserved.

Trenum spent the hour long meeting laughing, telling stories, smiling broadly, and, at times, appeared almost embarrassed by how much his constituents and fellow elected officials adored him.

“We just wanted to show you are appreciation for you as a patriot,” said Brentsville County Supervisor Jeanine Lawson.

Lawson added that she was moved that at 50 years old with 26 years of service in the Navy that Trenum is once again so gracefully answering the call of duty.

Trenum gave a run-down to the approximately 80 audience members on everything leading up to his announcement of his deployment to where things stood on Aug. 9.

“I wanted to update you all on my status, what I’m doing with the Navy and my seat,” Trenum said.

The representative received his mobilization orders on June 10. Before he announced it to the board and the public at the June 15 school board meeting Trenum called up Delegate Richard Anderson of the 51st District for help.

Anderson represents the Brentsville District in the Virginia General Assembly.

“Delegate Anderson talked to the attorneys down there in the Division of Legislative Services,” Trenum said.

He used the advice given to him by those attorneys in his announcement to the board.

From there, Trenum said that the school board made a request following a poll for a formal opinion by the attorney general “to cover ourselves.”

“I will be honest, I voted against it,” he said. Trenum added that he felt an opinion from the attorney general was not necessary.

On Aug. 4, an informal opinion from the Attorney General’s Office was released which stated, according to Trenum, that his “public statement provided notice.”

But an informal opinion is different from a formal opinion in that the attorney general does not sign it, it has no legal standing in court, and Trenum said that the attorney general may not even agree with it.

After the opinion was released on Aug. 4, Trenum sent out a statement, which said, “My actions and statements in fact have been based entirely on the independent legal advice I received from the Division of Legislative Services. The fact that the Attorney General does not agree with their independent opinion is not my issue to resolve.”

At the town hall Tuesday night, he said that he was wrong about it not being his issue to resolve.

“What about the next reservist who gets called up,” Trenum asked.

He revealed that he is working with Senator Richard Stuart of the 28th District to request a formal opinion from the attorney general.

“If Attorney General Herring agrees with staff, he needs to put his name on it,” Trenum said.

Trenum also addressed the issue of his temporary replacement. In an email on June 25, Trenum sent three names to school board clerk Deborah Urban as his choices  for a replacement. Those three individuals were Kim Simons, Chris Park, and Shawn Brann.

“Kim Simons has withdrawn her name,” Trenum said. “I personal am very disappointed.”

“Chris and Shawn have my full support,” Simons said later in the evening.

Trenum went on to say that he thinks Simons in her time on his budget committee has found more money for teachers regarding class size reduction than anyone else.

A citizen asked when Trenum thinks that the board will consider or vote on a temporary replacement. The commander responded that he thinks it will be during the Sept. 7 meeting. Trenum continued to say that Chairman Ryan Sawyers has said he will open up the seat to anyone in the Brentsville District, but that the board has to agree.

When asked how their voices and opinions can be heard, Trenum said to keep telling the board who they want to represent him and them. One man could be heard telling Trenum that he is the best representative they could have.

In the meantime, Trenum said that while there is no one sitting in his chair, “Mr. Deutsch and Ms. Satterwhite have volunteered to help me out.”

While Trenum would prefer one of his own nominees, he said that as long as the temporary replacement is someone he can have a working relationship with that he will make it work.

One citizen asked what they could do to prevent the school board from trying to replace Trenum permanently. He promised that wouldn’t happen, that even the informal opinion stated that once his tour of duty is up Trenum will regain his seat. If it does happen, Trenum said that the way to respond would be with a legal action.

At one point, a woman stood up and asked that everyone who would be willing to represent Trenum during his absence to please stand up.

The entire room got to their feet, including Coles Representative Willie Deutsch, Lawson, Delegate Jackson Miller of the 50th District, and Patriot High School Principal Michael Bishop.

“I want to thank you as a teacher in the county. I trust everything I say to you and everything you say to me,” said President of the Prince William Education Association Riley O’Casey.

Casey continued to say that she never thought the two would be friends, causing Trenum to laugh.

“It’s a big sacrifice you’re taking and I can’t thank you enough,” Miller said. Miller spent 10 years in the United States Army Reserve.

The Navy commander said that even though he would not be at the first school board meeting of the year, he made sure to put two important items on the agenda.

“I’m still on the school board so I can do that,” he said as his constituents laughed and clapped.

The first item Trenum wants addressed at the Sept. 7 meeting is the board polling policy.

“I think we were getting ourselves in trouble with the way we were polling,” he said.

Trenum said that by the end of May the board had conducted seven board polls.

Phil Kavits, the director of communications for Prince William County Schools, said that from January 2014 to December 2014 the total number of board polls conducted was six, for January-December 2015 it was five. This board has conducted more polls in five months than what the past boards have done in a year's time. The Brentsville representative said that the board shouldn’t use polls as a means of avoiding public discussion. His agenda item also states that if the poll is not unanimous it must be voted on at the next meeting and that all polls must be approved at the next meeting. Trenum also added that the school board’s attorney and administrative staff be included in the poll.

“It sounds kind of mundane but I think it’s important to the way we do business,” he said.

The next item he’s placed on the agenda is appointing Mary McGowan, the division counsel, as the official school board Parliamentarian. Appointing a Parliamentarian is something that hasn’t been done in the past, according to Trenum.

The board did not ask for clarification on issues and rules last spring he said.

“We got it wrong,” Trenum added. “We need to make sure we get it right.”

Before the night ended and a cake was cut, Pastor Scott Libe of Chapel Springs Church gathered the community around him, Trenum, his wife Michelle and their children to pray for Trenum and his family.

The night was not so much about goodbye from a community to their representative as it was a promise to see one another again it seemed to many.



Gil Trenum opens a town hall meeting Aug. 9. The Brentsville representative to the
Prince William County School Board was attending his last meeting before going on
deployment for the U.S. Navy to Djibouti, Africa. Photo by Doug Stroud.
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