Vice mayor eyes town’s helm
DUMFRIES — Four days into the new year and four months before the election, the race for Dumfries mayor has begun.
Mel Bray, 63, vice mayor of the town, announced his intentions Friday to seek the towns top elected office in a letter that he sent to friends and neighbors.
“I figured Id be the first one out of the shoot to make the announcement,” Bray said Friday.
Filing for May elections opened Tuesday with a deadline of March 5.
Prince William County Board of Elections officials said Friday that they have not yet received any filings.
Brays publicly announced intent to seek office is the first for the town and may be the first in the county.
“This is something Ive been thinking about doing for three and a half years,” Bray said. “[During that time,] this town has gone no place.
“I believe I can bond the council and the employees of the town of Dumfries together to boost morale and move the town forward,” Bray said.
Chris Brown, who is finishing out his first term as mayor, declined Friday to discuss his intentions for the May elections.
“Im not in a position to make any announcements at this time,” Brown said. “I intend to continue to do my work as mayor until my term is up.
“I wish Mel [Bray] good luck,” Brown said. “Ive enjoyed my time as mayor.”
Bray first won a seat on the Dumfries Town Council in 1994. After the four-year term, he said he decided not to seek re-election.
However, during that 1998 election, Chris Brown, then a council member, won his bid for mayor. That opened up a seat on the council.
That also opened an ongoing and often tumultuous relationship between Brown and Bray.
Soon after the election, Bray changed his mind about serving the town and submitted his name for the vacant seat. He was appointed by the Prince William Circuit judge to serve out the remaining two years of the position.
Brown and Councilman Claude Thomas then petitioned the court to rule on whether Bray, a deputy with the Prince William County Sheriffs Office, could serve.
The legal issue was if the constitutional office of sheriff and that of sheriffs deputies was one and the same. If so, Bray could not hold two elected offices.
A judge first ruled in September 1998 that Bray could not hold both positions. The Virginia Supreme Court, however, overruled that decision 14 months later and Bray returned to the council.
“I was baffled by the whole thing then and continue to still be baffled,” Bray said. He discusses the matter in his announcement letter.
“It was never about him,” Brown said. It was the legal question that he and Thomas sought an answer to, he said.
Also in his announcement letter, Bray stated that he does not intend to use the office of mayor as a “stepping stone” to other elected offices.
Brown has been informally exploring the possibility of seeking other elected posts.
“I pledge to promote the towns well being not my own and work to promote dynamic working relationships with federal, state and county officials in order that all Dumfries citizens and businesses can more fully benefit,” Bray wrote.
“It is no big secret that Ive been looking for other things to do,” Brown said, pointing out that many elected officials including presidents started out in politics by holding local offices.
“Whatever I consider doing is my right to do as a citizen in a free society,” Brown said.
Bray is in the middle of his second full term on the Dumfries Town Council. He retired from the Sheriffs Office last year. He also is a retired U.S. Marine with 30 years of service.
Staff writer Aileen Streng can be reached at (703) 878-8010.