Isle of Wight candidates meet the voters

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 5, 2007

SMITHFIELD—Ten political candidates in four contested races met the Isle of Wight voting public Wednesday in a forum that was considered to be the most attended in its history, and it’s uncertain from the reaction of the audience if any candidate left an impression that would lead to votes on Nov. 6.

The two-plus hour candidate forum — sponsored primarily by the Isle of Wight Citizens Association and the Woman’s Club of Smithfield and held at The Smithfield Center — drew nearly 200 people which far exceeded organizers’ expectations. Still, it offered voters a chance to hear and ask questions of candidates who will be on the county’s ballot next month.

But there were few fireworks, few candidates straying from material that had already been made public and the long-term incumbents entrenched in office recited little more than their accomplishments.

Still, it marked the first time voters could see the candidate’s faces side by side, rather than on separate campaign signs that liberally dot the county’s landscape.

Up for grabs this election season is the 13th District State Senate seat currently filled by a four-term former lawyer, and three countywide races:

* an incumbent sheriff who’s held the position for 19 years against two challengers;

* a board of supervisor’s Smithfield District seat held by the chairman who is being challenged by a relative political newcomer;

* a 31-year veteran of the Clerk of the Court’s office vying to fill the post of her retiring boss, challenged by a longtime resident whose distant relative was clerk of the court in Surry County and a former Secret Service agent who now serves with the Virginia State Police.

Each candidate gave a four-minute presentation at the start of the forum, which was followed by a session in which candidates answered questions written by audience members and read by forum moderator John Edwards.


The 13th District of the Virginia State Senate includes portions of Isle of Wight County, Southampton County, Franklin City, Prince George and Surry counties, and the cities of Chesapeake, Suffolk, Portsmouth and Hopewell.

Incumbent Fred Quayle, a Republican, was elected to the State Senate in 1991, a lawyer, who describes his accomplishments in the senate as strengthening child support laws, increasing funding for public education and reducing traffic congestion.

On Wednesday, he defended the abusive drivers’ fees as &uot;not a bad way to raise money&uot; to pay for road improvements. He said the fines are directed at &uot;out-of-state&uot; drivers and that a majority of Virginians would be fined because of their good driving habits.

Responding to a question from the audience, Quayle said, he supported a patient’s right to seek their own doctors for health care rather than be limited by insurance companies. He also said he &uot;personally opposed&uot; abortion except in stances involving incest, rape or a situation in which the mother’s health might be in jeopardy.

&uot;I think we have to abide by Roe vs. Wade,&uot; which he called a federal at which Virginia has tried to soften to reflect the desires of the state’s residents.

He also responded to a question regarding studies to determine recent flooding in area rivers, particularly the Blackwater.

The causes of the floods, Quayle said, have &uot;not exactly been in-pointed&uot; by studies.

Quayle is being challenged by Portsmouth City Council member Steve Heretick, a Democrat. Heretick, too, is an attorney.

Heretick cited his record as including getting the city’s budget in check, moving students from trailers and into classrooms and supporting more &uot;in-home care options for seniors.&uot;

Heretick questioned whether the abusive drivers’ fees will pay for roads, and questioned if out-of-state drivers would pay the burden of those fines. He said all drivers would be subjected to the same infractions and penalties.

He suggested the plan itself is flawed.

&uot;This bill has more nooks and crannies than a Thomas’ English Muffin,&uot; he said.

Heretick said he, too, favored the right of patients to select their own health care options. He also supported the right to abortion. Interferring with that right, he said, &uot;is government at its worst.&uot;

&uot;The decision you make is between you and your god,&uot; he said, &uot;not between you and your government.&uot;

As for flooding of the Blackwater, Heretick said &uot;The people of Franklin and Southampton County deserve an answer,&uot; and that a Corps of Engineers study to begin correcting flood causes should be funded immediately.

Clerk of the circuit court

William Laine Jr. announced his retirement earlier this year from the position he’s held for 34 years, opening the door to three candidates.

Sharon Nelms Jones has worked in the clerk’s office since 1976 and has been the Chief Deputy Clerk for 13 years. She pointed to that experience during her presentation.

She said the clerk’s job is divided into three areas: Processing court documents, presiding over land records and administering probate claims.

In her campaign literature, Laine endorsed Jones.

Jones said it is her intention to maintain the standards set by the office and continue to make improvements in procedures or technology as they become available and as they get funded.

During her opening remarks, Jones said she welcomed votes &uot;as the only experienced candidate standing before you.&uot;

One challenger is Thomas Maynes, who pointed out his historical ties to the community. He also laid out a three-point plan should he get elected:

* day-to-day processing of the present;

* preserving documents of the past, and

* &uot;preparing for the future.&uot;

Mayes said his goal would be to complete

&uot;full digitalization all historical documents&uot; during his first year in office.

&uot;That’s something near and dear to me.&uot;

Also in the race is R. Curtis Hardison, a lieutenant in the Virginia State Police and a former Secret Service agent.

Hardison his work experience has taught him &uot;how the courts work.&uot;

He vowed better customer service, including longer daily office hours and Saturday hours.

Hardison said other goals include keeping Social Security Numbers private, modernizing the office’s Web site &uot;to reduce [residents’] trips&uot; to the office and creating a &uot;disaster plan&uot; to retrieve documents.

Security, personal identification theft and preservation of historical documents were major topics during the question-and-answer period.

Jones said state laws are in place that limits use of Social Security Numbers on court documents

Hardison said &uot;Social Security Numbers are a hot topic these days,&uot; but that technology exists and that he’s &uot;savvy enough&uot; to understand technology and implement its use.

Mayes said &uot;in the last few years&uot; he’s been &uot;keeping my Social Security Number to himself,&uot; avoiding shopping and banking online.

Jones said copies of documents are stored in another building to protect them in the event of damage to the courthouse.

County Sheriff

C.W. &uot;Charlie&uot; Phelps has been sheriff for 19 years and is being challenged by Smithfield Police Lt. Kurt Beach and former member of the Hampton Police Department, Jim Therrien.

Phelps stressed his &uot;experience, ability and knowledge&uot; of the job and said &uot;my record remains as my qualification to remain in the job.&uot;

Phelps said his office provides deputies to six of the nine county public schools and is in the process of adding three more.

Beach, who ran for the office in the last campaign, said, &uot;I believe it is time for a change.&uot;

Beach said he favors an approach that includes more &uot;community policing,&uot; using volunteers when possible, and opening satellite offices in other portions of the county.

Therrien is a senior investigator for the Bank of America and cited four areas in need of improvement:

* Office morale and filling vacancies in a timely matter;

* upgrading the fight against drugs;

* improving crime prevention and starting crime watch programs;

* making the department better while realizing the lack of some resources.

One question raised by the audience included getting the department accredited.

Phelps said that’s been an ongoing effort but that &uot;no one officer&uot; is available to oversee the effort. But, he said, the department has policies and procedures in place that are met &uot;every day.&uot;

Beach said accreditation &uot;begins with policies and procedures,&uot; and &uot;I’m fully willing and capable of doing that.&uot;

Therrien said the Hampton department is accredited and that getting the county’s department to that level is &uot;a long process. It’s not going to happen overnight.&uot;


Tom Ivy is the chairman of the county’s five-member board and said he favored &uot;smart growth,&uot; growth that is concentrated near existing infrastructure.

Ivy also discussed the county’s effort to televise meetings on its cable channel, provide a weekly show to inform the public about the government’s activities and developing a newsletter sent to constituents.

Al Casteen touched on three concerns:

* That the county is spending more than taxpayers can afford;

* questioned how the money is being spent, specifically concerning the amount of money spent on consultants;

* to allay fears surrounding the building of a new courthouse.

One question from the audience asked whether supervisors should vote as their constituents advise or vote as their conscience dictates.

&uot;Both,&uot; said Ivy. He said officials may have more information available to them than residents, but residents’ wishes should also be considered.

Casteen said &uot;I’m a little more inclined&uot; to follow the wishes of the constituents.

Another issue involved the candidates’ views on open government.

Ivy said &uot;we promote it&uot; through the cable outlet and the newsletter, as well as offering the public plenty of time to speak during regularly scheduled supervisors’ meetings.

Casteen said, &uot;I absolutely believe in open government&uot; because it &uot;inspires confidence&uot; in voters.

The development of Route 460 was also raised.

Ivy said the establishment of the Hampton Roads Transportation Authority &uot;is the only way we can afford&uot; improvements on the highway.

Casteen said safety issues pertaining to the highway &uot;have gone on way too long.&uot;