Ward 3 candidates hope to address utility concerns

Published 11:39 am Saturday, April 26, 2014

WARD 3, Rosa Lawrence

Rosa Lawrence with one of her campaign members, Newsom Chavis, before going out on the trail. -- CAIN MADDEN | TIDEWATER NEWS

Rosa Lawrence with one of her campaign members, Newsom Chavis, before going out on the trail. — CAIN MADDEN | TIDEWATER NEWS

FRANKLIN—Rosa Lawrence said she had served ward 3 once before, and she felt encouraged when people came to her and asked her to represent them again.

“I’ve been a business owner in the community for 25 to 35 years, and people are in and out every day,” she said. “The voice of the people are crying out for a better understanding. I’ve got a better rapport with the council as a whole. And I have a good rapport with the people. I want to help keep people in touch.”

Lawrence wants to work on education, improving inner-council relations, and reaching out to the people. And as far as what the people want, she said a lot of what she hears concerns the electric bills.

“As I’ve been campaigning, I’ve been trying to help them understand what is going on with the electric bills,” she said. “Everyone is going through hard times. If you check the surrounding areas, everyone is going through the same electric rate increases.

“I’ve also explained that not just one vote will change the rates, whether it be an increase or a decrease. Council is going to have to work together to find ideas, to figure out how we are going to satisfy the people. If we work together, we can find something that is better for this community.”

Education, as she sees it, is a problem of stability and leadership. She herself is working with the Hopewell school system, as a barber instructor for high school students.

“Education is really shaky right now — the kids are going through a lot of testing,” she said. “The schools are changing up principals every two years. As soon as you get used to one administrator, there is another one coming in. We need to get in something solid for the children. Then, I think success will follow with solid mentorship and good leadership.

“I am still in touch with the people and I hear them crying for improved education.”

Lawrence wants to do this because she loves the community. She graduated from Franklin High School, and she apprenticed under her father as far as being a barber and hairdresser.

“I’ve been out in the community my whole life,” she said. “This is my city.”

With the help of the citizens in Ward 3, she wants to step into the council seat again.

“I feel comfortable stepping up to the plate, and I want to let the people know, that they can come speak to me and I will be their voice. Let me express their concerns to the city.”

Above all, Lawrence said she is an honest person.

“I’ve been here all of my life,” she said. “People can see me for who I am and what I stand for. I may be reserved at times, but I am reserved to listen and get a better understanding.

“I think I am an excellent candidate for ward 3. What the city needs is clear understanding, and a council that can work together.”

WARD 3, Greg Mclemore

Greg McLemore places a sign in front of Engram Funeral Home. -- Cain Madden | Tidewater News

Greg McLemore places a sign in front of Engram Funeral Home. — Cain Madden | Tidewater News

FRANKLIN—Greg McLemore is running for city council because it is his goal to continue to work for the people of ward 3 and Franklin.

McLemore worries that one of his opponents, as well as several members already on council, take a different attitude in that they work for the city.

“I am not in agreement with the management of the city in regards to examples like this part-time employee making $87,000 with benefits,” he said. “It is a personnel issue, and I understand that, but I feel like council — when we see something as unclear as this — it is our duty to bring clarity.

“When some of our people can’t get a job, how can you explain this to a citizen that a part-timer is making more than $80,000? I tried to make a motion to talk about it, but it died. No one else on council even wants to talk about it.”

If reelected, McLemore vowed that he would be calmer.

“I assure the citizens and residents that in the second term I will be a lot less volatile,” he said. “When you first come in, you jump in and try to change the world. But it’s not new to me anymore, and I’ve had some time to mellow.”

Another community concern is the utility situation.

“People are struggling and they need more flexibility,” he said. “My plan is to separate the bills like other cities do. And if there is some emergency, you can still pay your light bill and perhaps let your trash bill sit for a month.”

Speaking of the trash and water and sewer bills, he also felt like those were too high.

“I maybe fill up my trash can twice a month, yet I’m still being charged the same as people who use it a lot more,” he said. “You ought to be charged by usage.

“Sewer is charged according to what you use in water because they have no way to measure it. So, if I pour a gallon of water to drink, or I put a gallon in a fish tank, I’m being charged a gallon of sewage. Since they can’t measure it, they ought to reduce it.”

As for the economy, he said the city needed to develop other means of attracting jobs than FSEDI.

“I feel like we’ve put all of our eggs into one basket,” he said. “But we’re not getting jobs fast enough.”

He would also like to see the government open up more.

“I’m for fewer closed sessions,” he said. “I understand that certain things have to be addressed in closed sessions, but I feel like, too often, things are discussed in closed session that should be the business of the citizens.”

He said he’d also like to see council make better use of the TV station, putting community events on it and school board meetings.

“We waste what we have,” he said.

Overall, he said people should vote for him because he will give them a voice on council, and because he would work to make sure council conducts business in the best interest of the people.

“I’ve proven to be true to the people and for the people,” he said. “I’m willing to work with the other officials, as long as their priority is the citizens, as opposed to the corporation of the city.”

WARD 3, Jamaal Whitehurst

Jamaal Whitehurst talks with Donielle Babb, president of Ill Grind Multimedia Group. -- Cain Madden | Tidewater News

Jamaal Whitehurst talks with Donielle Babb, president of Ill Grind Multimedia Group. — Cain Madden | Tidewater News

FRANKLIN—Even before he decided to run for the ward 3 seat on city council, Jamaal Whitehurst had been seeking input from the community.

“I’ve been getting good feedback from the citizens, as far as what they’d like to see,” he said. “I’ve sat on people’s porches and in their living rooms. I’ve played with their children, and some people, knowing that I’m in the ministry, even asked me to pray with them.

“People feel like that is important. I did not just leave a paper and say I’m running, but I actually took the time to listen to them.”

Whitehurst has two master’s degrees, one in divinity and the other in school counseling. He said feels that both aspects help qualify him for a seat in city government.

“The counselor in me has really helped during this election process,” he said. “I’ve accepted suggestions, ideas and written them down. There’s a lot of good ideas out there.”

Whitehurst said his platform is based on the needs of his people, and the people of ward 3 are worried about high utility bills.

“More than 90 percent of the people I’ve talked to have listed this as an issue,” he said. “I feel like, if elected, I would work with the mayor and council, but not be argumentative, to really explain the concerns and listen. And then work together to make it a reality.

“If you are argumentative, you can come across as rude and disrespectful. Nothing can be accomplished then because no one will hear you, even if what you are talking about good ideas.”

Another idea he had toward utility bills that could help in the short term would be splitting them up — a separate bill for electricity, water and sewer and trash.

The next thing people talk about is the education system, which he said also impacts the economy.

“We are rated as one of the lowest public education systems,” he said. “We have to get that turned around to attract business. No business is going to want to come here if there isn’t a good school for their kids to go to.”

He said the schools need to be doing a better job monitoring teachers and administrators, and to also come up with a panel when it comes to selecting teachers and administrators in the first place.

“For teachers, you might want a principal, a teacher, an administrator and a parent, so that every stakeholder is represented,” he said. “The city and the community also needs to work with them as they work toward full accreditation. Franklin has done it before, and we can do it again.”

At the end of the day, Whitehurst said he is not a politician, but rather, a community leader.

“I have run a clean campaign, and I have connected with people of all races in ward 3,” he said. “If given a chance, I will give you a positive voice on council.”

Regardless of the outcome, Whitehurst said the experience has been both wonderful and enlightening.

“Win or lose, I will say that I’m a winner either way,” he said. “I’ve been able to better connect with my community.”