Candidates give views on hunting, shared services, school board selection

Published 11:33 am Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Candidates seeking a position on the Southampton County Board of Supervisors gathered on Oct. 20 in the auditorium of Southampton High School for a forum. Tony Clark, publisher of The Tidewater News, asked a series of questions on a variety of issues in Southampton County. There to answer them were incumbent Dr. Alan Edwards and challenger Yvonne Rose of the Jerusalem District; Barry Porter and Earva Jones Sumblin of the Franklin-Hunterdale District; and Glenn Updike and Randolph Cooke of the Newsoms District.

In this final part of the series, the candidates give their thoughts on black powder hunting; the property located on Camp Parkway that has become a topic of conversation in and around the county; and school board appointments.


Clark – “As you know, a significant part of Southampton County’s heritage is deer hunting. Currently, Southampton County is one of the few localities in the commonwealth that does not allow individuals to hunt with muzzleloaders. Do you agree with Southampton County’s current prohibition against black powder hunting, and would you vote to allow black powder hunting in the county?”

Porter – “First, I’d like to return to the prior question with some of my time. I think that I’m pretty much agreeing with the procedure that Dr. Edwards laid out. I didn’t say that we made a decision. I said we have an obligation to pursue every possible opportunity to make this thing work because it has such a potentially positive impact on the finances of the county. The second thing I want to point out is that the school system has reviewed this proposal, met with the developer, understand it and they support it. And, by the way, we have Capron Elementary where we have 10,000 trucks a day going by. We have Southampton High School and Middle School where we have 10,000-to-15,000 trucks going by, and nobody seems to care about that. But, the schools do support this project. There’s two churches over there. There’s a small church right on Delaware Road. Their manager supports this project. To my understanding, the church’s official position is that they do not officially oppose the project. What they want to do is be engaged so that they can ensure that if it is approved and if it is done, it is done correctly. That’s my position, as well. But I am optimistic that we’re smart enough to find a way that so can have both. The next thing is, I’ll answer your question, I don’t hunt. No black powder hunting.”

Sumblin – “Since this is not a debate, I’ll stick with my former statements in reference to growth. I don’t know much about black powder hunting. I absolutely know nothing about it. All I know is that when my daddy used to hunt, he used to take a 12-gauge shotgun and put some buck shots in it, and he might take a 21 because, you know, the sons might have a less-powerful gun, and they would go out and kill the game and bring it back. I would have to look at the rules, regulations and everything very carefully before I would entertain a vote either way.”

Updike – “I am a servant of the people in Newsoms, and I’m not a hunter. I wouldn’t care if they were hunting with a BB gun or an automatic weapon. I’m not a hunter. But our hunters bring in more money than any other tourist attraction going on in the county. If they do not want it, I will support them. It’s not my wish, it’ll be their wish. So it’s up to you, people in Newsoms. If you want it, I’ll back you. If you don’t want it, I will back you. This is one thing I haven’t drawn a line that I won’t say I won’t cross, because I don’t have a line. To get back to another thing on this development, they say this is a 30-year project. They came before us a couple years ago and were going to build all these houses, and that fell through. If the county approves it, let me see the plan … the blueprint for 30 years. I don’t believe they’ve got it. I haven’t seen what they can do it two years or five years. I do know, in that proposal, that in five years they’re asking the county to build a fire station and rescue squad building because $6 million dollar — $300,000 a year — to operate it. What is that going to … the other fire stations, rescue squads … they’re going to want to get paid, too. What’s that going to do to the county budget? You’re just taking the assets and you do not considering all of the liabilities it’s creating.”

Cooke – “Surprisingly, I’ve had a number of questions from Newsoms constituents, and I will definitely not support black powder hunting based on the people I’ve talked to in my community.”

Edwards – “I guess it sounds like I’m the only hunter up here. We’re the only county in Virginia that doesn’t allow black powder hunting, in case anybody doesn’t know that. The only county. The last county. I think the main reason is the majority of the citizens who hunt in this county are against it. The hunt clubs in this county — there are about 51 or 52 organized hunt clubs — spend a lot of money every year on dogs and food, and we make a lot of tax money — one penny out of five cents of the sales tax — from these people every year. A lot of the clubs are afraid that if black powder hunting was opened up that there would be a lot of people from out of state or out of county coming in a shooting trophy deer, and that’s probably true. So, I have to say that I am definitely, at this point, against black powder hunting because the citizens are against it. I’m also, I would say, against Sunday hunting, which has come up recently. Black powder guns, you’ve got to realize, is only a one-shot, high-powered rifle. I would not vote for or against black powder hunting unless constituents in this county went one way or another. If they want it, fine, I’ll vote for it. If they do not now, I’ll vote against it. And probably, if it ever went through, I’d have to buy my own black powder gun.”

Rose – “I supposed Dr. Edwards made a real point. He is the only hunter that I know up here. I surely don’t hunt. But I’ll tell you, it’s a great land we live in and this is democracy at it’s best, when the consideration is for the people and by the people. It appears that most of the people that everyone has talked with about this black powder hunting is in opposition to it, and since we are representatives and not necessarily standing for ourselves, then the right thing to do would be to vote our constituency. So, I’m like the rest. If the people are not for it, then, hey, I represent the people and I would not be for it.”


Clark – “Southampton County’s school system is one of only three out of 133 in the state whose school board is neither elected by county residents nor appointed by the locality’s governing body, in this case, our county’s board of supervisors. The current process calls for school board members to be appointed by a selection committee of three county residents who are appointed by the local circuit court judge who is appointed by the General Assembly. Do you feel that our current school board selection process allows for board members to be fully accountable to county taxpayers? If so, how, and would you vote to change the process of keep it in place?”

Sumblin – “That is a very loaded question, and is one that desires a lot of wisdom and balance. Some of my constituents like the appointing system. Some of them would like to see a voting system. I would go with the citizens, and what they believe that they would want me to represent for them to the school board. I do not have an opinion until it is studied further, but it would be based upon what would be in the best interest of the constituents that I serve.”

Clark – “Would it be fair for me to ask what you felt was in the best interest of the county?”

Sumblin – “I’m not to make my personal judgment at this time. You can ask me, you know, after Nov. 3.”

Updike – “As you can tell, that’s sort of like a loaded question. But I’m going to give you a straightforward answer, and that is we need some sort of accountability. By appointing, you cannot get rid of individuals that are not doing a good job in the current system. The other systems, you can either vote them out or the board of supervisors can withdraw their names. But the current system, you’re stuck with them, and they can be there. I don’t know, in my observation, I can’t name anyone that was being ousted off the board by the school board. Ousting one of their own members. From that standpoint, I think either other process would probably be more optimal. Voting my districts or being appointed by the board of supervisors. So, I don’t see, right now, either one of them happening, and we’re just stuck in the rut and we can’t change it. Well, we can change it, too, but it’s going to have to come from the citizens of the county, and as you can see in the number of people here tonight, it’s not very applicable to even consider that this would take place. People are apathetic about all of what goes on in the county.”

Cooke – “At the present time, the people I’ve talked to in my area do not have a problem with the appointed system. So, given a very small poll, I would stick with the system we have. I guess, I don’t know of any instances that it has not worked. I hear complaints, but I’m not real sure that they’re justified complaints.”

Clark – “Let me clarify something in the question. Do you feel that our current school board selection process allows for board members to be fully accountable to county taxpayers? If so, how, and would you vote to change or keep the process in place?”

Cooke – “It’s a system that we’ve had in place, and I would support it as it is at the present.”

Edwards – “First of all, you have two choices. [With the] elected school board, I’ve heard a lot of localities complain that they don’t have qualified people who want the job. You can have an appointed board that can be slanted, so there are problems there. The only way that people would be accountable to the taxpayers would be to be elected. Therefore, I would favor a referendum in the general election, let the citizens vote on the referendum what they want. But like I said, if they’re appointed by a board, they’re not referable to the taxpayer. If they’re elected, they are. So far, I think we’ve had fairly good success with the board that we have, but if there’s some question, I would like to see a voter referendum and let the citizens decide which way they want to go.”

Clark – “And just to add a moment of levity, the same thing could be said of the board of supervisors that we can’t get anyone good to run. But that’s not the case here tonight, so we’re very fortunate … You’ve become a very serious group. I need to lighten up on my questions, I think.”

Rose – “Just as a response to what you just said, it is difficult even for the board of supervisors. I mean, just look at the age of the people that you have here. Where are our middle age? Where are our young people? There’s an era of apathy that’s existing, be it the supervisors or the school board. There are pros and cons either way, whether we select. It gives the persons who serve on the selection board at least an opportunity to try to talk to people who have at lease express an interest. But then if they’re elected, we have a hard time getting people to fill the positions. The outcomes could be good either way. Now, in terms of accountability, the only ones I think at the school board, whether they’re elected or appointed, are accountable to would be the supervisors because they don’t have to tell us penny by penny how they spend their money. The money is generated and they disburse it at their own discretion. We would hope that they would feel sensitive to the public’s money and use it in a good way. But I don’t think that there is any cut and dry answer to how you select them. That’s not just here in Southampton County. That bill has been presented on behalf of another locality several times in recent years to the General Assembly, but has not been successful, so it’s kind of up in the air as to which way it should go and how accountable it would cause the people to be.”

Porter – “First of all, I would like everyone to understand that this is not a board of supervisors decision. Dr. Edwards’ suggestion is exactly the way the law says it has to be done. We can’t decide on this board whether or not we want to elect our school board representatives or whether we want to appoint them or continue the current system. We just can’t do it. The only way to do it is by referendum to change it. There are pros and cons of every one. We have a board appointed by a school board selection committee. Franklin has a school board appointed by the city council. You can say they have more accountability, but I bet you I’ll take my school board any day over Franklin’s school board. We have a great school board. We have a great chairman. They work together, they work for the interests, and they were all appointed by this school board selection committee. It works if you get the right people. The danger of an election — and to answer the question he asked — definitely, the only way to get a school board that is accountable to the voters is to elect them. But I know areas that have elected school boards that have horrible school boards because it’s hard to get people to run for an election. It’s hard to get people to be considered to be appointed, and we don’t necessarily get the best candidates there. It’s a lot easier to get someone to encourage someone to sit for that appointment because they don’t have to go through the expense and pain of going through an election — and it is a pain to go through an election. So you get … it takes time. Ideally, you want to elect the school boards. But when I look at the ones we have across our area, I don’t know of any school board that works better than ours. So, this is a personal question. It’s not a board question. Personally, I would support the way it’s done now and I would vote for that in the referendum. I don’t have a vote at the board of supervisors because this a mute issue for us.”


Clark – “Southampton County and the City of Franklin officials have engaged in discussions on how the two localities can share public services to better serve their residents and save taxpayer dollars. In 2013, the community planning departments were merged in an attempt to accomplish this goal. Do you think that this has been successful, and what specifically do you think Franklin and Southampton County can do to work together to accomplish these goals?”

Updike – “First of all, to answer this question, we haven’t seen the proposals. This started last fall. In December, we had a meeting [where] they said, ‘We’re going to come back in January and keep you informed on what was going on.’ That was the last we’ve heard. They’ve got a proposal out, I understand, about two months ago, but we haven’t seen [inaudible] of what’s included in it. And this brings up a topic that really should be answered: behind closed doors. Here’s something that the board of supervisors, at least I haven’t, have the slightest idea of what’s going on. They don’t keep us informed. For me to answer that question tonight without knowing the first word that’s in that memorandum that’s 100-some page, it would be inappropriate. From what I’ve heard by the grapevine, it doesn’t look good.”

Clark – “I’m going to restate the question to make sure that I asked that the first time the correct way. Talking about the merger of the community planning departments in 2013, do you you think that this has been successful, and what do you think Franklin and Southampton County can do to work together to accomplish the goal of saving taxpayer money?”

Cooke – “Yes, I think that merger has been successful, no more than saving personnel and some monies just from the kind of scale of the two going together to less people, and they could do more with less people. Yes, that merger has been good. There are many other opportunities that we as the county and the city, we are the closest neighbors you could get. There are many opportunities that are out there that we could help each other. Water and sewer; the waste water committee has worked for like 16 months. I do serve on that committee. All of the meetings are public. There’s always been a board member at our meetings. Every one of them. Hopefully, it’s going to be presented to the city council and the board. There is a lot of data to look at, and there are a lot of options that we can go forward on that would benefit both the county and the city. I think there are a lot of opportunities besides the waste water that we could probably look at, also, with the city.”

Edwards – “As you know, public services we do share, you mentioned planning that has been going on has saved us about $68-70,000 a year. We share some buildings inspections, and people don’t know it, but we share a court system. They use approximately, I believe, about 26 percent of our court system. And as Mr. Cooke stated, they’re looking at ways to sharing our plant in Courtland — the water system. Certainly, we’re going to have to look at ways to share things in the future to make it more feasible and cheaper for both of us. There are other things we can share. Right now, we’re looking at the water system. It’s very complicated. But I would say this: I would not get into any deal that would put a burden on the county taxpayers, and whatever we shared would have to be a mutual, equal benefit between the county and city. If it meets that criteria, I’d be in favor of it. People talk about the schools. Right now, we have a very good school system. We need to keep our school system like it is. We have good administration, we have a bunch good teachers and we have a very good school system. I would not consider sharing anything with the Franklin school system at this point. Other things that would be a mutual benefit and equal for both of us, yes.”

Rose – “I would like to say that it’s moving in a successful path. Anytime that you can save tax dollars and make duplication, then it’s a good thing. I would like to see it continue and to expand because I know that there are probably other areas that could be looked at for shared services. I think that, if you’re going to be very realistic about the thing, then you don’t need to put any parameters on what you can and can’t look at or determine what is going to be beneficial, as Doc [Edwards] said, and then make a decision on whether it’s going to best serve our people in the county and if it’s mutually beneficial, then how we can make it work together.”

Clark – “Any specific ideas on ar eas? Everybody has sort of touched on pending opportunities. Do you have any ideas on pending opportunities where we can look to share services?”

Rose – “One of the areas that I’ve often thought about was in social services. Statewide, the number of clientele has declined since they started Welfare-to-Work, but somehow we maintain the same number of people in the offices. There should be maybe rutrition (sic), not by getting rid of anybody, but look at the case loads and see if it’s necessary to keep positions open. You have top positions in both areas in a small area and then in a large area. Just look at what is needed, how it can serve the people, but still save the taxpayers in certain areas.”

Porter – “Some people know this, but I’m the person who started pushing this initiative. I sat on the committee and meet with the mayor of Franklin, a city council member and another board of supervisor member, city administrator of Franklin and the county administrator of Southampton, and I believe this is a way or model that we can get better services for less cost to both our citizens and the citizens of Franklin. The planning combination has been an absolute success. Dr. Edwards quoted $68,000, when you take it at the money that we’ve avoided spending, it’s probably more like twice that because there were these new storm water regulations that required us to hire a new engineer and a new technician, and we were able to split that with the city of Franklin. That alone would have cost us over $100,000. Right there, we save $50,000 just by that one act. As Mr. Cooke referenced, we are in the process of completing an initial study about combining our waste water resources. We have a wonderful waste water treatment system. Unfortunately, we only use about 20 percent of it, and because of that, we have to subsidize $2.5 million a year. If we can benefit by reducing that subsidy to $1 million a year by working with Franklin to meet some of their needs, we would save $1.5 million a year. That’s 10 cents a month on the real estate tax. We have to pursue these activities, and the reason I’m pushing them is because this is what’s happening in corporate America. They have learned to use shared service centers to get better services and reduce their costs. This is one area that I’m really, really passionate about — almost as much as education — because it offers unlimited potential for us right now.”

Sumblin – “As far as the plan of merger is concerned, I am for that. It appears that it is on a good road. Anytime two people can share a common vision with a common outcome that is going to benefit all of the people and everything is understood, then it is a win-win. We look for a win-win for the county, the city and its citizens. We also look for a win-win for the board of supervisors because we have to agree on certain things together. I only hope that as we merge together things in the future, that we will look at all of the resources we’re losing and what we can gain. My point for raising that is, when I look at the businesses located in Hunterdale, they are in the city of Franklin. When the annexation took place — I haven’t gone back and looked at the record on this — but I wonder if the board counts it in. Can we share the revenue and the tax base since these facilities are actually in the suburbs. Now maybe when the annexation took place, they owned everything. Then it’s Franklin. So when we merge, let’s make sure that the bottom line — and you know they’re getting these prints so small that you need magnifying glasses on top of magnifying glasses to see it — we really want to understand if it’s a win for the citizens, if it’s a win for the revenue for the county and if it’s a win for us as stewards for Southampton County.”