Candidates’ reactions: ‘It’s a great responsibility,’ says Acree

Published 9:54 am Friday, November 6, 2015

With Tuesday’s election in Isle of Wight County, the residents are getting three new supervisors, one of whom is Joel Acree for the Windsor District. He defeated incumbent Delores “Dee Dee” Darden with 1,094 votes (71.2 percent) to her 438 (28.5 percent) in the four precincts. The registrar’s office will next confirm the numbers and declare them official.

“It’s humbling,” Acree said. “That’s the first word that comes to mind for people to put their faith into electing me. I already realize it comes with a great responsibility.”

He and his family have lived in the Longview section for over 25 years; previously they resided in Carrollton. Since being a teenager, Acree said, he’s been “well involved” in the community for over 30 years; including 20-plus as chief of the Carrollton Volunteer Fire Department.

In that time at the station, he figured, there have been no less than four board of supervisors he’s served or answered.

“It became evident a year and-a-half ago [that where the Facility Use Agreement was concerned] that the board was not listening to us, the volunteers, specifically at the Carrollton and Windsor volunteer fire departments. If not that, then how well are they listening to their fellow citizens?”

The FUA situation to which Acree referred was, essentially, a lengthy disagreement with the county government about how the stations should be operated. That matter was resolved, though, in mid-September.

“Virtually all felt as I do do that our voices are not being heard,” Acree said about the responses he was getting from talking with people door to door.

“I wouldn’t have run if I hadn’t shared in the same kind of concerns we all in have in the county,” he added. “I felt obligated to run. Again, it’s a great responsibility.”

Darden was philosophical about the results.

“I thought it was going to be close race and I thought it would be a lot closer than it was,” she said. “I guess people were ready for a change.”

Relief and sadness are two other emotions that Darden said she’s been experiencing. The supervisor’s position is one that takes time to fully adapt — four years is not really enough — said Darden, who also feels she was “just getting into the full swing” of the job.

“That’s the way it goes.”

For the future: “I’m not sure yet, but I’ll still be involved in county politics in some form or fashion. … You don’t just give it up cold turkey,” she added with a chuckle, “I might enjoy standing at the podium and giving it back to people [on the board].”

For sheriff, incumbent Mark A. Marshall had 6,560 votes (74.1 percent) to J. Russell Stephenson’s 2,280 (25.7 percent) in the 15 precincts.

Speaking for his supporters in and out of the office, Marshall said by phone, “We’re delighted with the results. We felt good going into the campaign. The record is what it is. We worked really hard to move the office forward and professionalize it.”

Having to campaign took a lot of time, energy and money, he said, adding relief that it’s all over.

“The bigger takeaway is feeling validated for what we’ve been doing for the last four years, and that people want us to continue that progress.”

Marshall also said that now it’s time to put all energy and effort into ensuring continued quality public safety.

With a mostly new board, he said, the office will need to educate those members on the function and needs of law enforcement. Two of which include the 911 radio system upgrade and a generator to maintain service in case of power outages.

“We’ve been lucky so far,” Marshall said.

He acknowledged that both will be expensive, and his office will seek out funding options such as grants and partnerships with regional localities.

Stephenson sent his comments via email when asked for his reaction to the vote: “I felt like we had a lot more support during the campaign than it showed at the polls. The turnout this year was much less than four years ago and what we expected. I respect the fact that during the campaign trail Sheriff Marshall and I ran a top-notch campaign. I personally congratulated him on his victory and I wish him and his team the best.”

Stephenson said he was not sure yet about staying involved in the county where law enforcement is concerned.

“With 10 years serving and protecting Isle of Wight county citizens I do feel a part of me has died,” he said.

What’s next for himself? Stephenson wrote, “I will continue to run my financial services business as I have since 1987, and continue to serve in my church and community.”

In the race for Commonwealth’s Attorney, Georgette Phillips had 5,275 votes (60.9 percent) to Jennifer Stanton’s 3,362 (38.8 percent) in 15 precincts. Stanton could not be reached for comment, but Phillips did reply by phone:

“I was ecstatic! But most importantly, I have always felt that it has been my privilege to have served the community or the last 14 years, and so it was an honor for the community to have elected me, and for me to be able to continue to serve for the next four years.”

Among her goals, Phillips said, “Of course I want to continue the relationships we have had for the last 14 years.”

Further, she wants to continue and expand programs offered for both schools and the community. Examples include going into classrooms for the past six years and giving presentations on Internet safety, computer fraud, sexting and cyberbullying. Phillips is also considering programs about underage drinking, the numbers of which are increasing. Also relevant is targeting identity fraud and scams, and she wants to educate the public so they won’t fall victim to them.

Asked for comment on the race, Dale Scott of the Windsor Volunteer Fire Department, emailed his thoughts:

“The election results in Isle of Wight were what I had anticipated. I think the large margins of victory by Joel Acree over Dee Dee Darden (incumbent) in the Windsor District race as well as William McCarty and Albert Burckhard over Buzz Bailey (incumbent) in the Newport District were astounding indicators that spoke volumes that the citizens of this county are not satisfied with the direction we are being led by the current Board of Supervisors and county administration.

“I think the narrow margin between Dick Grice and Lawrence Pitt without an incumbent in the race for the Smithfield District indicates that the citizens merely wanted a change from Mr. [Al] Casteen, the current representative, and saw both newcomers as viable candidates for a trustworthy representative. “I’m hopeful that the two remaining members, Mr. [Rex] Alphin and Mr. [Randolph] Jefferson — who have both been following the lead and direction of our county administration — will take notice of this and use it as an opportunity to begin listening to the citizens of our county so that the restoration of trust within our county government can begin.”