Candidates state their positions to public over breakfast
Published 6:53 pm Tuesday, July 23, 2019
On Saturday morning, several candidates for public office in Southampton County took advantage of the offer to introduce themselves and their reasons for running. The 460 Cafe and Farmers Market in Ivor was the site of the meet-and-greet, which was organized and hosted by proprietor Donna DeGroat.
The first to speak were the men hoping to become the next sheriff: Capt. Josh Wyche, Sgt. Mark Turner and Lt. Tommy Potter. Following introductions, a guest asked them about improving the radio communications system. They each acknowledged the importance of having a reliable and effective radio setup, but also pointed out that cost will be a factor in any upgrades.
“We do share your concerns,” said Wyche.
On the subject of red-light cameras at the Storys Station intersection on Highway 58, Turner — who said he often uses his own mobile phone — added he’d like to get the Virginia Department of Transportation’s help in getting indicator lights above the signals so that deputies can see when the lights are red or green.
Asked about improving response times, Wyche pointed out that the county is 604 square miles and that the officers are not stationed in just one area. Turner added on that particular time of day, there were two deputies splitting the size for patrol. Potter suggested that as a way to save time, deputies should have the ability to refuel their cars at other stations than just the garage in Courtland. Further, Virginia State Police could be asked for help. (“They can back us up.”) Likewise, there could be mutual aid agreements with the IOW agency.
As a way to keep deputies alert and safe, Wyche indicated he would like to change the 12 hours on-12 hours off schedule in practice.
Commissioner of Revenue Amy Carr, who is being challenged by Jennifer Cuthbertson, said her office is responsible for assessing property values, and directly accountable to the citizens.
Cuthbertson, who said she’s been a CPA for 25 years-plus, wants people to know about the process the department uses to determine values.
The women were asked about the possibility of splitting up the due date for the tax bills to twice a year rather than just once in December. But that, they said, would need to be changed by the Virginia General Assembly.
Rhonda Griffin, treasurer, is again being challenged for the office by Cynthia Edwards. They competed for the seat in a special election last year after David Britt announced his retirement in 2018, and Griffin won that round.
“We are finding it necessary to increase collection efforts,” said Griffin, who added,that there are always going to be people trying to find a way around paying their taxes.
The candidates for the Board of Supervisors who attended were Ronnie West, desiring to be re-elected for the Berlin/Ivor District, and potential newcomers William H. Gillette from the Capron District, Earva Sumblin Jones from the Franklin District, Chris Cornwell from the Berlin/Ivor District and Lynda Updike from the Newsoms District.
On the topic of the courthouse, Gillette said that not all avenues have been explored on how to resolve the matter. Jones said she wants to get to know the needs of residents, and she suggested collaboration with other leaders. Updike, who said she is personally conservative with her own money, intends to do the same with public funds as well, and that includes reducing or eliminating wasteful spending. She’s also planning to focus on increasing transparency in the county government and listening to the constituents.
On improving the economy, Cornwell said that the economic development director will be key in attracting new businesses to Western Tidewater. West said that the number one business in the county is agriculture and “that’s the way it should be … we [the board] need your support.”
“Yes, we need new business, no doubt,” said Gillette, who added that the budget deficit needs further examining and that can start with the current budget.
On the concern of whether or not Franklin could give up its charter, Cornwell said, “I don’t think anyone wants to see that happen. Earlier, West indicated that the county might not have a choice. “The county will react to the city.”
Election Day is on Tuesday, Nov. 5.