Candidate Q&A: Lynda Thorpe Updike
Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 2, with early voting having started Sept. 17, and there are a variety of local candidates running this year, including several for seats on the Southampton County Board of Supervisors.
We at The Tidewater News sent questions to the candidates to give readers an opportunity to better know them and their perspectives on some important topics.
Lynda Thorpe Updike currently serves in the Newsoms District seat on the Southampton County Board of Supervisors, and she is running for reelection. Challenging her for the seat is Walter D. “Walt” Brown III. Following are our questions and Updike’s answers.
Why do you want to be elected as the Newsoms District supervisor?
I am a frugal person. I have a broad knowledge of how the county operates because I have attended Board of Supervisors meetings for years. I care about what is best for our citizens. I want Southampton County to be someplace that our young people want to come back to, to stay and raise their families here and attend our schools. Raising taxes is not the answer. Lowering them is. We MUST cut expenses.
If elected, what will be your leading priorities as a supervisor?
We need to encourage more businesses to open here. We need to provide jobs with several small businesses until a larger business comes. We need to reduce taxes, but before we can reduce taxes, we have to reduce spending.
What do you think are the greatest challenges facing the Newsoms District?
Newsoms District has lost several mom and pop stores. For instance, there is no longer a place in the town of Newsoms to buy gas. There is access in Newsoms to town water and sewer, which is a selling point, we just need to find takers.
What do you think are the Newsoms District’s greatest strengths?
Newsoms District has numerous active churches and civic clubs. There is a new wedding venue on Highway 258 that will be a real drawing card in years to come. There are seasonal sports teams for boys and girls of all ages and a nice ballfield. I worked many hours with Ida Spruell, Carol Majors, grandson David and others, interviewing and surveying town residents in order to secure a drainage and rehabilitation grant, which will improve the quality of life for the town.
What do you think are the greatest challenges facing the county?
We need to recruit businesses and jobs. To that end we also need to develop a trained workforce. I have high hopes for our new economic development person, Mr. Karl Heck. Agriculture is our top driving force and revenue source; we need related businesses. We must have more vocational/technical training at both the high school and community college levels. As I have discussed with Mr. Heck, a quality motel in Southampton would be beneficial.
What do you think are the county’s greatest strengths?
We have a wonderful rural way of life with pretty farms and forests. We have good schools. We bring in tourists (and tourist dollars) with Heritage Day, Down Home Day, Nostalgic Christmas, all at the Ag & Forestry Museum, the Cheroenhaka Tribe, the Nottoway Indian Tribe of Virginia and the upcoming Nat Turner Walking Trail. I have been involved at the Ag Museum for over 30 years.
Where do you stand on the issue of the county’s $200 solid waste management fee?
I hate the trash fee as do most of our citizens. It was supposed to be a short-term solution, but the situation of Southampton’s finances currently prohibits its elimination. We all produce trash, and the county has to pay to get rid of it. We must strive to recruit more industries and hold the line on any new spending before we can eliminate over $1 million in revenue that currently is the cost of trash collection, disposal (trucking) and tipping fees (paying someone else to take it). It has been suggested that we raise the personal property tax. However, we are already third- or fourth-highest in the state. To raise it enough to cover the loss of the trash fee could cost families with two vehicles much more than the $200 trash fee. I cannot in good faith recommend eliminating the fee at this time, as much as I’d like to. As a Board of Supervisors member, I strive to hold the line on county government growth (hiring more people). It is irresponsible to recommend (the fee’s) elimination without a solution for replacing the approximate $1.2 million.
How would you like to see the county ultimately handle future requests to establish solar facilities in Southampton?
The county recently implemented a one-year moratorium to allow time for the Planning Commission and then the Board of Supervisors to study and review our current solar ordinance and to see what other localities are requiring. One aspect I hope will be inserted is the protection of prime farm and forest land. Once our cropland is gone, it is gone and no longer farmable. We also need to determine how solar farms can bring in more tax dollars.
What next steps would you prescribe to ensure a better relationship between the Southampton County Board of Supervisors and the Southampton County School Board?
I believe in transparency. I think our citizens deserve to know how their tax dollars are being spent. We have begun the process of more openness through monthly meetings between Dr. Shannon, Dr. Goodwyn and Jim Pope from the school board and Dr. Edwards, William Hart Gillette and Mike Johnson from the Board of Supervisors. At a recent BOS meeting, we gave teachers with concerns a venue to voice their issues. We are fortunate to have dedicated teachers who deserve more than they are being paid.
What do you think makes you the best choice for the Newsoms District supervisor role?
I have attended Board of Supervisors meetings, as well as Planning Commission meetings, for at least 30 years, missing only a very few. I’ve learned what has been done over the years and why, what worked well for our citizens and what did not. I am an Independent, a conservative. I don’t believe in unnecessary spending. I am committed to holding the line on spending. We on the BOS cut our own salaries by 10%. I donate my salary each month to area charities. I love Southampton County. I have always been involved in civic activities, including preserving our local history. I want to make the best better.