New Kent candidates state platforms at first public forum
As political season rolls around, candidates are beginning to make their bids for elected positions at the local level in New Kent County. Such was the case during Wednesday’s evening political forum at New Kent High School.
Sponsored by New Kent High School’s AP (Advanced Placement) Government and Politics class, more than 200 people filled auditorium seats for the two-and-a-half hour forum that provided candidates an opportunity to speak to the public.
Positions on New Kent’s Board of Supervisors were among the first to be discussed in the public setting. Leading the way is 13-year New Kent resident Kate West Ferris, who is challenging for the District 2 seat.
“Owning a business in New Kent gives me a window and a front line seat to see the growth in the county,” she said. “Growing a business is an asset that I believe I can bring to the county.
“My goal is to draw businesses to the county and address the broadband issue,” Ferris continued. “I want to see have the county become more efficient. We have been operating the same way from 20 years ago but New Kent doesn’t look the same as it does 20 years ago. I feel strongly about my community and my ability to lead.”
Current District 2 representative and chairman of the Board of Supervisors Tommy Tiller spoke about his contributions over the last eight years.
“When I came into this role eight years ago, I promised to work with agencies such as parks and recreation, the schools, and emergency services,” he said. “Today, we have more firefighters and just opened up Fire Station #5, are on our way to constructing a new elementary school, and we have broken ground on Pine Fork Park.
“Sixteen years ago, the board of supervisors back then expanded water and sewer, and that opened up opportunities,” Tiller continued. “That increased land value and helped with development along Interstate 64. I want everybody to know that none of this was done by itself, but the boards have worked as a group with minimum tax increases and we need to continue to take the burden off citizens by having new businesses come in.”
In District 3, challenger Joe Dombroski commented about his move to New Kent five years ago and seeing a similar situation where he used to live.
“I used to live in western Henrico in a place called Short Pump,” he said. “That makes us ask do we want to keep our heritage or do we need growth and businesses to balance?
“Do we want to see another Short Pump or do we want to see something beautiful for our next generations,” Dombroski continued. “We have to work for the betterment of the greater good, now our own. I want to help decide and work with the community on where we need to see our growth.”
Incumbent and current District 3 representative Patricia Paige commented about living in the community and wanting to make New Kent a home for everyone.
“Being a life-long resident matters, but so does the ones that do come in as well,” she said. “New Kent has some great schools and I want to grow New Kent together.
“It takes experience and someone willing to listen to help us grow,” Paige continued. “If you fail to listen, you fail to learn. If you fail to learn, you fail to grow. I want New Kent to be accessible for everyone from our seniors to our youth and a place for all.”
District 4 representative Ron Stiers, who is currently running unopposed, voiced his loyalty to the county.
“I have serve the last eight years on the board of supervisors and I love the citizens of the county,” he commented. “As a chairman, I helped bring a new library without raising taxes, assisted with the construction of Fire Station 5, and pushed to get funding for repairing Route 60 (Pocahontas Trail).
“I also founded the Forge Foundation 10 years ago and have helped serve over 100,000 meals,” Stiers added. “I look forward to working with any group or organization to make this county better.”
With the retirement of Ray Davis as the District 5 representative to New Kent’s Board of Supervisors, Rodell Coffman and John Lockwood are both vying for votes to fill the vacancy.
“I love a challenge,” said Coffman, who is a 60-year resident of the county. “I don’t mind talking to people.
“Roads are a big concern in the county,” he continued. “Businesses are a big thing, but I want to see them in the county and not have someone travel 45 minutes one way to get to them. I believe we also need more medical services such as places to treat chemotherapy and optometry.
“I’m not running for the Board of Supervisors for myself; I’m running for the county,” Coffman concluded.
Meanwhile, Lockwood spoke about how a movement a year-and-a-half ago to prevent a combat range from coming to Barhamsville prompted his movement into the political field.
“I learned a lot along the way, not just about what the does and does not belong here, but where it belongs,” he said, pointing to the process that was taken to prevent the facility to making the eastern end of the county its home. “Growth in the community impacts schools first.
“It’s not just coming, it’s here,” Lockwood continued. “I intend to be engaged in the community. I hope to make jobs in the community available for those who graduate from New Kent. If we’re not in charge of growth, developers are.
“Holding a seat on New Kent’s Board of Supervisors is a job of collaboration on what is best for the county,” he said as he wrapped up his comments. “I want to do what’s best to serve all of us, just not District 3 or District 5.”
While District 1 representative Thomas Evelyn couldn’t be in attendance due to a previous work engagement, his son Clayton spoke on his behalf.
“It is important for the community to stay engaged,” said Evelyn in a release. “As a lifelong resident of the county, I am an accessible advocate for the constituents. I look forward to working to keep New Kent the best place to live and continue to address concerns of the citizens.”
Candidates for New Kent’s School Board were the next group of people to speak. District 1 representative and incumbent Adriane Marshall commented about addressing continuous changes to help New Kent schools.
“We are constantly looking at New Kent facilities and the needs of the students,” she said. “We are focused on academics and I am hoping that we continue to offer them challenging classes and other courses.
“I will work to continue to work to provide students with special needs, students who take alternative courses, and will help them look to assist them to those who want to do something different after graduation,” Marshall continued. “The last four years have been successful and I have a passion for education and making a difference for kids. It’s what keeps me on the school board and I hope that it keeps me there.”
Challenger Wayne Meade, a resident of the county since 2004, says that he wants to establish stronger relationships among the school and other entities.
“I am aware of the needs of the schools,” he said. “I want to build a bridge between the students, staff, school employees, and board of supervisors.
“I want to work to improve communication, have stricter policies, and make hard decisions today that will have students better equipped for society tomorrow,” Mead continued. “I want students to enjoy academic success so that they will pour back into the New Kent community. That is why I am running for school board.”
District 2 representative Kristen Swynford and District 3 Andrea Staskiel, both running unopposed, spoke about their journeys and desire for re-election.
“Leading and serving is what’s important to me,” commented Swynford. “I have worked in environments where I have seen economic boom, job employment training, and a need for organizational structure. I have applied that work experience to my role as a New Kent School Board representative.
“Communication and transparency have been very critical during my time here on the school board,” she added. “It’s so much more to do as we develop relationships with new businesses. Education is the business in the county.
“Strong leadership and developing a road map will lead to success,” Swynford concluded.
For Staskiel, she spoke about her journey of not going to college directly after graduating and into the work force.
“I have a soft spot for student who learn in nontraditional ways,” she said. “Sometimes you don’t know what path you will go on.
“I want to be there for those students who are still trying to figure it out,” Staskiel concluded.
In District 4, incumbent Sarah Grier Barber spoke about her tenure on the school board and the benefits of her career assisting with the local schools.
“I love to learn and you want to continue to pursue professional educational opportunities,” she said, referencing her VSBA (Virginia School Board Association) training that assists her with tasks on the school board. “My training and architecture experience gives me a unique perspective of schools.
“We are strong, but we still have work to do,” Barber continued. “I’m not only dedicated to see every student walk across the stage, but see what they do after graduating from New Kent. Our schools are preparing these kids to be successful.”
Paul Ross, the District 4 challenger to the school board seat, did not appear at the forum.
In District 5, Gail Hardinge took us on a journey and her love for the field of education.
“As a third generation New Kent resident, I have a lot of ties to the community,” she said. “I have seen lots of changes since my time on the board for the last 16 years.
“I have 34 years in education, 19 in grades K-12, and when I was doing that, there were times where I said ‘I wish I can change this or that’,” Hardinge continued, mentioning her originally reason for running. “When I walk into other schools, I think about New Kent and how we do more than less.
“I will continue to bring work life education, local dedication, and be a problem solver who balances change with tradition,” she said as she wrapped up her comments. “Lots of people are afraid of conflict. Conflict takes us to solutions. I don’t mind conflict.”
As the transition to constitutional officers began, Larry Clark and Charles Evelyn were first up with each man vying for the position of county treasurer with Norma Holmes retiring after more than 40 years of service to the department.
“When I began my candidacy, I reached out to hear concerns of the citizens,” said Clark. “Each of the 200 signs you see in the county, I put each sign down as it represents a conversation with the property owner.
“One of the hardest things to do is reconcile bank records,” Clark continued as he spoke about the six duties of the treasurer. “I currently work in the county and the three things I will do is provide quality customer service, form an investment committee, and want to give businesses the opportunity to make monthly payments on taxes.
“I always want to give back and this is just one more opportunity to give back to the citizens of the county,” Clark continued.
For Evelyn, the long-tenured member of the Colonial Water and Soil Conservation District representative of New Kent County is banking on his experience to lead him to votes and a victory.
“I am a New Kent High School grad and a 2002 graduate of Longwood University,” he said, earning a finance degree. “I have served as the treasurer of the Colonial Soil and Water Conservation District board ever since my election to it.
“I will utilize a local investment pool and my management skills,” Evelyn added. “I am the only candidate with governmental treasurer experience that is running for this position.”
With current Commonwealth’s Attorney Linwood Gregory retiring from his position at the end of the year, New Kent defense attorneys Todd DuVal and Scott Renick have entered their names to fill the void effective next year.
“I help found a private practice firm in 1998,” said DuVal, who has been practicing law since the 1980s. “I serve as a substitute judge for a number of jurisdictions where I can observe the legal process on both sides of the bench.
“I have developed a relationship with the police and law enforcement officers,” he added. “I can ensure you the precedence that was set by Mr. Linwood Gregory will not be lost by me.
“People have asked me to step up and serve because my intelligence and integrity for the position, and that is why I am running for it,” DuVal concluded.
Renick, who has 22 years of experience, hopes his connection to the community and providing a safe environment will spurn him to victory.
“New Kent County is important to me and I want it to be a safe community,” he said. “I have a strong relationship as well with the sheriff’s office.
“As many know, we have an opioid problem, and I have a very strong stance on drugs,” Renick continued. “I will let people know that they will not sell drugs in New Kent. No plea agreements, you’re going to jail for a very long time.
“I want to teach young people the importance of law and the consequences for breaking them,” he said as he wrapped up his statements. “I want New Kent to be a place to come to, work, and go to school and will do my best to keep it safe.”
Running unopposed for New Kent’s Commissioner of the Revenue is Laura Ecimovic, who hopes her 30 years of service in the office will benefit her re-election.
“I have proven leadership,” she said, pointing to reassessments and helping to bring a DMV Select to the county. “I have streamlined operations for online access for all public documents.
“There are 20 types of taxes and I have to assess them,” Ecimovic continued. “I feel that I am qualified, experienced, and I have worked every position in the office. I’m fair and equable, and my goal is to continue to improve and implement services for the office to serve you.”
In the battle for the 97th Seat in the House of Delegates, Kevin Washington commented about his journey in the military to his home in New Kent.
“I have learned a lot about bureaucracy,” he said. “I learned that from growing up in a military family and I learned about finishing what you start.
“I want to be given the opportunity to advocate for the community,” Washington continued. “We all have different backgrounds, but we must work to reach a common goal.
“I am hoping that if I’m elected, I can establish three pillars to help lift and build this community together,” he said as he wrapped up his commentary. “Those pillars are to help expand rural broadband, promote education, and help to form jobs and economic development.”
Scott Wyatt, who serves as the Republican nominee to the 97th District, commented how a situation in New Kent spurned his leap to public service.
“In 2009, a New Kent businessman reached out to me because a regulation that was trying to be passed would put him out of business,” Wyatt said. “I was elected to a board and we prevented that from happening.
“I fought for public safety and Virginia is right on the cusp of tax regulation,” he continued. “Virginia has to compete to keep low taxes and to compete with the Carolinas. I want to bring competition to health care and drive down the health cost.
“The opioid crisis has to be addressed,” Wyatt said as he wrapped up his comments. “The Virginia Technology Initiative is proving $19 million for local broadband and I will work to bring that to the New Kent community.”
With current Virginia Senator Tommy Norment, who represents the 3rd District Senate Seat, not present at the debate, his challenger, Herb Jones, pledged his support to local citizens.
“I’m devoted to service to the family and I will put the citizens first,” he said. “I will not use this office to enrich it.
“I moved to New Kent in 1993 and I served as the county treasurer from 1999-2012,” Jones continued. “I believe that early childhood education, vocational education, and more funding to education in general is needed. We need to start treating our teachers as the professionals as they are.
“Finally, we need to do something to reduce gun violence,” he said as his comments began to wrap up the night. “I was in Iraq when the Sandy Hook incident took place. My wife was a high school principal at the time and it’s scary to say I felt safer in a bunker than she did at the school.”
The general election is scheduled to take place on Nov. 5.