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Candidate Q&A

The News-Leader Candidate Questionnaire – Staunton City Council

Published September 28, 2023. Reprinted by permission.

How would you describe your life’s journey and how it led you to run for office?

My wife and I moved to Staunton from Northern Virginia in 2014.  After having children, we wanted to find a smaller town to raise our family.  A place that valued sense of community, was unique in character, provided services that were important to us, and gave us an opportunity for a better work/life balance.  Staunton was exactly the type of community we were looking for.  Almost 10 years later and this community is our home.  For me, Staunton’s small town character results in a greater sense of pride and desire to give back to your community. While active members of our church and serving as a leader in the Boy Scouts of America since coming to Staunton, it was my opportunity to join the Staunton Planning Commission in 2018 that I first became involved with the public process in the city. This experience has been rewarding and has help me to better understand the needs of the city and opportunities for growth and improvement. Now I seek the opportunity to apply my skills and knowledge to city leadership. Staunton is a special place. Our city’s character, people, and opportunities create an exceptional community that we are fortunate to call home. We need city leadership to champion our community and embrace the needs of our citizens for Staunton to flourish. As a member of council, together we can continue to move our community forward by supporting our successes, while focusing on our needs.          

What, in your own words, are the roles and responsibilities of local government and the city council? Do you believe Staunton adequately fulfills those obligations?

The role of City Council is to lead our city forward with a shared vision for Staunton’s future based on the ideals and values of our citizens. The role of city government is to implement that shared vision through the support of City Council. What Staunton has accomplished over the past 25 years is remarkable and the national accolades that we have received support this. However, we must continue this success moving forward by not only focusing on the big picture items, but by also focusing on improving the everyday needs of our citizens.  

What will be your top priorities if elected? 

Improving collaboration, creating opportunities, and focusing on community benefit are the top priorities of my campaign. We need collaboration and creativity to improve city services and reduce city costs. We need to explore new city partnership opportunities, both public and private, to benefit Staunton.  Increasing opportunities and encouragement for public participation will benefit Staunton through the ability to share ideas and work together to address concerns. Finally, we must ensure that public investments focus on benefiting our community and improves quality of life for all our citizens. The city must pursue opportunities beyond local revenues to increase funding for public projects that address community needs.  

Do you have previous experience working in government/public sector? If so, could you please describe it?

My current position with the Virginia Department of Transportation allows me to work with local governments throughout the Shenandoah Valley on almost a daily basis. I provide technical assistance to localities related to transportation planning, help communities identify transportation needs through analysis and public outreach, and work with staff and elected officials to develop solutions to those needs that will be competitive in the consideration of transportation funding. 

What additional qualifications do you think make you a good city council candidate?  

The opportunity to serve on Staunton’s Planning Commission for the past 6-years has allowed me to gain experience with city specific issues and form professional relationships with many members of our city government, across multiple departments. Through this experience and my professional background, I have a strong understanding of public processes and how local governments function.   

What are the main issue(s) facing Staunton in general? Why? 

Like most small cities, Staunton has limited resources in terms of both revenue and personnel. We need to make sure that these limited resources are being utilized efficiently and in a manner that maximizes community benefit. Not only to provide necessary services to meet today’s needs of our citizens, but to also properly plan to meet the future needs of the city and to position us to ensure that everyone has an opportunity to flourish. Specific issues of need evolve over time.  We need city leadership that can quickly identify and respond to those needs to ensure future success. 

Staunton City Council has made it a priority to be more business-friendly and push for more economic development, and much of that revolves around Staunton Crossing. What is your opinion of the progress at Staunton Crossing, and what other opportunities does Staunton have for economic development?  

Staunton Crossing provides a unique opportunity for future economic development in the city. The size, location and amenities of the property make it an attractive candidate for new business and employment opportunities. With the city’s commitment to investments in the property over the past decade, we are close to reaching the top marketing tier of the Virginia Economic Development Partnership (VEDP). With the work that has been completed to date, we need to be patient and stay focused on the city’s vision for the property to ensure its maximum potential and benefit are realized. The city also must focus on the needs of our existing businesses and explore opportunities to better support them, as well as new entrepreneurs and start-ups that want to bring their business to Staunton.   

It’s no secret that Staunton is feeling the effects of a housing crisis. A combination of few homes being on the market and a lack of affordable housing options have made it difficult for people to move into the city. What do you see as local government’s role in the creation of housing, and specifically, affordable housing? What steps can Staunton take to address this issue?  

Recent actions by our City Council to develop a housing commission is a big step in the right direction. I see this commission as an opportunity to bring together citizens, industry professionals, and city staff to collaborate on creative solutions for Staunton to help address the issue of affordable housing. Additionally, while it will not increase homeownership in the city, there are numerous multifamily/apartment developments that have come through city review and approval over the past two years. These projects are at various stages in the process but are all moving forward (with several under construction) and should soon help the demand for housing options in the city.  

Every election cycle, the West End is brought up as a place that needs significant attention. In addition, Uniontown’s future has become a part of the revitalization conversation around the city. What is your vision for revitalizing and further developing these areas? What steps do you see for city council to push those areas forward?

I commend recent actions of City Council to commit funding to studies in the West End and Uniontown that will evaluate redevelopment opportunities. Developing a plan of action that clearly identifies the needs and potential solutions is a necessary first step. The Uniontown Neighborhood Action Plan has been present to the Planning Commission and City Council. The document provides a range of recommendations, both varied in cost and implementation timeframes, to address four identified goal area to support the community (Reinvestment, Sense of Community, Preservation, and Reestablishing Connections). As a topic of focus during my time on the commission, it was a positive initial step to see city leadership request an amendment to the city comprehensive plan and zoning ordinance to support the Uniontown Neighborhood Action Plan. The West End study will come next and with the recent development of the JD&R courts facility, it is an ideal time to develop a plan for a future vision and identifying the investments needed to achieve that vision. 

Do you believe city council does a good job communicating with the public? If not, how would you improve it?

As I have recently addressed in my campaign newsletter series, I believe there are tremendous opportunities to improve city communications. This begins with investing in a city Communications Manager, better organization and outreach of important community information and more opportunities for public feedback in the local decision-making process. It was very encouraging to see that the city not only recently re-advertised the vacant Communication Manager position, but also adjust the position responsibilities to put more emphasis on community outreach and engagement.