Tuesday, September 29, 2015
Meet the candidates
The Goochland NAACP held a political action forum at Chief Cornerstone Baptist Church in Three Square on September 24, inviting all candidates for supervisor and Constitutional Offices. A similar event will feature school board candidates at the Second Union Church on October 15.
Kudos to the NAACP for sponsoring the only non-partisan opportunity for voters to meet the candidates. As there are only two contested races in this November’s election--Clerk of the Court and Commissioner of the Revenue—interest is expected to be low. Topics of interest to the African American community were highlighted.
The Rev. Adlai Allen welcomed the assemblage to his beautiful church and began the event with a stirring prayer for grace and guidance. Goochland NAACP president Sekou Shabaka was the moderator.
Goochland Director of Elections Frances Ragland (556-5803) said that the last day to register to vote is October 13; to apply for an absentee ballot is October 31. She reminded all voters to bring their photo ID to the polls and said that her office will be open Saturdays October 24 and 31 from 9 to 5 for absentee voting.
Each candidate made an opening statement.
Commonwealth’s Attorney Claiborne H. Stokes, Jr. said that his office applies the law fairly to everyone and must be enforced equally.
Clerk of the Circuit Court Dale Agnew said that she has 32 years of experience balancing the books of the Clerk’s Office with clean audits. Agnew said that the Auditor of Public Accounts suggest some of the procedures she established in Goochland be used in other jurisdictions. In her 25 years as probate clerk, she has handled more than 1,900 estates. Agnew said that she is familiar with the more than 800 laws that govern the duties of the clerk’s office.
She has also served as Goochland Christmas Mother and chair of the Crozier Volunteer Fire-Rescue Company 2 annual Brunswick stew event, which raised more than $40,000.
Keith Flannagan, challenger for Clerk, said that he intends to treat everyone with respect and ensure that everyone gets a “fair shake.” He said he has a master’s of business administration degree, which enables him to run an organization and make customers happy.
Commissioner of the Revenue is an open seat. Some of the matters this office deals with include: personal property taxes, including those on businesses; tax relief for the elderly and disabled; DMV Select; and assessing various taxes levied by the county.
Ira “Buddy” Bishop IV said he was an information technology manager for Reynolds Community College for 20 years before moving to VCU in a similar capacity. He said he will use technology to innovate, listen, and make things better.
Bishop said that he would make sure his entire staff is certified and expand and improve as all aspects of customer service in the Commissioner’s Office. He said the he would set new parameters for hiring. ”As a Constitutional Officer, I can hire and fire at whim,” Bishop said. He would establish a five person citizen committee to help in hiring his staff so it reflects “the folks in Goochland.” He will use social media to educate the citizens about the function of the Commissioner of the Revenue.
Jennifer Brown, who has 16 years of experience working for Commissioner’s office, said she cares about Goochland and will continue to run the office with excellent customer service and compassion for the citizens. Brown pledged to run the office with the highest degree of efficiency. She said that the Commissioner does not set tax rates.
James L. Agnew, Sheriff, said that, having held that office for 24 years, he knew everyone in the room. Agnew said he chose public safety as his life’s work after a stint in the Coast Guard. His deputies treat everyone fairly and with respect with an emphasis on training. Agnew plans to request funds for body cameras from the Board of Supervisors in November to “make us better and keep everyone safe.”
Treasurer Pamela Cooke Johnson said that since taking office her main goal has been to restore trust in the office, which was badly damaged by her predecessor. She said that the poor reputation of her office for customer service has been turned around.
District 1 Supervisor Susan Lascolette said that she believes elected officials serve citizens, not the other way around. “We don’t have all the answers, but we are willing to listen,” she said. Lascolette cited the Central High School renovations and Matthews Road park as accomplishments of her first term.
District 2 Supervisor Manuel Alvarez, Jr. said that the NAACP helped to put him in office. He cited a list of suggestions and questions that helped him learn. Education, said Alvarez, is the best way to help the unseen and unheard. Four years ago, he said, Goochland’s finances were a mess, today it has a AAA bond rating. Deploying hi-speed internet throughout the county is taking longer than expected, but he expressed hope that it will happen.
District 3 Supervisor Ned Creasey said that, when first elected in 2007, he expected to serve a single term. He is seeking a third and last term. Establishing yard sticks for future boards to determine operation of future boards was one of his early goals that has been realized.
District 4 Supervisor Bob Minnick gave a shout out to Steve Fleming for conversations about service to his district and the county at large. He thanked the citizens for their guidance and support. Minnick said that the board has worked to increase transparency in government, listen to the citizens, and improve financial stability.
District 5 Supervisor Ken Peterson cited the dramatic reversal in county audits from many significant material restatements to clean as a whistle and taming the Tuckahoe Creek Service District debt, which threatened to swamp the boat of Goochland government, as accomplishments of his first term.
Shabaka thanked the sheriff for hiring four African American deputies in the past few year to increase diversity in local law enforcement. “They’re good people and we’re fortunate to have them,” the Sheriff said.
In response to a query from Shabaka if school resource officers are trained in early childhood development, the Sheriff said ” we’re law enforcement officers, not doctors or teachers. But, we are getting everyone trained in crisis intervention techniques to diffuse situations before they get physical.”
Shabaka contended that Goochland is a wealthy county and asked the supervisors to identify pockets of poverty and include it in the strategic plan.
Alvarez observed that the Weldon Cooper Center compiles data on income levels. He contended that the strategic plan, which includes the goal of a prosperous community for all does include the issue. While campaigning, said Alvarez, he visited people in homes with dirt floors and those with marble floors. “Goochland County is a land is contrasts.”
Creasey said that the income figures are distorted by a handful of very wealthy families.
Minnick said that the county needs to make sure its social services are well-funded to deal with those facing lifestyle challenges.
Peterson contended that education is the most direct route out of poverty. He said that the addition of the career and technical education program in the schools in addition will help young people succeed. Peterson also cited the addition of more local jobs, like those at McDonald’s.
Shabaka contended that the requirement to present photo ID at polls is a regressive policy that threatens the voting rights of the African American community. He asked if the supervisors would work to reverse it. They all replied in the negative, expressing the sentiment that voting is an important right. Ensuring that only eligible voters cast ballots is crucial to protecting the integrity of the electoral process.
Alvarez, who was born in Cuba, said that he does not consider the photo ID requirement a tough burden. Free photo IDs may be obtained at the registrar’s office. Alvarez offered to give a ride there to anyone who needs to obtain one.
Peterson touted Goochland’s high voter turnout in presidential years. “Let’s get everyone a photo ID and make voter turnout 100 percent of eligible voters,” he said.
Except for the Sheriff, Dale Agnew and Jennifer Brown, who are running as independents, all candidates are republicans.
Turnout for this year’s election is expected to be quite low. Please vote. It’s a good way to express support for the supervisors and school board members who have worked so hard for the past four years.