By WILLIAM PAINE
The upcoming November 8 election will likely have a significant impact on the makeup of the Radford City Council.
There are four vacant seats on the Radford City Council, as council members Onassis Burress resigned from his position on the Council on Halloween of last year and Forrest Hite gave his seat up on July 9 of this year.
The top two vote getters in the upcoming election will win four-year terms on the council, while the 3rd and 4th top vote getters will fill the vacant seats left by Burris and Hite and will serve out the rest of their remaining 2-year terms.
Radford Mayor David Horton is also running for reelection but he is unopposed.
There are seven candidates listed on the ballot. They are Seth Gillespie, Naomi Huntington, Jessie Foster, Kellie Banks Artrip, Bobby Davis Jr., Janiele Hamden and Chad McClanahan.
Foster and Huntington are both incumbents, but Huntington has formally withdrawn from the race. Even so, if Huntington wins enough votes to place her as one of the top four vote getters, she will be offered a seat on the council. If she declines, then that seat will not go to the candidate receiving the fifth biggest vote total, but instead will remain vacant until council appoints another individual to fill that seat on an interim basis. In that case, a special election will be called for a permanent replacement in 2024.
Charley Cosmato is an interim council member who was appointed to fill the seat vacated by Forrest Hite in July. Cosmato will not be on the ballot, but is now running a write-in campaign for a seat on the Radford City Council.
To better acquaint the voters of Radford with those seeking political office, The Patriot asked candidates for the City Council to answer three key questions and inquired about their political affiliation.
The first question posed to the candidates: If elected, what will be your top priorities as a city council member?
Gillespie is running as an Independent but has been endorsed by the Radford Republicans.
If Gillespie is elected to council, his top priority will be economic development.
“Working to recruit new businesses and striving to retain current ones is important to me. Working with other council members, city staff and citizens to make Radford an even better place to live, work, educate, and raise a family is my top priority. “
Upon taking his seat on Radford’s City Council, Davis, who is a registered Republican, says he would make sure the city government is financially viable by first addressing the city’s “needs” and then discussing the city’s “wants.”
Davis would also make reducing crime a priority along with improving the morale of the city’s police department by asking, “Why are police leaving?”
Davis also stressed the importance of transparency in city government.
City Council incumbent Foster, said this:
“My top priorities, if re-elected to City Council, will be to continue to ensure our downtown is
viable for businesses to remain successful. We have a major initiative currently that will
significantly improve our downtown and create a space for shopping and gathering. It is our
hope that this will continue to support existing businesses while also encouraging further
investment in our vacant store fronts so they too can be profitable.”
Foster went on to say she supported ongoing infrastructure projects including improvements in roads, sidewalks and city parks, noting that a new skatepark would be completed by November.
Foster is a registered Democrat but says, “If someone is running on a party platform they will quickly be disillusioned on council. In the last 4 years, it has been rare that anything specific to a political party’s agenda has needed our attention.”
Artrip, who considers herself to be “on the conservative side,” said her top priorities in city government would be, “accountability and transparency. If elected I would like to focus on ensuring hard-earned tax dollars are being used for the benefit of the citizens and the city’s future.”
Hamden is running as an independent because claims to not subscribe to any party affiliation, saying, “Personally, I find myself with both conservative and progressive postures dependent upon the topic. For me, despite societal pressure to conform, classification will always take a back seat to Humanity.”
“My priority list for Radford is centered in building a healthy community, which begins with governmental transparency and accountability,” Hamden continued. “I’m incredibly passionate about diversity and inclusion, equal rights and equitable opportunity, trickle up economics, community investment and ownership, social programming, preventive/responsive problem solving and planning and servant leadership.”
McClanahan, who considers himself to be a moderate Democrat answered, “If elected one of my top priorities would be to make use of the property that used to be Lynchburg foundry and New River castings. I would also like to see the “Beautification of Radford to include Downtown Radford.”
Cosmato is running as an Independent but has been endorsed by the Radford City Democrats. When asked about his priorities he responded as follows.
“I commit to mentoring any new members to the workings of council. Processes for considering issues, order of council actions, background briefings on historical and continuing projects and initiatives, to name a few. New members must be ready day one, and we are in an unprecedented local situation where we may not have a lot of prior experience on council. Regardless of politics, we need to keep the wheels turning, so our Council can do its work. I want us to immediately look at our bylaws for City Council. We can make sure we never face another situation where all four seats are potentially replaced at the same time.”
Cosmato went on to say that he wants to continue to work with the New River Regional Planning Commission and that he wants to bolster citizen participation in city governance.
Mayor Horton, who is running unopposed and claims independent status, stated that his top priority would be to “continue to help Radford become the very best community we can be. Enhanced quality of life, economic development, investment in our citizens.”
The second query sent to candidates for Radford City Hall, asked what steps could be taken to improve the New River City.
Gillespie gave this answer.
“I believe the city can responsibly invest in our infrastructure while partnering with citizens, business owners and neighboring communities to further economic development and opportunity in Radford. I think it is critical we work closely with our school system to budget for current expenses and future projects to ensure we are providing the best education we can for our children while being financially responsible.”
Davis would concentrate on staffing and raising the morale of the police department, adding “Put our Citizens First and if you want to know what’s wrong, they’ll tell you!”
Foster stated that: “It has been an ongoing goal of council to make sure
we are a community where one wants to raise a family, work, play and eventually retire. There
has been a lot of emphasis on housing, as we know that remains a challenge … There have been ongoing efforts in the recruitment of new businesses to our city while supporting our current businesses.”
Foster went on to say supporting the local school system and collaborating with RU were also top priorities.
Artrip stated that improving the city’s infrastructure is key to stability and growth.
“I would like to ensure law enforcement and community programs have the resources they need to protect our citizens and provide them with every opportunity to prosper. I also want to support existing local businesses and welcome new businesses to the area that will provide much needed revenue and jobs to the area.”
Hamden gave this answer.
“Radford is the Heart of the New River for a reason. We are Strong, we are Courageous, and we are Passionate. We are Pioneers, we are Lovers, and we are Game Changers. Showcasing ALL of our Community as such by empowering, supporting, and highlighting marginalized populations as well as those we’ve historically recognized, will make Radford even better and bring its self-actualization to fruition.”
McClanahan said that, “One way is giving its youth ways and places and opportunities to spend time after school and during the summer.
Cosmato gave the following answer as to how to improve the New River City.
“Radford has a rather unique opportunity to bring our community together with the shared identity of The New River City. That slogan has effectively served as our brand for some time, but people don’t immediately identify as participants in the New River Life. We can build that identity together and make it a point of pride and shared prosperity. It works. San Antonio did it with their River Walk identity many years ago, and that is merely a drainage ditch in comparison to our New River.”
For his part, Mayor Horton emphasized ongoing efforts to improve the city including, “cleaning up areas, enhancing our parks and river access, working to help our citizens have better lives and more opportunity, and attracting 21st century jobs.”
Finally, we asked the candidates what their thoughts are on the concept of Equity, a term frequently used by both state and national politicians.
Gillespie responded by saying, “Everyone regardless of race, color, sexual orientation, religion, or socioeconomic status should be treated with respect and dignity.”
As far as the topic of Equity goes, Davis simply stated that, “Every decision should be made based on the facts and discussed with fellow council members.”
Foster defined Equity as the “Quality of being fair and impartial,” and went on to say that “It would be my hope that those that have come in contact with me as a school board
member, city council member, friend, family, or business associate would be able to say that I
conducted myself in this manner.”
Artrip had this to say on Equity.
“My thoughts on this topic are simple; we may not all be the same but we are all equal. We should strive to continue that thought as we make decisions for ourselves and our city. I am striving for a world where we listen more and work together.”
Hamlin had this to say.
“My thoughts on Equity are relatively simplistic and straightforward – my fight is and will always be for ALL People. While we advocate and demonstrate actionable resolve for populations that have been ignored, discriminated against, silenced, and devalued; alternately, we must be cautious to not tip the scales of justice in the opposite direction – Our collective goal should always be balance.”
“My thoughts on Equity is that no one person or race or even Political Affiliation is better than the other,” stated McClanahan. “We are all Citizens of the United States of America and we all should be treated as equals to make these United States even GREATER.”
Write in candidate Cosmato wrote the following.
“We can build and repair our sidewalks along Main Street all the way from East to West and that would go a long way towards providing the whole City equal pedestrian access to Main Street. However, we also can add curb cuts along the route to ensure that the very elderly, those with limited mobility and wheelchair users can actually use the sidewalk. An equity mindset means that we don’t stop at equal; we take a realistic view of everyone we serve and make sure all are beneficiaries of our work.”
Mayor Horton had this to say about equity.
“Our role in the community is to provide opportunity for all. One of the challenges we have is that throughout the course of history, there have been some people who’ve been unfairly advantage and others who’ve been unfairly disadvantaged. I don’t know that you can fix that all at one time. But I think what you can do as a society is, try your best to make sure that everybody has opportunity and the ability to do the work for the life they want to lead.”