Below are live blog notes from the Feb. 2 City Council meeting, where the five finalists for the vacated City Council seat were interviewed in open session. The Board then went into closed session and returned just over an hour later to vote on who to appoint to the open seat.
Council resumed at 20.51
Terry Holmes was appointed to fill a vacant seat on the City Council by a 6-0 vote.
The meeting was then adjourned.
Public discussion ended at 7:35 p.m. The council goes into closed session.
Douglas Payton said he was torn. He thinks Terry Holmes would do a good job. “In the long term, I think Mr. Venable would be a good choice for the future.”
Barbara Lee said: “My vote definitely goes to Ken Venable, who shows us what leadership means.” She said: “He took a lot of heat, and if you can take heat from Staunton, you’ve done a good job.”
Sheila Ahmadi said Ken Venable was good for the city. She said he “demonstrated his leadership, his commitment to the community.” She also highly recommends Adam Campbell for his community work and critical thinking.
The next speaker, Tracey from Middlebrook Avenue, was “also impressed with Adam Campbell”.
“Someone who is principled, honest, respectful of others,” that’s what Rosanna’s next speaker wanted. She thanked the council for its “new tone” and sense of humor. “You all make Staunton better, one decision at a time,” she told the council.
Lisa Hatter says, “Each candidate brings valuable skills and experience.” She supports Wilson Faubert. “He has a vision beyond the immediate future. I also found him to be a very kind, patient person with a heart for service.”
Jordan Zipser supported both Campbell and Venable.
Brenda Mead also supports Adam Campbell. “He brings a broader perspective to Staunton. He really understands what a Staunton gem is.”
“This man impressed me.” That man was Adam Campbell. He would be “the luckiest draw,” said another speaker.
Pamela Mason Wagner suggests a forward-thinking person for the position and nominates Adam Campbell for the position.
A public discussion has begun. Zoom participants can “raise their hands” and have a chance to speak.
Campbell sits in the crowd, as do the rest of the finalists.
In general, the atmosphere is soulful, a bit gossipy, sometimes subdued. Everyone is talking very quietly, there are a lot of jokes and smiles in the room, but you can see some looks around the room and at the candidates.
Who has the upper hand with six council members?
“I’m here for the long haul,” Campbell says. And the last interview ends. Recess until 7:15 p.m., when comment time begins.
“I have a good support team,” Campbell says of how his family on both sides have moved to the city to allow him to devote time to the role.
“Communities that invest in themselves are attractive and desirable for business,” he says. He thinks the city has done a great job and mentions the West End and Uniontown, saying they need to improve and that there are new opportunities the city hasn’t taken advantage of in terms of community block grants and other grants to help the city.
He also says we need more investment in our existing businesses, not just Staunton Crossing.
“I feel like I’ll be able to jump right in, with a minimal learning curve,” Campbell says, drawing on his experience. He has been on the planning commission and believes he can work well with people in local government.
He drew laughter when he talked about when he finally moved into a house across the street from his church. He was put on the construction team and is now shoveling snow in front of the church.
Campbell says his strengths are “problem solving and critical thinking.” He talks about being able to “lead and collaborate” as he does with VDOT. “I think that’s where I really stand out.”
“It’s a small town where you can make a big difference,” Campbell says. He wants to serve and rule to help the city.
“I really just want to do my part,” Campbell says. He and his wife moved to Staunton, fell in love with the city, and decided to raise their children here. “We can’t see ourselves anywhere else.”
And here’s Adam Campbell.
Adam Campbell will be the last of the finalists to be interviewed at 6:30.
“I want to serve this year. I want to serve next year.” Faubert is “absolutely ready” to run again for a full term.
“I can be here at 9:00 in the morning and I can be here late at night,” Faubert says in response to the work commitment. He says the city council will need to focus on housing as the city grows. “I want the housing to be comfortable, I want it to be safe,” he says.
He is concerned about the potential growth of Staunton as a result of the Staunton Crossing project and how that could affect the housing stock. According to Faubert, Staunton is already facing a housing shortage, and he sees opportunities.
Faubert spoke of “activation” when the Statler brothers moved away from celebrating the Fourth of July.
Faubert served in local churches with his wife for four decades.
He has experience in real estate and retail and believes his in-depth knowledge of Staunton’s businesses can help him connect the City Council with residents. A former vice chairman of the EDA, he is passionate about Staunton Crossing and wants to be involved.
Faubert believes his knowledge of Staunton is his number one skill he will bring to the job. He says he started working at the age of 10 and gained valuable skills as well as information about the city. “I think the history of it helps me a lot.”
“I’m very stubborn,” he says. He likes to see projects through.
Faubert says he likes “working with people and understanding that people have different views.”
He says his love for Staunton is why he wanted to apply, and he has a strong desire to help make a difference.
Like Venable and Holmes, Butler joins the crowd and chats with people during the break.
Wilson Faubert is next at 6 p.m.
Butler is proposing a tax cut for businesses in response to whatever idea he brings to the council. The interview ends on time.
Butler talks about how VRBO (Vacation Rentals by Owner) is bad for urban areas. He opposes short-term rentals in the community as more people move into the area and buy properties.
He says mediation is his number one skill and something he will bring to the City Council.
“I kept my head and did honorable things.” He was referring to his time in the army. He doesn’t think the council will be that stressed. “Damn it, man. I got shot at, I got shot at, I got beat up.” He calls Staunton “a place of peace.”
“I’m at a point in my life where I can really give back,” Butler says. He’s also had legal and military experience, but at 55, he feels it’s time to move on and start a new chapter.
He calls the AC courthouse moving from Staunton a disgrace.
Butler, who was invited to take his time, probably spent more time considering matters such as the courthouse and Staunton Crossing than the first two interviewees. He says Staunton will grow up.
“We may not like how it’s going to grow, but it’s going to grow.” He says it’s important to monitor growth.
Graham Butler makes the rounds, shaking hands with council members.
Reporter Akhil Ganesh, who is present at the meeting, says the mood is very relaxed. He saw councilors Edwards, Woods and Arrowood talking to people in the crowd, much discussion among the audience itself.
Holmes and Venable joined the audience after their interview.
The first two interviews were quick, friendly and informal. Both Venable and Holmes are well known to the council.
Graham Butler is scheduled for 5:30.
Holmes has indicated that he will not seek election in November and will fill the vacant seat to keep things running smoothly until then.
A few more notes on what Holmes said during the interview:
In addition to being fresh off the council, Holmes credits his experience as a business owner in the community with giving him a connection to the community and its issues.
He has lived through several periods of economic decline in the city, and he feels that he understands how to help the city survive these times.
One goal he wants to accomplish in the near future is to run the juvenile courts in Staunton. He pointed to the fact that the city doesn’t have a lot of buying or borrowing capacity right now, so a big issue that needs to be addressed quickly will be how they handle the courts.
Holmes finished his interview. In addition to being fresh off the council, Holmes credits his experience as a business owner in the community with giving him a connection to the community and its issues.
Terry Holmes is currently sitting down for an interview. A former councilor jokes: “I thought you all couldn’t do without me.”
The meeting is almost back on. People change their watches. . .
The first interview started early and lasted about 15 minutes. If the rest goes like this, we could see more such outages of more than 10 minutes. (But maybe we just glossed over it.)
People continue to trickle into the boardrooms for interviews, but we’re still down to less than 20 people.
After the first interview is done, the meeting is adjourned until the next scheduled applicant, Terry Holmes, arrives. His interview is scheduled for 5 p.m
“Education is the key to the future of the city and the United States.” Venable believes his experience is there, and his connections through various boards with other leaders, including city representatives in Richmond, will be very helpful.
Venable believes his background in the corporate world will help him think about things from different angles, and he believes in his ability to analyze budgets.
The board is starting work ahead of schedule with Kenneth Venable serving as school board chairman.
Despite the seriousness of the night, this is a rare encounter. Maybe ten people in the audience to be interviewed.
The city has the following interview schedule:
4.30pm – Kenneth Venable
5pm – Terry Holmes
5.30pm – Graham Butler
18:00 – Wilson Faubert
6.30pm – Adam Campbell
Each applicant will be asked six questions, and each question will take about 2-3 minutes to answer. Then there will be a short 10 minute break between each interview.
After the interview, there will be time for public comments. Speakers will be limited to 2 minutes.