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Mayor, council candidates are running unopposed

On Tuesday November 6, Urbanna voters will cast ballots for mayor and six town council seats. All seven positions are unopposed.

Although Janet Smith’s name will still be on the ballot, she has withdrawn from the election and is not a candidate for mayor.

Current Mayor Donald Richwine is seeking re-election.

Current council members seeking re-election include Lee Chewning, Joe Heyman, Bill Thrift, Joanie Ward and Boyd Wiley. Joining them on the ballot is newcomer Barbara Hartley.

The Southside Sentinel recently sent questionnaires to the Urbanna candidates. Following are short profiles of the candidates and their responses to questions.

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Mayor Don Richwine
Urbanna Mayor Don Richwine was born in Urbanna at his present homesite on Marston Avenue. He attended Urbanna Elementary School, Christchurch School and earned a civil engineering degree from the University of Virginia.

He has been married to his wife Judy for over 48 years and has 3 grown children and 5 grandchildren.

He worked for the Commonwealth of Virginia for 38 years in various capacities, including surveyor, grade foreman and inspector for VDOT; planner, state flood plain engineer, and state member of Appalachian Regional Commission for Division of Water Resources; planner, regional director, and EPA representative for Water Quality permits and the Chesapeake Bay Program for the Water Control Board; and writer of industrial permit limits and coal mine waste safety limits for the Department of Environmental Quality.

Richwine has served as Urbanna Mayor for the last two-plus years. He was, before that, a member of Town Council for 8 years and on the town planning commission for 10 years. For a time, during  these last couple of years, the town was without an administrator and the town code specified that the mayor act in this capacity. With the help of staff, he took on the necessary duties until the position was filled.

His volunteer work, other than serving the town, has included active involvement with the American Heart Association, March of Dimes, Cancer Society, Jacob’s Ladder, Middle School Reading Program, Oyster Festival committees, youth wrestling and Little League baseball and a citizens committee. He is also very active in the life of Urbanna United Methodist Church.

1.What are the two most important issues/concerns facing Urbanna today and in the near future, and how will you address them?

Richwine: We do not really see issues or concerns, but look at our situations as opportunities to build on for the betterment of Urbanna. So, the following two paragraphs reflect an optimism of the town council and staff.

In the poor economy and legal morass we’ve been in, it is refreshing to say we are making good progress financially and administratively. A major issue is building reserves with which we will begin to invest in needed infrastructure replacement and capital improvements. Needs at Taber Park, the Marina and Old Tobacco Warehouse are prominent in our vision and we will be addressing these areas.

Another important issue is promotion of the town’s assets and supporting the Urbanna Business Association efforts to enhance Urbanna and make it a destination. Cooperation between the Business Association and the various event committees along with county and state assistance is paramount to this goal. We have established events and venues to attract visitors. Now is the time to step up our efforts to show them what we have, what we are, and why we welcome them here.

2.  What else would you like to tell the citizens and voters of Urbanna?

Richwine: We feel that the town now has a complete staff and is becoming well-adjusted to their duties, and we look forward to working with and for our citizens to fulfill a promising future for Urbanna. A new Capital Improvement Plan will bring exciting and progressive changes to the town. We are making the Old Tobacco Warehouse operational and planning to expand tourism in collaboration with the Urbanna Business Association. We are looking at redevelopment of Taber Park, marina needs and a more maintenance-free water system. Not to be forgotten are our efforts to support financially and promotionally the library, rescue squad and fire department.

Council members have worked very hard to hire a good staff and revamp our financial system. The upcoming developments to advance our capital assets will be exciting. The promising opportunities in these next few months will elicit help from our citizens.

The Town of Urbanna has a wonderful and friendly family of residents. Let us unite and build our future together.

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Joanie Ward
Incumbent council member Joan “Joanie” Simonton Ward, 58, attended Middlesex County Public Schools. She worked as an assistant librarian at Middlesex High School and St. Clare Walker Middle School for 16 years. Community activities include: member of Urbanna United Methodist Church; a member of the Middlesex Volunteer Fire Department Woman’s Auxiliary, currently serving as treasurer; member of Urbanna Christmas Beautification Committee. She is married and has 2 children and 2 grandchildren.

1. What are the two most important issues/concerns facing Urbanna today and in the near future, and how will you address them?

Ward: One of the most important issues facing Urbanna today and in the near future continues to be the aging water system and our ability to finance the needed upgrades. Many of these water lines have been patched numerous times and continue to deteriorate. Over the past several years, the town has needed to replace sections that had passed the point of no return and could no longer be repaired. Council was forced to borrow money to cover these costs since we had no funds budgeted to cover the expenses. Beginning with the 2012-13 fiscal year, funds are being appropriated for capital improvement projects. I believe this is an important first step toward fiscal responsibility. Another important concern for Urbanna and small towns everywhere is the issue of attracting and maintaining businesses. Good businesses are the backbone of a community. Economic challenges such as a stagnant economy and a decrease in disposable income are magnified in a small town. I feel the key to building a healthy business community is to create an economic development plan that maximizes the community’s strengths. We continue to look for new and inventive ideas to promote Urbanna. It is vital that the town and the business community work together to secure our future.

2. What else would you like to tell the citizens and voters of Urbanna?

Ward: Over the past few years Urbanna has faced a number of challenges. I believe we have ‘weathered the worst of the storm’ and are working toward re-establishing a solid foundation of trust between the town and its citizens. Citizen participation is a valued and beneficial key to the success of government. I urge the citizens of Urbanna to become involved in the decision making process. Urbanna has a rich and diverse heritage. While the world changes around us, we have managed to maintain the small town qualities that have always made Urbanna a special place to live, work and play. I appreciate your support and will continue to work with council and staff to make informed decisions that benefit the entire community.

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Bill Thrift
Incumbent council member William Jesse “Bill” Thrift Jr., 69, has served on council for 13 years. He was chief of the Middlesex County Volunteer Fire Department for 34 years and has been a member for 50 years. Thrift has lived in Urbanna 42 years and is plant manager for Pitts Lumber Company in Saluda. Thrift is a member of the Urbanna Masonic Lodge #83 AF&AM, and is a member of New Hope United Methodist Church.

1. What are the two most important issues/concerns facing Urbanna today and in the near future, and how will you address them?

Thrift: There are many things that need to be fixed in town. A lot of water mains need to be replaced. We have made some big changes with the finances that have gotten the town in good shape at the present.

2.  What else would you like to tell the citizens and voters of Urbanna?

Thrift: Keep working to make our town better.

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Joe Heyman
Incumbent council member Joe Heyman is a member of Middlesex Rotary Club, Oyster Festival Foundation, Middlesex County Little League, Sports Complex Committee, Home Builders Association of the Rappahannock, James River Green Building Council and Middlesex County YMCA Board.

1.What are the two most important issues/concerns facing Urbanna today and in the near future, and how will you address them?

Heyman: Now that we have an actual budget to work from, and an understanding of our income and expenses, the most important issues are capital expenditure budgeting. The town needs to prioritize capital projects including the water system, town hall maintenance, the marina facility, swimming pool and tennis court. The town council needs to plan for the repair and maintenance of each of these facilities and address the need for a new facilities. The town citizens need to participate in a discussion to determine the spending priorities and willingness to commit funds long term to these capital projects.

2.  What else would you like to tell the citizens and voters of Urbanna?

Heyman: In spite of all the issues over the last 2-3 years, the town is in fairly good shape financially. The town needs to work closely with the business association and the entire county to improve opportunities in the town of Urbanna.  We need to promote tourism and expand the number of events to attract visitors to the town. I look forward to the opportunity to serve the town for another term.

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Barbara Hartley
Council candidate Barbara Hartley and her husband Cloyde W. Wiley III opened “Urbanna Harbor Gallery and Art Services” in May 2011.

The couple moved to Urbanna in May 2007, specifically to establish an art gallery, art services, a framing business and antique mall in the former Dollar Store building.

An important goal of theirs as members of the Urbanna Business Association is striving to create a year-around, lively, consumer-driven community, bringing business back to the streets of Urbanna, she said.

Hartley’s father was a 30-year Marine Colonel and she moved several times as his career dictated. She said she has adopted Urbanna as the home town she never had. Her husband grew up in Urbanna.

Hartley holds degrees in music education and communication arts. She has worked as head copywriter, art director, magazine editor, account executive for commercial printing, and vice president of Business Advocacy (lobbyist) and Communications for the Lynchburg Regional Chamber of Commerce.

1.What are the two most important issues/concerns facing Urbanna today and in the near future, and how will you address them?

Hartley: Urbanna’s #1 concern should be the revitalization of the town’s economic focus, taking stock of our current and potential assets, forming and implementing a plan to maximize them. Any secondary concern would be a subset of this. Our most recognizable asset is Urbanna Creek, upon which our future will be built as was our inception. First, we make sure that it is not a health hazard for people or marine life, and this involves solving the sewer discharge issue and properly managing access and usage. Second, we maximize tourism potential with a multi-faceted approach including our endemic historic importance as well as making this a premier attraction for high-dollar boaters and other travelers, getting them to come, linger and happily spend their money here.

Empty storefronts hurt the whole town. Most of the town’s businesses are small, independently owned endeavors. They represent investments of time, money, and physical effort, in many cases close to 100% of the owners’ personal assets. These business owners are asking for no hand-outs, but wouldn’t a concerted and on-going marketing effort for the whole town benefit everyone?

While tourism based on history, boating, art, antiques, & unique boutiques might appear to be our most plausible marketing focus at the moment, we should be looking toward making Urbanna a decidedly business-friendly town to open up possibilities for more employment opportunities close to home. It’s nice that we have so many weekend and seasonal homes here, but drive around town on a winter evening and notice the high percentage of dark houses. We should be searching for ways to keep a year-round population here, working and contributing to our mutual success. It’s all about community vitality. Don’t accept as a forgone conclusion that the vitality of the past is forever gone with the aging baby boomers.

2. What else would you like to tell the citizens and voters of Urbanna?

Hartley: I’ve never before aspired to hold public office. But, before moving to Urbanna, I was employed as VP of Business Advocacy for the Lynchburg Regional Chamber, where I was in charge of Communications and Legislative Affairs, staffing two committees, Transportation and Legislative Affairs. Each winter, during the General Assembly session, I stayed in Richmond as the Chamber’s registered lobbyist. Focuses were business concerns and transportation issues as they pertained to business and economic development. My background in marketing, advertising, editorial work, and education afforded me the ability to work directly with legislators and the Director of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT), under Governor Mark Warner, to actually write proposed legislation for creation of the TransDominion Express, a modern passenger rail system.

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Lee Chewning
Incumbent council member Lee Chewning, 62, has lived in Urbanna for the last 8 years and is seeking his third term on council. He and his wife Suzanne are Realtors with IsaBell Horsley Real Estate and own The Inn at Urbanna Creek on Watling Street.

1. What are the two most important issues/concerns facing Urbanna today and in the near future, and how will you address them?

Chewning: One of the most important challenges we on town council have is trying to reenergize the Business District of Urbanna. Like so many other small towns we are faced with the loss of many of our core retail businesses. We are now a weekend destination.  We are fortunate to have several new businesses that have led the charge in trying to promote Urbanna as an interesting weekend destination. The Chesapeake Inn has done a great job of offering promotions that bring a number of people into town. When they’re busy then the ripple effect works for the restaurants and local shops.

One of the most impressive projects has been the revitalization of The Taylor Building. It is now filled with a new sense of vitality that has attracted great businesses like Lowe Tide and Cross Street Coffee. Our guests are totally impressed with the quality of these entrepreneurs. We as a town need to do more to promote ourselves so that visitors have many interesting options to bring them back more than just once. We need to do more to promote our most valuable asset—Urbanna Creek. We have a terrific town marina that’s run by an enthusiastic and talented manager but we need to do more to attract more guests. We have a great facility that needs to be used for more than just docking boats. We need to promote weekend events and Festivals that can showcase our waterfront. We need much more than just the Oyster Festival to help our town grow and hopefully thrive. The mayor and council have taken some important steps toward getting the town more organized. We now have a town administrator and treasurer who have both added significant contributions toward the organization and credibility of Urbanna. Much progress has been made but there is so much more left to do.

2. What else would you like to tell the citizens and voters of Urbanna?

Chewning: Suzanne and I moved back from Charleston, S.C., where we had lived for 12 years. When we returned we bought a lovely 1800s home in the Historic District and opened The Inn at Urbanna Creek. It’s amazing how many of our guests have never been to Urbanna before and are captivated by its small town charm. Of course everyone who visits has heard of the Oyster Festival.

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Boyd Wiley
Boyd Wiley has served on Town Council since Spring 2011.  He is currently seeking re-election for this position.

A native of Urbanna, Wiley grew up on Lord Mott Road, then Cross Street. His parents, Cloyde and Gene Wiley, moved the family to New Kent when Boyd was in high school. He graduated from James Madison University and settled in Richmond. His love of state natural resources led him to a position at the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality where he has been employed for 36 years.  His current position as an environmental engineer involves construction management and making loans through the Virginia Clean Water Revolving Loan Fund to towns, cities, and counties for the construction of wastewater treatment facilities.

Wiley and his wife Brenda moved to Urbanna in 2007 and live on Cross Street, across from the home where he grew up.  Since moving back, Wiley has used his experience and education to serve as a concerned, involved member of Urbanna Town Council and the Urbanna Planning Commission. He is active in the Urbanna United Methodist Church.

1. What are the two most important issues/concerns facing Urbanna today and in the near future, and how will you address them?

Wiley: The economy is a primary concern for Americans today and its impact on Urbanna will be my focus if I am re-elected to council. We need to encourage a vibrant and productive business and real estate market within Urbanna. Other issues that need attention are capital improvement projects such as rehabilitation of the town’s water system and construction of a new town pool and recreation facilities at Taber Park.  I will work with members of council, residents and business leaders to promote Urbanna as a great place to visit and live. I am eager to talk with citizens and bring forward ideas and concerns that will assist in accomplishing these goals.

2. What else would you like to tell the citizens and voters of Urbanna?

Wiley: I am anxious to serve the town I have always loved. My goal continues to be to help preserve Urbanna’s unique cultural and historical past while making careful, financially responsible decisions to support new business and services for our residents and visitors.

posted 10.24.2012

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