For the first time since Norfolk shifted to the election of its school board four years ago, on May 1 the city will see the first slate of candidates for five seats on that panel.
The winners will be serving four-year terms.
Mirroring the same voting district used to elect city council, 14 candidates are running for school board seats in Wards 1 through 5. Last year, voters elected the chair and the vice chair of the school board.
There have been more forums and debates among the school board meetings around the city than for city council. Each of the school board candidates has been addressing questions about the budget, teacher benefits and how to end academic disparities facing Norfolk Public Schools’ majority Black student population.
Norfolk School Board
In Ward 1, a Navy veteran and former interim council member Nicole Carry is running against Adale Martin, the executive Director of the Slover Library Foundation.
In Ward 2, ODU academic adviser Brittany Shearer and Virginia Beach public school teacher Nate Kinnison will take on incumbent Tonya Bhasin.
For Ward 3, one of three majority Black voting wards, there are three contenders: Virginia Beach public school teacher, Ronel Brewer; learning
specialist and former Navy Cryptologist Jackie Glass; and Carlos Clanton, former director of the Norfolk Education Foundation and employee at the Hampton Roads Community Action program.
In Ward 4, four persons are running: Christine Smith, an accountant; Bonita Anthony, an ODU engineering school administrator; NSU Education professor Dr. Leon Rouson; and public school substitute teacher Alfreda Thomas.
In Ward 5, two person are running: Lauren Campsen, former Ocean View Elementary School principal; and Arthur Broadbent, NPS educator.
Norfolk City Council
Norfolk Councilman Paul Riddick, who is the longest serving member of the city council, is seeking another, and he says, his final term, unopposed for Ward 4. That ward is one of two largely African-American populated wards.
Riddick, over his long tenure, has been one of the most vocal members on council about the economic disparities facing the residents of city’s urban core, where most of the city’s poorest and Black residents reside.
One of the most challenging things he faces, he said, is co-chairing the Mayor’s Advisory Committee tasked with leading the city’s effort to redeveloped the St. Paul’s area of downtown. This major project calls for the demolitions of three large public housing communities which sit inside it.
Riddick was the lone no vote on a resolution approving the collaboration between the city and The Norfolk Reveleopment and Housing Authority on the project which he called gentrification. He said that regardless of the outcome, he wants to see safe, clean and affordable housing for the displace residents once they have been removed to make way for the development.
Also Tommy Smigiel, who has been on Norfolk City Council for eight years will run unopposed in Ward 5, as will Martin Thomas, who is unchallenged for his first reelection bid in Ward 1.
In Ward 2, with Councilwoman Theresea Whibley not seeking another term, three persons are running: Courtney Doyle, a former school board member; Thomas Warburton, a healthcare technology consultant; and Donald Roby, Jr, a general contractor.
In Ward 3, a majority Black populated ward, Councilwoman Mamie Johnson, the incumbent, is being challenged by William H. Collins Jr., who ran against her in 2014. Collins is the brother of the late councilman Herbert Collins. This is the second campaign he has waged for the seat on council once held by his brother.
Collins said that the incumbent has failed at luring millions of economic dollars to Ward 3 which went to other parts of the city.
While she supports the idea of a controversial proposed recycling facility being used for recycling, recently Johnson stood firmly with other city leaders opposing its use to store garbage in the heart of Barraud Park/Bruce’s Park/Lindenwood/Cottage Heights of her ward.
The site is zoned for recycling, but the city has discovered that only 10 percent of the refuse would be recyclable.
Collins, who lives in the Ballentine section of the ward, said the city’s “last minute opposition” to the facility shows ineffective leadership. He calls the project an example environmental racism in the heart of the mostly working class Black communities.
Chesapeake City Council
In Chesapeake, 16 candidates are seeking to fill five seats for that city’s city council during the May 1 election.
Three candidates in the race are African-American: Incumbent Councilwoman Dr. Ella Ward; Councilman Dwight Parker; and Les Smith.
Dr. Ward, with the second longest tenure on Chesapeake City Council, is seeking another four-year term. She is currently one of the two Blacks on the governing panel.
Ward has served on Chesapeake City Council for 12 years since 2006. She also served six years on the Chesapeake School Board from 2000-2006. Her campaign calls for her continued support for school funding, public safety and revitalization.
Councilman Dwight Parker, who was appointed to the council when Richard W. West was appointed Mayor, is seeking to retain that two-year slot.
Les Smith, who is currently employed in the financial industry, retired from the Chesapeake Sheriff’s Office after 28 years. The Chesapeake native says he wants to bring more business, jobs and revenue to the city. His campaign supports school funding, public safety and programs to offset poverty. He has been endorsed by the Chesapeake Democratic Committee, International Brotherhood of Police Officers, Chesapeake Education Association, New Chesapeake Men for Progress. Del. Cliff Hayes and Sen. Lionell Spruill, among others.
Several familiar faces are running including Vice Mayor John De Triquet, who is seeking reelection for a two-year term.
Others seeking two-year seats are Marty Williams, a Planning Commissioner, and engineer David Schleeper.
Among the eight challengers for the four-year terms on council are Gene Waters, a former member; Steve Best, a former city fire chief; Les Smith; Matthew Hamel; Susan R. Vitale; and Roland Davis Jr..
Seeking a four-year term are Jennifer Barnes a founder of the Chesapeake Small Farmers Association; Mary Lou Burke; and Levin Turner.
Mayor West is being challenged by Jo Anne M. Gallant for that seat on council.
Chesapeake School Board
Eleven citizens in Chesapeake are seeking five available seats on the Chesapeake School Board on May 1.
They are Bryan A. “Bubba” Miles, Colleen C. Leary, Louis J. Tayon, Jr., Harry A. Murphy, Michael J. Woods, Patricia Y. King, Gayle M. Gilmore, Luis F. Padilla, Sharon Johnson-Clayton, Bradley A. Whitlow, and Christie New Craig.
By Leonard E. Colvin