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Three South Boston Councilmen Seek Reelection

(EDITOR’S NOTE: Councilmanic elections will be held next Tuesday, May 4, in the Towns of South Boston, Halifax and Virgilina. Today’s edition features interviews with the candidates seeking reelection to seats on South Boston Town Council. Incumbent South Boston Town Council members Coleman Speece, Ed Owens and Bill Snead each are running unopposed in their bids for reelection to the three open council seats.)

W.R. “Bill” Snead Jr.
W.R. “Bill” Snead Jr., who is seeking his second term on South Boston Town Council in May, said one of has been the location in South Boston of a Virginia Workforce One-Stop Center in South Boston.

“We worked very closely with several state agencies, and we were able to provide a building for the Virginia Employment Commission and the Workforce Investment Board,” said Snead.

“Our county was very close to losing our employment office, and our South Boston IDA was able to provide a lot in Houghton Industrial Park and construct a facility to take care of our unemployed citizens.”

The joint effort of the towns of Halifax and South Boston, along with Halifax County, in creating the Halifax County Service Authority has been another accomplishment during his term, Snead noted.

“The towns of South Boston and Halifax came together with the county, and we were able to create the Halifax County Service Authority to meet the needs of all the water and sewer customers,” said Snead.

“The goal is to eventually have equal billing in all the areas where water and sewer is available.”

The continued development of the Washington-Coleman Community Center, downtown South Boston and the landfill gas project are foremost among the biggest issues facing council in the next four years, according to Snead.

“I would like to see Washington-Coleman developed into a community center that would meet the needs of all ages from toddlers to the elderly,” said Snead.

“This could become a nice sports facility for our young people.  We must continue to do all we can to give our youth a positive place to be and a safe place with a variety of activities for them.

“We want to continue to do what we can to make our downtown a great place to visit, whether for lunch, dinner or entertainment.  Hopefully, more retailers will look at downtown for their business ventures.

“It is great that some developers have developed apartments on some second floors in our historic buildings downtown.”

“Another issue that will help us financially will be capturing the gases that are emitting from the landfill and selling the carbon credits as the gases are burned off or either producing electricity from turbines that run off the gas.”

Making steps economically and culturally in South Boston, despite current economic constraints, will best be addressed “as our entire county keeps making positive steps economically,” noted Snead.

“The Southern Virginia Higher Education Center is a major step in our community.  The Prizery is another step.

“We must continue to support our school system specifically in keeping smaller classes and retaining great teachers.

“The classroom is the key to learning.  It is exciting to see our students winning national and state competitions.

“Our town and county IDAs are working hard to find industries, large or small, that can provide jobs that will bring our children back home after college. 

“The Town of South Boston will continue to contribute wherever possible in order to help us economically and culturally, such as providing building sites in Houghton Park for the hospital, the Virginia Employment Commission and South Boston Elementary School.”

Snead said he and his fellow councilmen “invite all citizens to bring ideas to the table anytime.”

“At our town council meetings, we always have a ‘citizen comment’ time on our agenda,” said Snead.

“We will listen, and we value the input from our citizens.  The seven citizens on town council cannot do this by themselves.

“We need individuals with an idea to bring that idea to us and together make our town a great place to live, worship, work and play.”

Coleman Speece
Coleman Speece, a retired Burlington executive, has served two and a half terms on South Boston Town Council, and is seeking reelection in next week’s council elections.

Council’s biggest accomplishments in his tenure, according to Speece, include participating in the creation of The Prizery and Community Arts Center and working with county government and school board in building a new elementary school in South Boston.

Another accomplishment has been participation in the creation of the Halifax County Public Service Authority, “which will enhance economic development for the entire area,” he said.

Council also participated with the county in establishing the regional solid waste landfill, thereby closing the town’s landfill, and council helped create the One Stop Center, which allowed the town to keep its employment commission office.

The construction of a new medical center and continued revitalization efforts including the Taylor Lofts and Church Hill Project are also on Speece’s list of accomplishments during his tenure on council.

“The biggest issues facing council in the next four years are economic in nature,” according to Speece.

They include guiding the town through the financial pitfalls facing all local governments as the country struggles with its economic slump, Speece said, and successfully completing the town’s project to capture methane gas from its closed landfill and convert it into profitable use.

Two other issues facing council are obtaining funding and completing its planned project to convert Washington-Coleman into a community center for recreation and other uses, and continuing to work with the town and county Industrial Development Authorities in exploring all possible avenues for obtaining new industries and adding jobs for area citizens.

How to address the town’s economic and cultural revitalization efforts in the face of current economic conditions is a difficult question with no simple answer, Speece noted.

“I believe we have to continue to do some of the things we have been doing.  We have an extremely bright and resourceful town manager (Ted Daniel), who over the past 10 years has been instrumental in obtaining millions of dollars in grants, which have been essential in upgrading some of our public utility functions as well as in the progress already made in the areas of revitalization, culture and the arts.

“I believe it is clear that we can’t fund the planned and hoped for activities with direct tax dollars; therefore, we must continue to find creative ways to fund these projects, using all the resources at our disposal.

“One of the key resources has been assistance from the Southside Planning District Commission, and I expect that we will continue to utilize its talent in searching for and preparing grants for our projects.”

Ed Owens
South Boston resident and Halifax businessman Ed Owens is running for his fourth term on South Boston Town Council.

Owens said working with Halifax Regional Health System to build the Primary Care Center at Houghton Industrial Park is one of the biggest accomplishments of his past four years on council.

“Also, working with the VEC to keep them in our community with the location of a One-Stop Center at Houghton Industrial Park, and the creative re-use of the former Washington-Coleman Elementary School, one of our most historic sites in South Boston, are big accomplishments,” said Owens.

Converting the Taylor Building into affordable housing, working with the Church Hill project to help revitalize that historic section of South Boston, and successfully closing the landfill with plans to generate revenue from a landfill gas to energy project are also on the list of accomplishments, according to Owens.

“I think the biggest issues facing council in the next four years is how to supply core services such as police, fire, street maintenance and utilities when we have a dwindling tax base,” said Owens.

“It’s going to be tough to hold the tax line and continue to supply those services.

“To keep the level of service at a high level with a dwindling tax base and a down economy will be a challenge,” he added.

Fiscal responsibility is a key as the town continues its economic and cultural growth in a sour economy, Owens stated.

“First of all, we have to be fiscally responsible with what we already have,” Owens noted.

“We are the stewards of peoples’ money.  Then, we have to actively find money sources to do major and much-needed projects.

“We can use our money to leverage other funds.  By the same token, we need to utilize and maximize what we currently have like The Prizery and Higher Ed Center, and let them create some synergy in our downtown.”

Council needs continued input from citizens as to how the town moves forward in its efforts toward revitalization and attracting new businesses, Owens added.

“We (council) don’t have all the answers, and we’ve got to get more people involved, a more diverse group of people in town involved in the process.

“To do that, we have to open it up so people can feel more comfortable being involved in the process and don’t feel intimidated.

“That’s the way I see us moving through this economic downturn to revitalize our community.

“By getting those ideas we can take the best of them and utilize them.  Some people think when they come down and say something, we don’t listen, but we do listen.”

Despite ongoing challenges, Owens said he feels the town is headed in the right direction.

“I think our town right now is in as good a shape as it’s been in a long time,” said Owens.

“Our neighborhoods are starting to look better, and don’t get me wrong, we have a long way to go.

“But, I’m encouraged about the future of our community.”

Coming Friday
To be featured in Friday’s edition are candidates seeking election in the Town of Halifax including Gilbert F. (Dick) Moore who is running unopposed for mayor, political newcomer Thomas Roy Brown Jr. seeking to represent Ward A, incumbent Tommy Reagan in Ward B, incumbent Jack Dunavant in Ward C and Halifax Planning Commission member Phil J. Hammond Jr. who is seeking election in Ward D.

Moore currently holds the seat on council from Ward D, but his run for mayor cleared the way for Hammond to seek the seat on town council.

In the Town of Virgilina race, Mayor Ralph O. Murray Jr. is running unopposed.

In addition to Murray, Kirke C. Hooper, R. Owen Murray Sr., Jason H. Johnson, Thomas Keith Tuck Jr., Catherine A. Ellixson, Tammy H. Elliott and R. Edward Chandler Jr. are the seven candidates vying for the six town council seats in Virgilina.