PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — While three cities in Hampton Roads will be electing mayors this fall, only Portsmouth has an open seat — and six candidates want to make it theirs.
Current Mayor John Rowe, 76, is not seeking a second term. Whoever follows after him will be thrown headfirst into what can be objectively described as a climate in transition.
Since Aug. 1, the city has seen criminal charges brought against some of its own public officials, its police chief placed on leave, the resignation of its city manager, and the firing of its city attorney. Its vice mayor was also at risk of losing her council seat.
The city has a well-known history of political dysfunction and many have had enough.
10 On Your Side was at a mayoral candidates forum Tuesday evening held at Roger Browns Restaurant and Sports Bar in Olde Towne — one of the many mayoral forums being held across the city. WAVY-TV Senior Political Reporter Andy Fox served as the moderator.
“How [are] we going to make life better for us in Portsmouth?” was the question asked by a member of the audience, which can be best be used to sum up the discussion.
Only four of the six candidates were in attendance. Current Councilman Shannon Glover, Tony Goodwin, Cliff Page and Donna Sayegh. Councilman Paul Battle and former councilman Danny Meeks didn’t show up.
All four agreed the city needs to do a better job of bringing and keeping new businesses downtown.
Tony Goodwin, who leads the Olde Towne Business Association, went further, saying that if he becomes mayor, his plan for the waterfront is to make sure it is considered a “tourism zone” in order to open up financing and funding.
However, when it comes to plans to build a resort-casino off Victory Boulevard, only Glover rose to say he was in favor of it.
“They don’t work in all places, but they do work in some places,” Glover said candidly to the audience. “They will create much-needed tax revenue and good-paying jobs.”
Goodwin — while believing the city needed a new attraction to draw visitors in — feels the location is not right. Sayegh says gambling is not going to bring families to the city and Page says it will bring more problems — such as gambling addiction.
Of course, there is a big hole that needs to be filed in the city: a new city manager. Dr. Lydia Pettis Patton resigned and left with few allies last month.
“Number 1, she wouldn’t communicate with me, so that was one reason I didn’t like her,” Sayegh said.
Candidates were asked what qualities they would look for in her replacement. All four candidates stressed that they need a city manager to be a good communicator and cheerleader for the city.
“Hope that this [current] council does not appoint a city manager until a new council sits itself at the table,” Page said.
It appears that won’t be honored, as the current mayor says they hope to make a hire before the end of the year.
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