Vernon Tillage, Jr. is a candidate for Portsmouth City Council. His name will appear on the ballot on Nov. 8, 2022.

10 On Your Side reached out to all of the candidates running in this race. If you do not see a candidate listed with a profile, we did not receive one.

See who is on your ballot by viewing the candidate lists on the Virginia Department of Elections website.

Name: Vernon Tillage

Race: Portsmouth City Council

Website: Vernon Tillage for Portsmouth city Council

Biography: Vernon Lamont Tillage, Jr. is a life-long resident of the city of Portsmouth. He was raised by a single mother who instilled in me the value of community service. She taught him that everyone has a story and to always try to help make a life for someone a little bit easier. He came up through Portsmouth Public Schools, graduating from Churchland High School, and earning my bachelor of science degree from Old Dominion University.

Upon graduating from ODU, Tillage served as a legislative assistant in the Virginia General Assembly and a regional outreach representative in the U.S. Senate. He also managed various local campaigns in Portsmouth. He currently serves as the community affairs coordinator for Virginia Natural Gas. In 2021, he was recognized by the ODU Alumni Association and was awarded their inaugural “Top 40 Under 40” award, which is awarded to individuals who have forged exceptional achievements and will leave an indelible mark before the age of 40.

When Tillage is not working, he remains engaged throughout the community. He is the chair of the Portsmouth Democratic Committee and the board president of Friends of the Portsmouth Juvenile Court, Inc. He has previously served as a board member of Portsmouth Volunteers for the Homeless, Portsmouth Complete Count Commission (vice-chair), Portsmouth Park and Recreation Commission, Martin Luther King, Jr. Leadership Committee (executive board), Portsmouth Downtown Design Committee, and Hampton Roads Young Democrats (vice president).

Why should residents elect you to City Council?

Citizens should elect me to Portsmouth City Council because I will serve with integrity, leadership, and efficiency. We need strong leadership with a vision that will work to serve all the citizens of Portsmouth. My moral compass is my backbone and identity. I will work daily to build and earn the trust and respect of the people of Portsmouth.

Having served on the Portsmouth School Board and in various leadership roles in a competent and caring manner, I have the ability and skills needed to get the job done. I am a team player committed to hard work. I have an expectation of accountability from others as well as holding myself accountable to the people. We are living in times of tremendous opportunities to turn our city around to become that shining city on the hill we are proud to call Portsmouth home.

What are the top three priorities you would tackle if elected?

My top three priorities for Portsmouth City Council are to:

  1. Improve Public Safety
  2. Rebuild Our Infrastructure
  3. Recruit economic development

What is the most pressing economic issue facing your community, and how would you address it?

Recruiting economic development is vital to the success of our city. Portsmouth is a landlocked city with a lot of state and federal-owned property, which has resulted in Portsmouth having the highest real estate tax rate. Portsmouth needs to recruit new businesses that will complement our waterways, the port, and the shipyard. In addition to recruiting new companies, we must work on retaining our existing businesses. I will advocate for incentives and tax abatement programs that will encourage existing businesses to continue to invest in our city.

Public safety concerns and instability at city hall are two obstacles that are currently preventing economic development. We have a chance this November to remove those barriers. I pledge that if provided the opportunity to serve on the Portsmouth City Council, I will continue to serve this city with dignity, integrity, and respect to create the stability needed to move our great city forward.

What are your community’s biggest infrastructure needs, and how do you plan to fulfill them?

Portsmouth is in desperate need of rebuilding its infrastructure. The city needs to invest in road improvements, street lighting, and its water system. Portsmouth’s current water system has a life expectancy of approximately 50 years, and we have water lines between 60 and100 years old.

Our city’s water towers are deteriorating and are an eye sore across the city. If our water towers look that way on the outside, imagine the appearance of the underground systems. Portsmouth is an official U.S. Coast Guard city, home to the Port of Virginia, the Norfolk Naval Shipyard, and the Portsmouth Naval Hospital. The same water that goes to our citizens’ homes goes to the federal and state-owned properties in the city of Portsmouth. The state and federal governments have a vested interest in the city of Portsmouth, and I will work to lobby our state and federal legislatures to secure funding to upgrade and rebuild our infrastructure.

How is gun violence impacting your community, and how do you plan to address gun violence?

Gun violence has plagued the city of Portsmouth for far too long. We have lost so many children and adults due to gun violence. As a city council member, I pledge to address gun violence and crime by addressing the root causes of crime and poverty. I will vote to invest in recruiting and retaining our public safety personnel and provide them with the resources and technology upgrades they need to respond to emergencies efficiently.

In addition, I will advocate for providing our citizens with opportunities to advance in life by increasing access to mental health services, substance abuse treatment, and workforce opportunities. Community organizations will also play a massive role in helping combat gun violence, and we must maintain efficient community partnerships. Street lighting needs to be improved, as well as cameras throughout the city, to deter crime. It is past time for the city to say, “Enough is enough,” and we must make public safety a top priority in our city.