VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — Following the Tuesday elections, WAVY News sat down one-on-one with newly-reelected Virginia Beach Mayor Bobby Dyer and City Councilwoman Jessica Abbott. We talked about the many issues facing them during the next four years.
Like this one: If restaurants expand dining outside their doors, should they have to pay extra taxes?
Abbott quick with a response: “It has been a successful program, and we need to expand it without any new taxes.”
Dyer agreed: “They won’t be taxed more… I am for that 100%.”
Dyer says economic development is priority number one to pay for stormwater infrastructure and aging and new schools.
Abbott talked about vacant big box stores. Some with 100,000 square feet of empty space, like the closed down Kmart in Kempsville.
COVID-19 has clearly shifted the sands on where we stand when it comes to business in the area, and City Council knows they must adjust — like easing zoning restrictions from light industrial to residential.
“If you were to take a 200-unit apartment complex in that shopping center you would give them an anchor back… There are so many restaurants around there that would also benefit from it.”
Abbott grew up in Virginia Beach and returned later.
The mayor is concerned too many of our children don’t return to the area, and to that end, we need to diversify our local economy.
“We need to do that with fiber optic and broadband. We have a whole bunch of folks who want to come to our city and open their businesses,” Dyer said.
Abbott says her next four years are dedicated to creating more areas like the ViBe District.
“I got around and people tell me they don’t feel the beach is theirs, like it’s only for the tourists… What we need to do is start solving the problem and creating more ViBe Districts…I think the ViBe is starting to solve our problems.”
Dyer says helping to make Virginia Beach a year-round destination is what the Virginia Beach Sports Center is all about.
“The secret is turning us into a year-round destination. The sports center gives us tons of teams that are staying in our hotels, using our restaurants, and providing a safe environment where they can go.”
Dyer won with a commanding lead by the end of election night. We asked him about his style of leadership that had been challenged by his opponent Jody Wagner, who said Virginia Beach needs a full-time mayor, and Dyer is not that guy.
“I’m tied at the hip with many people. I like to treat everyone equally. I want 453,000 people who live in Virginia Beach to know that ‘Bobby D’ is their mayor.”
We asked Dyer about his fellow council member Abbott, who outperformed all on the Virginia Beach ballot. Late Thursday afternoon, Abbott — with 117,860 votes in her race — overtook U.S. Sen. Mark Warner, who had 117,771 votes in his race. Presidential candidate Joe Biden, who won Virginia Beach, had 114,438 votes in his race.
“Let me tell you this, [Abbott] is an important part and she really helped broker the unanimous vote with the budget that we had last time,” Dyer said.
We told Abbott about Dyer’s praise.
“Well, I want to be part of the budget process, and see how we can improve how we spend our public’s money.”
Abbott is very much retail politics. She is eyeball-to-eyeball with her style of politics, and she doesn’t care much for typical town halls and public hearings.
“You know, I’m about connecting with people. I tell parents with little kids like me to bring out your stroller. We are going to walk around a park and talk about what matters to you.”
“Park and Talk” was held a few times until COVID-19 shut down Abbott’s program.
We asked Dyer to tell us about what his winning message was.
“We came together during the most challenging times in Virginia Beach’s history. It’s not about me, it’s about we came together as a community through tragedy, through COVID-19, civil unrest and challenging times. It shows their resiliency and resolve of the people of Virginia Beach in coming together to help each other.”
Abbott gives the winning strategy that gave her that high-vote honor, which is tough to do way down the ballot in a presidential election year.
“We tried to be everywhere. We were available to everyone. My goal was to not ignore any group of people. I think you are told in political elections you’re on this team, and not on their team, and you focus on the people in the middle. We forget we are all people, and we all have something in common.”
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