The Town Council is the local governing authority of the Town of Floyd, and in November, town residents will have the opportunity to elect two members to the five-person council. Incumbent councilmen Paul LeMay and Mike Patton are running, as well as challenger David Whitaker. Councilman Chris Bond is on the ballot to have his appointment to Council renewed, but is not part of the competitive election.
Paul LeMay is a musician. Born in Massachusetts, he lived in New York and Florida before moving to Floyd in 2009. What drew him was Floyd’s unique culture, dominated by art and music.
“I moved to Floyd because I liked the people and the whole attitude of this town; I was born in a town similar to this,” LeMay explained. “The music is a big thing. My wife is an artist and I work at the Jacksonville Center (Floyd Center for the Arts) too.”
When asked about the accomplishments of his last term on Council, LeMay first answered, “I cut a couple of CDs.”
But in truth, LeMay has been serving the Town of Floyd in myriad ways for almost 10 years. He was first elected to Town Council in 2011, and served as vice mayor for the 2017-18 term. He’s also been a member of the Planning Commission for several years, as well as helping to operate the loan pool for local residents.
LeMay said his time on Council is important because, “I feel like I’m doing something to benefit the town.” The role of Council, LeMay said, is to “serve the people”—the Council “governs anything not good coming into town.”
LeMay cited recent council debates about the regulation of motorized scooters as an example of the work the council does.
“Like now, with the motorized bikes, we’ll discuss that three to five times before we bring it to the public. So that it doesn’t do any harm,” he said. “I think the town is growing too, and one of our jobs is to make sure it grows accordingly—we like to stay with the old look.”
All three men running for Town Council this term are on the ballot as Independents. On the role of political affiliation within Town Council, LeMay said, “I’ve been there eight years, and not once has a political affiliation even come up. We’ve got a town to run. I hope it stays that way…because we’ve got to serve everybody.”
LeMay cited the diversity in Floyd as one of his favorite things about the town, and said it’s interesting to hear from a variety of people during public comment periods at council meetings.
“It’s amazing the diversity in this town. Here’s something beautiful about Floyd—Chantilly (Farm) played a movie…it was my first event that I went to that was for the whole town. It was really something to see the hippy folks, the farmers and (others) all get together.”
Initiatives that LeMay would like to see continued during his next potential term are Council’s support for Plenty!, the local historical society and the backpack program for Floyd students. LeMay cited the implementation of Warren G. Lineberry Park as a huge accomplishment.
“We fought like crazy to get that thing in there. A lot of people were against it, but when they saw it happen, the light lit up. I think we’re going in the right direction.”
Mike Patton is a self-described “Floyd Countian, not by birth but by choice.” Patton met a “fabulous Floyd, Virginia girl” while a student at Berea College in Kentucky, and eventually came home with her. Patton is an incumbent councilman who currently serves as vice mayor of the Town Council. He is also the longest-serving member of the council—first elected in 2003, and successfully re-elected for every subsequent term.
For Patton, his 15 years of service on Town Council have been an attempt to pay back the hospitality he and his wife, Jess, experienced when they first moved to Floyd—Patton as an outsider.
“When you come to a town, with nothing but the shirt on your back and two little children, and people welcome you with open arms, and they reach out to meet your needs if they can … that’s what Jess and I experienced,” Patton recounted. “Our children are far better people that they can say they grew up in Floyd … I cannot ever give back as much as has been given to me, but I sure appreciate the opportunity to try,” he said.
Previously, Patton has worked in the local newspaper business and for the Department of Social Services. Now his focus is on what he calls “Team Mike”—his family, which includes five grandsons aged 1 to 12 years old, and his work on the Town Council. In Patton’s view, the responsibility of the council is to “steer the ship.” And he spoke of how a lack of partisanship and a willingness to collaborate has helped the council be successful.
Patton is running as an independent, and said he’s been described as “The most Republican Democrat” — but said that a prior endorsement from the Democratic Party “tickled” him because he “knew it would make my Daddy oh, so proud.”
In describing the politics of the council, however, Patton said “It takes all of us rowing together to get across the pond, so to speak, but I think we manage to do that.”
When asked about accomplishments of the Council during his tenure, Patton cited “the way the role of the town manager has evolved.” He said “it’s equally nice that, at this point, both the manager and the clerk are (women), but that’s not as significant to me as that they’re both towns people—born and raised here, and they’re just both outstanding young women.” Patton also suggested that everyone on Council is very pleased with the town park—“that’s a tremendous success, and I hope we will continue to polish it, and that takes money,” Patton said. “We’re a very small town, but we have big dreams and people with big hearts.”
Patton also evoked the recent motorized scooter debates to demonstrate how he handles deliberation on the Town Council. He said while he wasn’t super informed on the issue, his priority was to speak directly to people that any regulations would affect, such as current users of motorized vehicles.
“So many people who touch our town as residents … we have an impact on them, so it’s good to know what they think,” Patton said.
David Whitaker is a former educator from Indiana who has lived in Floyd County for 40 years and in the Town of Floyd for the past three. All four of his children graduated from Floyd County High School, he said, and he has worked at local businesses such as Hollingsworth & Vose and Crenshaw Lighting. Ever since he moved into the town proper, connecting with the Town Council has been a priority.
“Since moving to town, I’ve gotten very involved in the workings of the Council and have attended almost all the meetings,” Whitaker said.
Also a volunteer at Angels in the Attic, as well as co-manager, he said his time at the store allows him to interact with local people.
“I get a lot of input into what the local residents are interested in or concerned about, and so I try to take those concerns to Town Council meetings,” Whitaker explained.
If elected to council, Whitaker said, his goal would be “to get the public more engaged—I would want to be open to people’s concerns and suggestions. I don’t know exactly how to accomplish that other than talking with as many people as I can,” he said. Whitaker, like every other candidate for Town Council, is running as an independent, but clarified, “I am not running on a political platform, but I am running as a fiscal conservative.”
In Whitaker’s view, “the main point of Council is to have a wise and common-sense approach to fiscal affairs.” He said equal consideration should be given to town residents as to “the tourists that come here on the weekends.”
If elected, Whitaker said he would take a hard look at Council spending—including donations to local organizations.
“We collect about $40,000-45,000 in real estate taxes, and last year (the Council) gave away in donations to various organizations who came before (them) and asked for monies, approximately $30,000 of those funds,” Whitaker explained.
“I’m not saying these organizations aren’t valuable to the community, but some of them are outside the Town of Floyd, and I just feel like we need to look closer at the donations we make.”
Whitaker said his favorite part of attending Council meetings as a constituent is “to bring the concerns of the public, the taxpayers, to Council, because the money that they’re spending is not their money, it’s the taxpayers’ money, and they need to get more public input into any decisions that they make.” Whitaker pointed out that, “We have a lot of retired people in Floyd on limited budgets, and we just like to see our tax funds wisely spent.” He said if elected, he would “make sure that the residents had my phone number and email information so that if they had any concerns, they can bring them to my attention.”
He said that ultimately, he feels he can do more good as a bona fide member of the Council than as a resident merely attending meetings.
His long-term dream for a Council initiative? A dog park.
“I do have a dog, and in Floyd we have a leash law, and it would be nice to have somewhere the dog owners could go and pets could interact with others,” Whitaker said. He said the active Humane Society in Floyd would likely be agreeable and “would welcome an opportunity to establish something like that.”