Candidates vying for open seats on the Saltville Town Council and for the mayor’s position were invited to respond to a series of questions. Their responses are included here. Not all candidates submitted responses.
Incumbent candidates seeking re-election to the town council include Eugene Call and Sandra Wyatt. David Smith chose not to seek re-election.
Challengers include Steven Crusenberry, Robert Dye, Bryan Morris and Hiram Robinson.
Mayor C. Todd Young is challenged in his bid for re-election to the mayor’s post by Randall Brickey and Phillip Perry. (Please see www.swvatoday.com for the mayoral candidates’ Q&A.) The town election will be held on May 1. Voters will cast their ballots at the Saltville Town Hall.
Name: Eugene Call
Education: high school graduate, two years of college
Current job or last job held if retired: Utility Trailer, Glade Spring
What is the biggest issue facing the town? The biggest issues facing the town are the water/sewer system and lack of jobs. The Veolia water contract was terminated in March. This left the town responsible for water and sewer. We take over an aging water system that is going to take time to get back to where it needs to be. After five years of a lot of neglect resulted in patching instead of replacing deteriorating pipes. Another issue is lack of jobs, which leads to citizens going out of town for employment and that hurts our economy.
What is the role of a town council member? The role of a town council member is to do what is best for the town by listening to the citizens for their input. We do a job that reflects each vote and do what is best for our citizens.
What issues do you think are important to voters? Industry, water/sewer bills and taxes are the most concerns I have heard from the people in the last four years.
How much should the council be involved in revitalization and tourism efforts for the town? We need knowledge of everything that goes on with our town. We live in a beautiful town that is filled with rich history, and we need to maintain the heritage and make it inviting for tourism.
What is not being done now that you believe should be done? Following through on actions that have been amended at council meetings. One focus of concern is the cleanliness of our town. Every entrance into our town is embarrassing, and it is time to follow through with our amendment. If a property owner does not co-operate after being notified, our inmate program can assist with cleanup at the owner’s expense.
What is being done now that should not be changed under any circumstances? As of April, our town took over the water and sewer. After a five-year contract for water/sewer resulted in overpayment for services, which the town could not afford, and the work did not compensate the contract promises. The town will have the knowledge of what needs to be done to keep our water/sewer system running to meet the people needs.
What accomplishments would you point to as evidence of your capabilities? I have tried to listen to citizens to the best of my ability and do what is right for our town. I was their voice for concerns and expectations to the council for consideration.
What services would you like to see the town expand? Can any services be reduced? All services in our community to unite as one for growth and development of our town.
What businesses would you like to see developed in your town? Any business to bring growth to our town would be a great welcome.
Name: Bryan J. Morris
Education: High School Diploma, working on a B.S. in government
Current job or last job held if retired: Police Officer with the Marion Police Department
What is the biggest issue facing the town? I feel that the biggest issue facing the Town of Saltville is economic development. Over the past decade, our community has seen commerce come and go. Jobs have been lost. Families have relocated. Most of Saltville commutes out of our town for work. This has to change. The town has to be more proactive in seeking out industry. We have been sinking money into business ventures that have not been successful, and the taxpayers have paid the price. We need a director of economic development and tourism for our town. This has proven to be very successful in the past for our town and neighboring towns. The town of Saltville should be taking advantage of grants and funding that is available from the federal and state governments to revitalize our economy. Our neighbors in Marion, Chilhowie and Abingdon are seeing growth and commerce in their communities, but we have seen nothing but closed businesses and lay-offs. This has got to change if we are going to see our town prosper. I want to leave our children a better place to live and work than what we have today.
What is the role of a town council member? The role of a town council member is to be the voice of their constituents. The council should make thoughtful choices on any matter that comes before them. The decisions they make can have consequences for decades to follow. The allocation and spending of the town’s money is something that any governing body should never take lightly. A council member should take their personal views and feelings and cast them aside when it comes to doing what is best for their community. A council member should never have a personal agenda when it comes to making decisions that affect all of our friends and neighbors. The council should work well together and be productive. The citizens expect results, and the council should always be held accountable when results are not being seen.
What issues do you think are important to voters? Having spoken to many of our town’s citizens over the past couple of years, one issue that seems to be the constant is the financial state of the town and the loss of jobs. A candidate can make promises all day long and even come up with a catchy campaign slogan, but when it comes down to it, where are our jobs? The Saltville community has lost a number of good jobs over the past several years. This is unacceptable. Will we ever be able to return to the 1970s level of commerce? No. Can we be doing a better job proactively seeking out business opportunities? Absolutely! The Commonwealth of Virginia has grants and resources that are available to boost our economic development. We need to be doing a better job applying for and obtaining funds to help commerce move into this community and seeking out viable business opportunities that benefit our citizens.
How much should the council be involved in revitalization and tourism efforts for the town? As the structure of the town of Saltville stands right now, the council has no choice but to be involved in revitalization and tourism efforts. We have no one person to oversee economic development and tourism. Brian Martin, our town manager, who works for the Mount Rogers Planning District Commission, has done an amazing job since he has taken this position in maximizing the recourses that we currently have available. He has this town moving in a positive direction. I feel that having steady revenue moving into this town being our biggest issue, it is time for the town to invest in our future and hire a person to focus on revitalization, economic development and tourism. The SIDA and the council can only do so much. I feel that by having a full-time employee to focus on these issues, we will see a major turn in our revitalization and tourism efforts. There are concepts that the town is currently looking at for viable options to boost tourism that I feel would make an enormous impact on our economy. We need to find a way to fund these projects, so we can show people from all over what makes our town so great!
What is not being done now that you believe should be done? The council made a tremendous impactful decision within the last couple of months to not renew our Veolia’s water and sewer contract. This will, hopefully, be a turning point in the economic future of our town. I applaud the council for making a good decision that should benefit our citizens. As the town should be able to save money by not contracting out these services, we need to shift our focus on what matters most right now. The revitalization of our town is paramount. We are at a crossroads in our town’s future. Sound decisions made today will either be our positive turning point, or bad decisions could lead the community further into despair. The town needs to do whatever we have to do to ensure that we have no empty businesses. Too many of our storefronts are sitting empty, and too many of our industries have shut their doors. It is incredibly important that we are doing everything we can to have our economy thrive. We should strive to be a community of small businesses. I would never support seeing any fast food establishment move into this town. I would love to have a choice of a dozen or so small business restaurants open for service. We are a community literally built on big business, but with having dozens of small businesses supporting it. While we may never have that big business move back to Saltville, we can still support our friends, families and neighbors by being a small business community.
What is being done now that should not be changed under any circumstances? What I wouldn’t change is a difficult question. I feel that even the most successful endeavors have room for positive change. The town not renewing our water and sewer contract was a positive step in the right direction, and I obviously would not change that. With that being said, we are now picking up the pieces of a mistake that has shown to have been very detrimental to the town. The town is putting the pieces in place to successfully take over our water system maintenance and water and sewer treatment. We can only improve these services in the future.
What accomplishments would you point to as evidence of your capabilities? I have worked for a municipal government for the last six years. While I was a police officer for the Saltville Police Department, I oversaw the acquisition of approximately $160,000 worth of vehicles and equipment for the police department. I was able to obtain four 2015 Ford SUV police vehicles for the town at almost no cost. The only cost that the town covered in fielding these vehicles was putting decals on the vehicles and placing communication equipment in them. The town has not had to purchase police vehicles since 2012. I can tell you firsthand that police vehicles take a beating. This is completely unavoidable most of the time as it is just the nature of the job. Procuring these vehicles has saved the town money by not having to replace the department’s fleet on the taxpayers’ dime. I have always tried to stay involved in the current operations of the town and give my viewpoints when I felt it was needed. I care about this community, and I am very proud to call Saltville my home.
What services would you like to see the town expand? Can any services be reduced? I have had strong feelings on the town’s garbage collection. As minor as it may be, this is a huge advantage of living within the corporate limits of the town. The last time the town’s contract was up with our trash collection service provider, the yearly cost was approximately $125,000. With the research I have done, I feel that over the period of 10 years, we would save money by buying a new trash truck and the town collecting garbage itself as opposed to contracting this service out.
It is no secret that our EMS services have faced financial and staffing troubles over the past several years. Emergency Medical Services in 2018 are not what they were 20 or 30 years ago. EMS is a legitimate profession. Given Saltville’s remote location, EMS is even more important. Having been a combat medic in the U.S. Army from 2007-2011, I have experience in the EMS field. If we were to lose EMS service for our community that puts all of our safety in jeopardy. I feel that the town, county and state all need to work together to ensure that our community is receiving the reliable advanced EMS services that we expect and deserve.
I would like to see the town expand the capabilities of our public safety services. The town made a great decision in placing a school resource officer in Saltville Elementary School. The police department has great officers, and I feel that the only thing that needs to happen is to give them more resources to be able to do their job more effectively. If elected, I would look forward to working with the chief of police to give him and his officers the resources they need to make our community an even safer place to live.
The Saltville Volunteer Fire Department has done an absolutely amazing job in fundraising and becoming more self sufficient. They are all selfless brave people, and they deserve the best resources we can give them. Fire protection is arguably the most important services a town can provide, and I think no reasonable expense should be spared in our protection.
What businesses would you like to see developed in your town? Honestly, I would support almost any business being developed in Saltville with a few exceptions. We have lost so much in the past that any industry would be beneficial at this point. We are one of the best communities in all of Virginia. We have resources that some towns would love to have. We have a golf course, walking trails, a great “downtown” business front and several standing buildings that need to be filled. The possibilities should be endless for Saltville. I feel that while we should be focusing on tourism, trying to expand industrial businesses is equally important. Making Saltville a more livable community will help us procuring business in our town.
Name: Hiram Robinson
Education: Northwood High School graduate, some college
Current job or last job held if retired: Town of Saltville employee
What is the biggest issue facing the town? The biggest issue facing the town of Saltville is the lack of business and industry. The town has been struggling since the closure of the Olin Corporation. The lack of jobs has a great impact on the financial stability of the town. The town needs to promote local and small businesses as well as industrial development.
What is the role of a town council member? The role of a town council member is to advocate for the people. Council members should always act in the best interest of the town and the residents. They need to carefully consider all aspects of town matters and vote accordingly.
What issues do you think are important to voters? I feel that some of the issues that are important to the voters include jobs and water and sewer problems. According to the most recent data (2015) by CityData.com, the unemployment rate in Saltville was 5.8 percent and the overall rate for the state of Virginia was 4.1 percent. The average travel time to work is approximately 27 minutes. If there were more local jobs that didn’t require longer travel times, there is more opportunity for growth. We need to recruit more industry and support our residents who open small businesses. The town has been plagued with water and sewer problems in the last few years, but it looks as if the town is working hard to correct these issues.
How much should the council be involved in revitalization and tourism efforts for the town? The council should be involved in tourism and revitalization efforts in Saltville. We, as a town, need to overcome the negative image of the town and show everyone what we have to offer. I think we need to have a tourism director who can help with overcoming the negative and promoting a positive image. Revitalization of the town is important to tourism and future preservation.
What is not being done now that you believe should be done? Something that is not being done that I feel should be done is support for local businesses and development of a community center. Supporting local businesses helps the entire town financially and also promotes the small town atmosphere. This support should come not only from the council but the entire community. The development of a community center would also provide a sense of togetherness as well.
What is being done now that should not be changed under any circumstances? Something that is being done and should not be changed is the town support of the local schools sports programs, Cub Scout program and the Labor Day Celebration. The town of Saltville, rescue squad, fire department and police department all play vital roles in the development and safety in the operation of the schools and town-wide events.
What accomplishments would you point to as evidence of your capabilities? I have served in several positions that have enhanced my capabilities to serve as a council member. I served as an inmate supervisor in the past, have been an auxiliary police officer for five years and have been a town employee for two years. These positions require frequent interaction with many people, good judgment and interpersonal skills. These capabilities should also be demonstrated by effective council members.
What services would you like to see the town expand? Can any services be reduced? I would like to see the expansion of tourism in Saltville. There are many areas that could bring in tourists and revenue, which would also help secure resources for future development. I would also like to see more opportunities for the youth in the town of Saltville. I think that there is room for growth with the annual battle reenactment and events sponsored by the Historical Society. I would also like to see expansion of library services in Saltville.
What businesses would you like to see developed in your town? I would support the development of businesses in Saltville that promote a positive image of the town as well as development of more youth programs. In order for Saltville to survive, we have to make an investment in the town and promote positive change and growth.
Name: Sandra Palmer Wyatt
Education: Graduate of Tazewell High School
Current Job: Owner of AJ’s Image & Printing and Emory & Henry Facilities Management
One of the biggest issues facing our town is our water/sewer system. It’s so old and over the years it has not been kept up. But now it’s time we fix it.
The role of a town council member, I think, is to listen to the citizens and help guide our town in the best direction possible. Issues that I think are important to the voters are the water/sewer system, roads and beautification of our town. You ask how much should the town be involved in the revitalization and tourism efforts. I fully feel the town should be involved. One thing I would love to see is more small business owners open in our town and lots of support from our citizens in and from out of town.
I feel that our town is going in the right direction at this time by getting our water and sewer system back into the hands of our town and with the help of the new company to help guide our water department and with the ongoing sewer project to fix the old system. The ongoing Brownfield Project to help with the revitalization and tourism, also passing the vote to work with Saltville Police Department to be able to put a resource officer at Saltville Elementary School to help protect the future citizens.
I feel if you are running for a mayor or a council seat it is best not to have an agenda. You are running to represent all the citizens of the town not yourself. I was given some advice from my Uncle Bill Osborne when I was first elected. He said, “Always listen to the citizens. They are important.”
I have enjoyed serving and working as a town council member and would love to continue moving our town forward. Thank you for your consideration.