The following statements were submitted to the League of Women Voters of Montgomery County. All statements are directly from the candidate, and not edited by the League.
The League of Women Voters never supports or opposes candidates or political parties. Blacksburg Mayoral Candidates Krisha Chachra, Leslie Hager-Smith and Edward Lawhorn were asked to list the three most important priorities that they would like to address if they were elected. There are three seats open in this year’s race.
Chachra: Addressing quality of life issues in our neighborhoods through implementing a neighborhood liaison program. Each council member will be responsible
for communication with different neighborhoods in town. Much like our commercial center liaison model, our neighborhoods will have a council advocate who can bring any concerns to the attention of the rest of council and staff.
Making sure we have a strong voice in the decision process for Virginia Tech growth, traffic/transportation plans and housing strategy. In addition, I would like to revisit the Blacksburg High School property and explore any opportunities to work with the buyer. We also need to get the right kind of development on the Middle School property that leads to more foot-traffic to area businesses.
Bringing together a diverse mix of experts from our community including: town residents, the county, universities and other local organizations to tackle important issues. Priorities include addressing business-friendly interaction, sustainability, parking, density, zoning, affordable housing and the growth of Virginia Tech. I’m a connector and have established a broad base of solid relationships. We need to solve problems together.
Hager-Smith: Thoughtful Development: By this, I mean new projects that respect the town’s history and which are sensitive to its character. We can get improved results by making our permitting and inspections more transparent, predictable and timely; by offering incentives for green building (carrots, not sticks); and by supporting our staff as they transition to on-line, real time reports for builders.
Regional Partnerships: A generous regard for our neighbors will be crucial to extend rail service, improve roads, expand broadband; and attract retailers. With Virginia Tech, I want to explore the concept of an “academic village” in town limits. I will also initiate a “domestic study abroad” program, pairing leaders and students from Blacksburg with those from more distressed Appalachian communities.
Community Attachment: Let’s finish the Huckleberry Trail and create uniform landscaping at the entrances to welcome users; pledge public monies to create plazas, a park and a splash pool for residents at the OBMS; invite each of Blacksburg’s 26 neighborhoods to the podium twice yearly, during council meetings; and sponsor “slow rides” through our streets for citizens and elected representatives.
Lawhorn: Ensuring all neighborhoods are represented by town council: With five of seven council members living within a half mile of town hall and town elections being lightly opposed or unopposed, complacency has set in regarding neighborhood outreach. Neighborhood visibility and being proactive—attending HOA meetings, neighborhood forums, town halls—is key to reversing that and insuring every Blacksburg neighborhood is represented by town council.
Improving local government relationships, especially with Montgomery County: The town’s relationship with Montgomery County has been deteriorating for several years, related to the middle-and-school properties. I maintain working relationships with NRV local governments, know Montgomery County leadership, and I provide the avenue to reset the relationship for the future. We can advocate for Blacksburg with any of our neighbors, disagree, but not be disagreeable.
Reversing the town’s business unfriendly reputation: Blacksburg’s reputation as being business unfriendly is fact. While portrayed as being related to the development community, it’s broader than that—it affects homeowners and small business, and results in lost opportunity. Focus groups and committees won’t resolve it. Town council must charge our town manager, our CEO, with developing a plan and leading the effort to change our reputation.
The mayor serves a four-year term. The election is Tuesday, Nov. 7. Polls are open from 6 a.m.-7 p.m. Blacksburg voters are in portions of districts A, E, F and G.
District A is in the northeast Montgomery County and includes a portion of the Town of Blacksburg. District A communities and subdivisions include Craigs Creek, Brush Mountain Estates, Preston Forest, Indian Run, Mossy Springs, Lusters Gate, Woodland Hills, McDonalds Mill, Deercroft, Blacksburg Country Club, High Knob, Foxfire and Cedar Orchard. Town of Blacksburg neighborhoods and areas include Airport Acres, Alleghany, Apperson/Dickerson, Bennett Hill/Progress, downtown, downtown eastside, Ellett/Jennelle, Grissom/Highland, Houston/Harrell, Miller Southside, Mountain View, Northend and Woodbine/Wyatt. Polling places are Slusser Chapel Church of God on Mt. Tabor Road (Precinct A1), Blacksburg Branch Public Library on Miller Street in Blacksburg (Precinct A2) and Margaret Beeks Elementary School on Airport Road in Blacksburg (Precinct A3).
District E is in northwestern Montgomery County and includes a portion of the Town of Blacksburg. District D communities and subdivisions include Merrimac, Belview, Montgomery Farms, Prices Fork, Mount Zion, Long Shop, Whitethorne, Wake Forest, McCoy, Big Falls, Price Mountain, Warm Hearth, Sterling Manor, Wells and Radford Army Ammunition Plant staff village. Town of Blacksburg neighborhoods and areas include Ellett/Jennelle, Farmview/Ramble, Hethwood/Prices Fork, Tom’s Creek and Virginia Tech. Polling places are St. Michael Lutheran Church on Merrimac Road (Precinct E1), the Longshop-McCoy Fire Department on McCoy Road (Precinct E2) and Virginia Tech Squires Student Center (Precinct E3).
District F is in north central Montgomery and includes a portion of the Town of Blacksburg. District F communities and subdivisions include Brush Mountain West, Laurel Ridge and Pandapas Pond. Town of Blacksburg neighborhoods include Kanodes Mill, Glade/Westover, Hethwood/Prices Fork, Kabrich Crescent, McBryde, Northend, Northside Park, Shenandoah, Tom’s Creek, downtown and Virginia Tech. Polling places are Luther Memorial Lutheran Church at Prices Fork and Tom’s Creek Roads in Blacksburg (Precinct F1), Blacksburg Middle School on Prices Fork Road in Blacksburg (Precinct F2), and Virginia Tech Squires Student Center (Precincts E3 and F3).
District G is in northeastern Blacksburg and includes a portion of Montgomery County. District G Town of Blacksburg neighborhoods and areas include Apperson/Dickerson, Bennett Hill/Progress, Kabrich Crescent, North Main/Patrick Henry, McBryde, Murphy, Northend, Northside Park, Shenandoah, Woodbine/Wyatt and downtown. Montgomery County subdivisions include Popular Hollow and Windy Ridge. Polling places are the Blacksburg Community Center on Patrick Henry Drive in Blacksburg (Precinct G1) and Gilbert Linkous Elementary School on Toms Creek Road in Blacksburg (Precinct G2).