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Local Elections

Letter - Endorsing D. Keith Prince, Jr. for City Sheriff

Dear Editor-

As you know, Election Season is once again upon us.

The Democrats have a great ticket this year. Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam for Governor, Justin Fairfax for Lt. Gov. and Mark Herring for Attorney General will all work to move Virginia forward. Delegate Roslyn Tyler, running unopposed, will once again represent the 75th District in the House of Delegates.

In addition to the Statewide Candidates and Delegate Tyler, the Emporia-Greensville Democrats have endorsed D. Keith Prince, Jr. in the race for City Sheriff, the only contested race for a Constitutional Office.

Keith has made saving taxpayers money a priority, and plans to pursue any and all grant opportunities to help fund the office of Emporia Sheriff, and is hopeful that the entire budget for the Sheriff’s Office can be funded with grants.

Keith has served both in the City Sheriff’s office and as an office of the Emporia Police Department and is an Emporia Native. In addition to his years of service, Keith has a good relationship with a very diverse group of citizens.

During his 20 years of law enforcement in this community, Keith has served on the Meherrin Drug Task Force – a multi-jurisdictional operation that covered the City of Emporia and the counties of Greensville, Southampton and Isle of Wight.

For six years, Keith served as Detective on the Drug Interdiction detail and was given the Public Service Award by Neil McBride, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. Keith received this award for his service on an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force on a case that spanned from Cape Cod to Miami.

Keith’s service on this task force started with a traffic stop that resulted in the seizure of 9,000 Oxycodone pills. All-in-all, thirteen people were arrested and one million dollars worth of drugs, currency and vehicles were seized and multiple unsolved cases in South Florida are now closed.  Monies seized in the line of Keith’s duties have funded the purchase of nine fully equipped police vehicles and additional equipment for the Emporia Police Department.

Keith believes strongly in community involvement is the key to leadership, and his involvement in the community spans decades and includes service as a Board Member and Operations Officer for the Greensville County Rescue Squad and was voted the Squadsman of the Year for 1996. Keith currently serves on the Fundraising Committee for the Citizens United to Preserve the Greensville County Training School and is on the committee working to bring a Boy’s and Girl’s Club back to serve the youth of the City of Emporia and Greensville County.

Our committee invited both candidates in the race for City Sheriff to meet with us.  Both candidates were given the opportunity to speak and were asked questions from the members present.  The unanimous decision of the group was to endorse D. Keith Prince, Jr.

We feel that Keith will be a force for good in our community and live up to his campaign slogan – “committed to the community, dedicated to progress.”

Both the City and County have new voting machines this year. Both use paper ballots that are marked and fed into an optical scanner. These machines are extremely easy to use.

Election Day is Tuesday, November 7, 2017. Polls are open from 6 am to 7 pm.  Don’t miss this opportunity to exercise your guaranteed American Right - VOTE.

See you at the polls.

George Morrison, Chairman

Emporia-Greensville Democratic Committee

Election Day Is November 7th, 2017

In case you have not seen all of the political advertisements on television over the last few weeks, there is an Election on Tuesday, November 7th, 2017.

This will be the first election using the new voting machines in both the City and County. The former direct entry voting machines were recently decertified by the State Board of Elections, forcing both localities to invest in more up-to-date technology.

While the voting machines are made by different companies, they work the same way.

Step one is to obtain your ballot. This works just the way it always has – give the Election Official your name and ID and they will give you a paper ballot, just as they did before the advent of electronic voting machines.

After you receive your ballot, you will mark it by filling in the oval beside the candidate you wish to vote for. You may or may not be given a pen to mark the ballot, but any black ball-point pen will work. According to one member of the Greensville County Electoral Board you will be given a Bic pen to mark your ballot.

Once your ballot is marked you will take it to the machine and feed it into the scanner, just like you used to do with the ballot box. Do not fold your ballot, but do follow the instructions from the Election Official when you feed your ballot into the machine.

That is it. You’re done, you can get your sticker to let people know that you voted and enjoy the rest of your day.

To prove how easy the process is, there is a video in this article. If you are really uncomfortable with the new process, you may take a family member of friend to help you vote

In addition to the video, there are also images of the Sample Ballots for both the City and the County. You may click on either one to get a PDF that you can print.

If you have any questions, need an absentee ballot, or wish to vote absentee in person, please call your General Registrar. In the City of Emporia, call Ashley Wall at (434)634-9533 or stop by the Municipal Building at 201 South Main Street (across the hall from the City Council Chamber). In the County, call Susan Conwell at (434)348-4228 or visit the Greensville County Government Center at 1781 Greensville County Circle (next to the Board of Supervisors meeting room on the south end of the building).

 

YouTube: 

Extremely Low Turnout Marks Primary Elections

Democratic Primary Results

 

Statewide (at time of publication)

City of Emporia

Greensville County

Governor

 

Ballots Cast: 292

Ballots Cast: 609

Ralph S. Northam

284,605 (55.78%)

194 (66.45%)

437 (71.76%)

Tom S. Perriello

225,628 (44.22%)

98 (33.56%)

172 (28.24%)

Lt. Governor

 

Ballots Cast: 281

Ballots Cast: 565

Justin E. Fairfax

237,406 (49.21%)

206 (73.31%)

399 (70.62%)

Gene J. Rossi

56,990 (11.81%)

37 (13.17%)

71 (12.57%)

Susan S. Platt

188,061 (38.98%)

38 (13.52%)

95 (16.81%)

 

Locally, the results for the Democratic Primary are in line with the statewide results, Ralph Northam will be the Gubernatorial Candidate in this fall’s General Election while Justin Fairfax will be on the ticket for Lieutenant Governor.

Republican Primary Results

 

Statewide (at time of publication)

City of Emporia

Greensville County

Governor

 

Ballots Cast: 154

Ballots Cast: 290

Edward W. “Ed” Gillespie

153,422 (43.62%)

83 (53.90%)

169 (58.28%)

Cory A. Stewart

150,190 (42.70%)

54 (35.06%)

102 (35.17%)

Frank W. Wagner

48,129 (13.68%)

17 (11.04%)

19 (6.55%)

Lt. Governor

 

Ballot Cast: 142

Ballots Cast: 282

Brice E. Reeves

138,138 (40.48%)

74 (49.33%)

142 (50.90%)

Glenn R. Davis, Jr.

58,538 (17.15%)

10 (12.00%)

32 (11.47%)

Jill H. Vogel

144,566 (42.36%)

58 (38.67%)

105 (37.63%)

 

In the Primary for the Governor’s race, the results mirrored the statewide results and Ed Gillespie will be the candidate. In the race for Lieutenant Governor the local results differed from the statewide results. While Jill Vogel was leading the three-way race statewide (at the time of publication), Brice Reeves won both the City and County.

As with all primaries, turnout was disappointingly low. In the City of Emporia there was an average of 675 ballots cast while there are 3,717 registered voters, that is a turnout of 18.16%. In Greensville County there are 6,388 registered voters but only 1,041 (average) ballots cast, a turnout of 16.3%. Overall, voters turned out for the Democratic Primary in larger numbers than those voting in the Republican Primary-by about two to one.

Mary Person Wins Second Term

Incumbent Mayor Mary L. Person has been re-elected for a second term. Only 48 votes separated her from her opponent, Marva Dunn.

In the only competitive City Council Race, Incumbent L. Dale Temple overcame the challenge from Marvin A "Cow" Harvell in a major landslide.

Two other City Council races were uncontested, Carol Mercer will serve 4 more years and James Saunders returns to City Council, replacing James Ewing, who decided not to seek re-election.

Both City and County voters (and the rest of the state) by voting heavily in favor of Hillary Clinton.

In the wake of the Supreme Court decision to undo the Gerrymandering of the General assembly in House District 3, J, Randy Forbes decided not to run. A. Donald McEachin and Michael Wade both survived the primary process. State Senator McEachin, by a wide margin, bested Michael Wade to serve the Fourth Congressional District in the US House of Representatives.

Letter the the Editor From Keith Mitchell

Editor, Emporia News:

I am writing to thank you for the contribution you made to the campaign process by sponsoring a public forum for the candidates. I was grateful for having had the opportunity to express my views and to have them so accurately reported. I felt that the forum and your reporting of it was fair to all the candidates.

The voters have spoken, though, and they have spoken in overwhelming numbers. And while I was both shocked and shaken by the results in my contest, I nevertheless know that the Lord led me to run for a reason, and I am comforted by my belief that His reason for so leading me will be revealed over time.

I am thankful that the margin of victory in my race for supervisor was as great as it was. Otherwise, had it been much closer, I would have second-guessed everything that I said and did during the campaign period. Now, though, I am comforted by the fact that I did my best and did not compromise my integrity in any way at any time. I am who I am, I say what I truly believe, and so be it.

l was humbled throughout my campaign  while going door to door and by having 302 of the people to trust me and show up to vote for me on Tuesday. And despite losing the contest and seemingly letting them down, I intend to work for them as diligently as I can and for as long as I can. As I told so many of them, it is sometimes as easy to work from the outside as it is from the inside when one feels that a system or a process needs to change.

I have no intention of being a radical crusader for change, nor do I plan to deliberately become a so-called "community activist." I do, though, plan to devote my time and effort to advocate for all the ones who touched me so deeply with their encouragement,  and who seemed so appreciative of having someone to listen to their frustration.

Do I wish I had won? Lord, yes. But if I could go back and change the result, would I? Heavens, no!  Because I believe without a doubt that all things work together for good for those who trust in the Lord and who are called according to His purposes...

I am reminded of the blessing we were taught as children to pray before a meal. It begins: "God is great, God is good..."  He really is, and all the time. We may not always understand. We can, though, always trust.

 Again, thank all of you who supported me, and I am so appreciative of and humbled by that support.

Keith Mitchell

Linda Richardson Announces Write-in Bid for Treasurer

Mrs. Linda Richardson, former Greensville County Treasurer, has announced her candidacy as a Write-in for her former office.

In talking about why she chose to run as a write-in, Mrs. Richardson stated: "In light of the current and very serious allegations being investigated by the Virginia State Police, I felt that the Citizens of Greensville County deserved an better option."  Citing her experience, Mrs. Richardson pointed out that she could step in on January 4th and offer the people of Greensville County a "seamless transition."

In addition to holding the Office of Treasurer previously, Mrs. Richardson also ran a successful business, Shades of Silk, for many years.

Mrs. Richardson is also very active in the community.  In addition to her many community service activities she is a member of Oak Grove Baptist Church and a member of the 75th District Choir. Mrs. Richardson is also the Vice-Chair of the Emporia-Greensville Democratic Committee, which fully supports her in this endeavor. 

Election Fraud Complaint Filed Against Pam Lifsey-UPDATE

Pamela Allen Lifsey, candidate for Greensville County Treasurer, has been accused of certifying petitions that she did not circulate herself.  The complaint was received by the Commonwealth's Attorney's Office on October 9th, and has, seemingly, had no action taken on it.

Each petition contains an affidavit, which must be signed in the presence of a Notary Public.  On the affidavit, the circulator is swearing or affirming (i) their full residential address, (ii) that they are legal residents of the United States of America; (iii) are not minors; (iv) are not felons whose voting rights have not been restored; and (v) have witnessed the signature of each person who signed this page or its reverse side. Circulators also indicate that they understand that falsely signing this affidavit is a felony punishable by a maximum fine up to $2,500 and/or imprisonment up to ten years.

The complaint alleges that three pages of 12 signatures each, a total of 36 signatures, were circulated by the complainant, not Mrs. Lifsey, who is accused of fraudulently certifying the petitions and falsely swearing the affidavit in the presence of a Notary.

*UPDATE* The Virginia State Police are currently investigating this allegation against Mrs. Lifsey.

Setting The Record Record Straight-Correcting the Reports From the Forum

The following is a letter that I wrote to the Independent-Messenger after they erroneously reported information from the October 15 Emporia News Forum.

In the Oct. 25 edition of the Independent-Messenger reporting on the recent public forum of candidates, incumbent Hicksford Supervisor Michael Ferguson's response to a question about whether he would support public schools in the future, was incorrectly attributed to Belfield candidate Keith Mitchell. The actual question was whether each candidate would support "fully funding" public schools, and none of Mitchell's response to that question was included in the I-M account. The response of his opponent, incumbent Dr. Margaret Lee, was included, as was that of Zion candidate Raymond Bryant, along with Ferguson's.

Another question--this one asked exclusively of Mitchell--was whether he, if elected, would simply become a part of the "status quo" of county government and just another member of its so-called "social club."  Neither the specifics of that question nor any of Mitchell's specific response to it was included in the I-M story.

The third of the three questions Mitchell was asked related to economic development.  Again, as with the other two questions, the details of the question posed to the supervisor candidates were not stated specifically in the I-M account.  Mitchell was quoted as having said, referring to businesses/industries that the questioner alleged had "fallen between the cracks" and had been "lost":  "What about those that have fallen between the cracks." Actually, Mitchell was simply repeating the question he had been asked. He then went on to answer it. 

As the editor of Emporia News, which sponsored the public forum as a community service, I feel that it is incumbent upon me to correct and clarify any published reports related to that event that I recognize as being either incorrect and/or misleading. I have verified each of the above not simply from our report in the Oct. 21 edition of Emporia News, but from the actual transcript of that event. (That report is still available online.)

There were omissions and other issues regarding other contested races in your report that I observed, but none were nearly as significant nor as glaring as those noted above. Those instances cited in the above three exchanges, though, specifically related to Mr. Mitchell--and to Mr. Ferguson in the one instance--need to be noted and clarified. With that in mind, I trust that you will see fit to publish my letter in your next edition. 

This is in no way intended to show favoritism or a preference for any one candidate over another. It is, though, being submitted in an effort to more accurately portray the instances cited to help to ensure fairness for all: candidates and voters alike.

Editorial-Bad Politics

A few months ago one of the four candidates for Greensville County Sheriff was charged with election fraud for allegedly falsifying one of his forms.  The issue at hand was his residency; the Commonwealth maintains that Stephen E. King was not a resident of Greensville County.

That news made its way through the community quickly.  The news was posted on Facebook, and then ended up on the Facebook page of the Independent-Messenger.

Mr. King has been charged, had his case certified to the Circuit Court with a hearing conveniently a few days after the election, and was then indicted.  One has to wonder why the County wasted the time and resources to indict a person whose case had already been certified to the Circuit Court.  The Commonwealth’s Attorney wasted no time in getting the State Police to investigate the charges against Mr. King.

The King case has already had the desired effect.  Many people in the City and County have already presumed the man guilty, simply because he was charged.  This case, which seems very much like politically motivated malicious prosecution, has cast a cloud over the candidacy of Mr. King.  Having attended every hearing in this case, I have become convinced that the charges are completely and totally baseless and without merit.

As if proving that the charges amount to no more than politically motivated malicious prosecution, there is the Derrick Banks candidacy.  Mr. Banks, also a candidate for Greensville County Sheriff, has been accused of the same thing.  He allegedly lived in another county while running for the office of Greensville County Sheriff.  Mr. Banks has since withdrawn, but has not yet been charged with a crime.

In addition to questions about Mr. Banks’ residency, a citizen has accused Pamela Allen Lifsey of certifying petitions that she did not circulate.  The person filing the complaint is the one that circulated the petitions that were fraudulently certified by Mrs. Lifsey.  By signing the affidavit on the petition, Mrs. Lifsey swore that she personally witnessed each signature on both sides of the petition.  This is also a felony and carries a maximum fine of $2500 and up to 10 years in prison.

There can be no ambiguity in the charges against Mrs. Lifsey.  By signing petitions circulated by another person, she knowingly committed a crime.  There is no way for any sane individual to defend her actions, as she had to fill in the blanks on the affidavit; in order to do that correctly, one has to read the affidavit.

The Greensville County Electoral Board needs to review the three pages of Mrs. Lifsey’s petitions and disqualify her now.  To disqualify Mrs. Lifsey now, before the election, would save the taxpayers of Greensville County the thousands of dollars to hold a special election upon her conviction.  I am not assuming that Mrs. Lifsey is guilty, but do realize that her case would be the easiest conviction to obtain, should the Commonwealth’s Attorney do her job and prosecute.

If the charges against Mr. King are not a case of completely baseless, politically motivated malicious prosecution on behalf of the Commonwealth’s Attorney, both Mrs. Lifsey and Mr. Banks would have faced the same scrutiny and been prosecuted with the same vigor as Mr. King.

Board of Supervisors Candidates Answer Questions at Community Forum

In the final group to answer questions pf the Emporia News Candidates Fourm, held on Thursday, October 15th, were the candidates for the Greensville County Board of Supervisors.  Present at the forum were Dr. Margaret Lee, Mr. Mike Ferguson, Mr. Raymond Bryant and Mr. Keith Mitchell.  The previous two articles in this series covered the questions for the Clerk of the Circuit Court (found here) and the Greensville County Sheriff's Department (found here).  The fourth and final installment in this series will be the closing statements of each candidate.

The first question was for Mr. Mitchell, who was asked he planned to do to help the citizens of the Belfield District and Greensville County and whether or not he planned to maintain the Status Quo, or will you break with what many consider to be a social Club.  He felt the sentiment of the question resonated with many of the people that he had spoken with.  While he did not quite agree that the Board of Supervisors was a social club, he did note that there are many people in the district that feel like they do not have a voice, or any say in their government, and feel a bit overwhelmed.  He added that he was surprised, as he went door-to-door, at how many people felt that way.  Mr. Mitchell related a story about a phone call he received after going door-to-door one day; a gentleman called to tell Mr. Mitchell that he had his support, and that one thing that stood out to the caller about Mr. Mitchell was that Mr. Mitchell always told it like it is.  He did correct the sentiment, saying that he always told it like he thinks it is and that is not one that believes that he is always right, and that he is always willing to listen.  As far as the “social club,” he felt that many candidates liked to talk about what they have done or what they planned to do, but the only promise he could make was that he would always listen.  In reaction to Mr. King’s comment about citizens being able to reach the Sheriff, he gave his phone number.  He stressed that he wanted citizen input and wished to have quarterly meetings with his constituents.  He also wanted to meet with the School Board and felt that the School Baord and the Board of Supervisors should get together more often.  Above all he wished to serve the community.

 

Economic development was the focus of the nest question.  We have had a great many Economic Development opportunities in Greensville County, and some of those have fallen through.  Each candidate was asked what we can change to bring quality jobs to our community. 

 

Dr. Lee was given the first opportunity to respond, who could not stress enough how vital economic development was to the growth of Greensville County.  The creation of jobs is one of her highest priorities. She listed the businesses that have come to Greensville County in the last four years: Dominion Virginia Power (45 permanent jobs, up to 1000 jobs during construction and a $1.4 Billion investment), CIMS Intermodal Equipment Company, a builder of specialty rail chassis (50 Jobs, $600,000 investment), The 510 Nano Company, a builder of solar panels (113 jobs and an $11 Million investment), the Mega Site, 1600 acres of land owned by the county, with the possibility of 1500 jobs.  She stated that if she is reelected, she will continue to implement the county’s current economic strategy in an effort to import successful businesses and quality jobs to our community.  She will also seek feedback from her constituents and the Deputy County Administrator/Director of Economic Development to continue to bring additional industry to our growing community.  Dr. Lee also stated that unemployment was one of the important challenges facing people in our community and our country, which is why she supports our local big and small business developments.  She felt that, with our current economic development plan, the county could continue the creation of long term value and improve the quality of our citizens.

Mr. Mitchell was the next to respond; he felt that it was a difficult question to answer, given the new Dominion plant.  He also talked about what could be done for those that have fallen between the cracks.  He referenced Dr. Lee’s opening statements about 40 new housed in the district, but stated that the one thing that he noticed was all of the empty houses, empty buildings, closed retail businesses and even two empty school buildings in the county.  His concern was more about we have and what we can get, citing the population stagnancy of Greensville County, and therefore , the stagnancy of the tax base.  He added that it is not just the industries we needed to be concerned with, but the standard of life of the people who are already here.  We need to be concerned about those people that live here and go somewhere else to work, as opposed to those that work here and live somewhere else.  He pointed out that while the population increased from 2000-2010, it has dropped 4% in the last four years.  Hefelt that we continued to address the issues that arise when businesses shut down, adding that if we are going to make strides, we have to keep what we have and grow it, we need to add to our tax base.  He stated that we need to improve the quality of life and create good jobs for all of the people.

Mr. Bryant followed, by stating that it was important for us to support economic development.  He added that as part of that, we needed to support our schools, so that we can have an educated workforce to draw industry.  He also said that we need to have the infrastructure in place.  Without infrastructure, our industrial property is less valuable and will cause delays in starting new businesses.  He felt that we should continue support the mega site and the partnerships with neighboring localities involved with the development of the mega site.  He reminded those present that the mega site was more for big industries, and that the county might possibly look into developing an industrial park for the smaller industries that might be interested in relocating or starting up here.  He also felt that the Workforce Development Center was on the right road, and that the county should continue to support that endeavor, and pointed out that the Golden Leaf Commons was a step in the right direction, and while there was some debt, if it had not been built, we would not have Southside Virginia Community College or the Virginia Employment Commission.  He also pointed that the actual venue was rented every weekend throughout the holidays.  While he felt that were on the right road, and needed to keep rolling, he also felt that we needed to continue to put emphasis on training.

Mr. Ferguson had the final opportunity to respond to this question.  He started by saying that Greensville County has tried very hard during his last couple of terms to get new industries into Greensville County.  He cited the mega site as a prime example, going back to the original conversations started by CSX.  While he conceded that it is true that the county has struck out a couple of times getting big industry here, we are competing with 4-6 other states.  He added that we are in a situation now, where the county now has water and other utilities available at the mega site, and the engineering is done for the roads.  Everything is in place.  Businesses from other states and even other countries are looking at coming here.  He also added that it is true that the smaller businesses need the county’s support, too; noting that industrial park on 301 in three-quarters full.  Mr. Ferguson said that the county is steadily talking to industries and trying to get them here.  He noted the commitment the county has to students at Southside Virginia Community College to help them further their education, making them ready for the jobs that are coming in an effort to keep more of our young people in Greensville County, instead of seeing them move to other localities.  He added that there needs to be something to encourage young people to stay here and make this community grow.  He added that we have a wonderful community here and are a crossroads, north and south; east and west. He felt that we would continue to grow as long as we pushed our community to grow.

The last question of the evening was also for all candidates.  They were asked how important Education is, and if elected, would each of them support fully funding our Public Schools?

Mr. Bryant prefaced his answer by stating that he had grandchildren in the local public schools.  He was hesitant to say that he would fully fund the School Division, but said that he would like to fund to the fullest extent that the Board could.  He added that he has had the opportunity to look at the schools in other localities as he tries to follow the Middle School Soccer Team, and is always looking for ideas that would help improve our schools.  He finished by saying that he felt that we did have good schools, but that if we spent a bit more money, we could make them better.

Mr. Mitchell answered next.  He started by saying that he was unsure what “fully funding” meant, and that somebody would have to be a fool to say that they would not support public education in that setting.  He did think, though, that there needed to be accountability at every level; Board of Supervisors, Clerk’s Office, Sheriff’s Department and the School Board.  He felt that part of the problem in the county and the community was that we need to learn to communicate with one another; we need to come together more.  He added that he planned to, not only, be on the Board of Supervisors if elected, but that he would attend School Board meetings, and might even show up at City Council meetings.  He thought we all needed to learn to communicate better, and we all should be interested in funding our Public Schools, but he felt, and had heard others say that when throwing money out there, regardless of which department, you have to think through these things, and he wanted to hear from the people.

Dr. Lee began her response by saying education is very important and that she had worked in the education field for 37 years, as a classroom teacher and also as a school administrator.  Her children were educated in the Greensville County Public Schools.  She supports teachers, administrators and all support staff, as they relate to the development of our children.  She stated that she has consistently supported the school budget, and her record should speak for itself.  During her tenure, she added, she supported funding of the four year old Head Start Program, giving children an early opportunity to learn; she also supported funding the Wyatt Middle School renovation.  She noted that during her term in office, the Southside Virginia Education Center was developed.  Longwood College now offers a four-year degree program here, allowing our young people to stay here in Emporia and go to college.  She added the other offerings had expanded to include the precision machinery lab, welding classes, nursing classes and the truck driver training school.  GEDs have increased from 63-70%.  If reelected, she pledged to support educational opportunities that would prepare our students for college and career readiness.

Mr. Ferguson began his response by saying that education was very near and dear to his heart, and that many years ago he served on the School Board for four years.  He stated that while education would be something that he would continue to support, but that he could not commit to budgeting for everything that the School Board asks for.  He said that he would try to encourage the support of the Board of Supervisors to give the schools what they need.  He noted that the Board of Supervisors could not give the School Board a “blank check.”  He said the Board of Supervisors must give a lot of consideration to what is needed, and that they have set aside money in the past for large projects, like the Wyatt Middle School renovations, ahead of time, so that it was there when it was needed, and the projects did not hit the tax payers so hard.  He thought that it was only a one and one-half cent tax increase to cover the Wyatt renovations.

Greensville County Sheriff's Candidates Participate in Community Forum

This is the second of four articles about the Emporia News sponsored Local Candidate's Forum held on Thursday, October 15.  This article picks up where yesterday's story left off, at the beginning of the questions and answers for the candidates for the office of Greensville County Sheriff; Mr. Timmy Jarratt, Mr. Stephen King and Mr. Wyatt Lee.  If you missed yesterday's article, it may be read here.

All three candidates were asked if they would increase patrols in the County and more positive interaction with the community, as positive interaction and visibility would improve how deputies are viewed by the citizens. 

The first to answer was Mr. Stephen King, who stated that he believed that community policing was very important, and was a good use of the citizen’s tax dollars.  Mr. King felt that less emphasis needed to be placed on writing citations on I-95 and more time needed to be spent proactively policing the community, paying special attention to the children and senior citizens.  He stressed that the Sheriff’s Department needed to be proactive, not reactive, and that there was no need to wait for the call to come in that a business had been broken into when deputies could patrol and help prevent break ins.

Mr. Wyatt Lee answered next.  Mr. Lee stated that he was one of the first to institute radar in the county, and with the revenue generated; he increased the number of deputies in his Department, to increase the patrols, and the protection, in the County and the City.

The last candidate to answer this question was Mr. Timmy Jarratt.  Mr. Jarratt began by stating that all citizens were important and that all that pay taxes should have earned your patrols.  He added that the Sheriff’s Department has increased patrols, and that it was about more than patrols.  His office has also increased interaction and communication with the citizens, whether it is a Senior on the porch or working in the garden or youth playing sports.  He stressed, again, that communication is the key.  Mr. Jarratt further stated that his department is also interacting with local business owners and the customers.

The second question, how each candidate would collaborate with residents, business and community organizations to build better relationships and develop solutions to problems and crime in our community was also for all three candidates.

Mr. Lee was the first to respond.  He stated that he would have regular meetings on request, like the neighborhood watch, and other meetings with citizens to address their concerns and work on bridging the gap between law enforcement and the citizens.

The second response to this question came from Mr. Jarratt.  He agreed that the Sheriff’s Department does need to build better relations and collaborate with the citizens and community organizations.  This should be done with communication, interaction and education.  Mr. Jarratt stressed that communication is the key to resolving all problems.  He added that his staff is not only focused on building trusting relationships with all of the citizens, but are paying special attention to the youth by interacting;  on a regular basis he and his staff are visiting youth centers, the Boys and Girls Club, the YMCA and the day care facilities.  There are currently three Community Resource Officers in the schools, and he and his staff are visiting the schools on a daily basis, so that they are all interacting with the youth, instead of just a few deputies.  The department is also working on a fourth Community Resource Officer so that all of the schools are covered.  He and his staff, including the office staff, road deputies, security, civil process and communications staff are all part of this interaction.  He finished by stressing, again, communication, interaction and education are the keys for us to move forward.

The last candidate to answer this question was Mr. King. He felt that the first thing that the Sheriff needs to do is to be honest with the citizens of Greensville County and the City of Emporia.  He added that the Sheriff’s Department needed irrefutable integrity, to build trust in the department, before the department could start to bridge the gap and build any kind of community relations.  If we cannot have esteemed leadership in the department, then nobody will have faith that the department is going down the right road.  Bridging the gap with the community needs to start at the Sheriff’s Department, with honesty and integrity.  Mr. King also believes that the department should involve the churches and establish a county wide neighborhood watch program, as opposed to having neighborhood watch just in certain areas.  He also called for quarterly meetings with those that contribute to the Sheriff’s Department in the form of taxes, so that they can have input and influence on the direction of the agency.  Most importantly he felt that the elected Sheriff should be more accessible, including publication of his direct cell phone number, so that citizens can get in touch with the Sheriff 24/7 to discuss issues, speaking in confidence in that is desired.  He felt that these things would put Greensville County and the City of Emporia on a positive track toward progress.

In another question for all three, based on the recent unrest in communities like Baltimore, Maryland and Ferguson, Missouri, the candidates were asked how they would reassure young African-Americans males in our community that they would be treated with respect and not profiled or targeted. 

The first to respond was Mr. Jarratt.  He started by saying that, yes, there is unrest in our country, and that our society is facing many difficult challenges.  He stated that his department wanted to show our different cultures, such as our African-American youth, that they are treated with respect and not profiles.  He felt that this gap, too, could be closed with communication, interaction and education, and that we all need to be of one accord, even though there are differences in each of our cultures. This accord can be reached, he stated, by engaging all aspects of our culture, including faith leaders, and people of all nationalities in open communication.  He added that communication is the key thing for everybody.  He also felt that we need to educate each other, so that we understand the differences in our cultures and the concerns facing all, including law enforcement.  He and his staff are already working closely with surrounding agencies and spiritual leaders, but that this was just a start and there was a lot of work yet to do.  He and his staff also attend the Unity Prayer on the first Sunday of every month.  He stated that we need to unite the law enforcement and the citizens, so that people will not be targeted or profiled or treated with disrespect.  He invited the citizens to join him and his staff on the first Sunday of every month.

Mr. Lee responded that not everyone that looks suspicious is actually suspicious.  If you see someone walking at 2:00 am, they might just be walking.  The only reason to treat people with suspicion is if there is a break in or other crime in the area.  Even if there is reason to stop a person, they should be told the reason that the Sheriff’s deputy is talking to them.  He added that meetings could be held at the schools, especially with the young people, to let them know that the police are not out to arrest them just because they look suspicious.  He also stated that law enforcement officers need to be educated in how to interact with young people.

In Mr. King’s response, he stated that these situations were occurring across the country, and have not yet happened in Greensville County.  He felt that the truth of the matter was not about black and white or white and black, but that the real issue at hand was that the criminal justice system is broken.  Everybody is presumed guilty, until proven innocent.  He added that racial profiling has got to stop.  He felt that honesty and intregity in law enforcement would hold everybody to the same set of laws that all citizens are expected to live by.  He added that law enforcement is not exempt from the law.  He stated that holding everybody accountable would stop the mistreatment of white vs. black and black vs. white.  He stressed the need for treating everybody equally, as a whole and as citizens of Greensville County.  He also said that everybody should be treated the way you would want to be treated.

Mr. King was reminded of his recent indictment and the charges pending against him, and the he would be expected to uphold the law.  He was asked to respond to the charges.  Mr. King stated that the charges pending against him were just that, charges.  He added that he is being presumed guilty until proven innocent.  He felt his case was a prime example of poor investigative techniques and dirty politics.  He also said that he was born and raised in Brink, Virginia, and the he has lived in the immediate community his entire life.  He told those present that he would not continue the mission for each and every citizen of Greensville County and the City of Emporia if these charges had any foundation.  He also stated that the charges were baseless and politically motivated; facts his legal team intended to prove on November 6 when his case will be heard in the Circuit Court.

Mr. Lee was asked how a new Wyatt Lee administration would improve on his previous time as Greensville County Sheriff.  He responded by saying that first thing to be done would be to assess the situation, but that he would continue to update equipment.  He would also continue to send his deputies to school for advanced and varied training, so that when they did interact with citizens the deputies would be able to handle the situation.  He added that he would continue to work hard with his staff to make them understand what had to be done to make the Greensville County Sheriff’s Department the best law enforcement agency in the Commonwealth.

This last question was for Mr. Jarratt, who stated, in previous settings, that he and Sheriff Edwards made decisions jointly.  He was asked if he would allow his second in command, or any of your deputies, input on his command decisions.  Mr. Jarratt responded by saying that there is no I in “team,” and that to serve the citizens efficiently and effectively that the department had to work together as a team.  He added that input from his staff would be a big asset in making command decisions.  As a team, his department would make decisions that affect the community and the department.  Teamwork is why, he said, the department is where it is now.  He added that teamwork should not only come from his department, but also from the community.

Candidates for Clerk of the Circuit Court Answer Questions at Community Forum

Local Candidates Speak to the Community

On Thursday, October 15th, Emporia News sponsored a Candidate Forum for all of the local candidates for this year’s election.

The Forum, co-moderated by George Morrison and Carla Harris, began with opening statements from Mrs. Patty Watson, who is running unopposed for the office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney.  None of the other unopposed constitutional Officers could make it to the Forum.  While those running for the Greensville County School Board were invited, none were in attendance.  All four School Board seats are unopposed.

Candidates for the Clerk of the Circuit Court, Sheriff and the Board of Supervisors were all given an opportunity for opening statements.  After the opening statements, the candidates were asked questions.

Both Debra Brown and Bobby Wrenn, candidates for Clerk of the Circuit Court were present.  The first question was for Mr. Wrenn; he was asked about advances in technology and changes in the last two to five years.    Mr. Wrenn started by stating that when he became Clerk of the Circuit Court they were still using pen and paper and typewriters, and that ours was one of the first Clerk’s Offices to convert to computers; he added, that thanks to support from the Greensville County Board of Supervisors, that we were one of the first localities to have all of our records microfilmed, and that copies are stored in Richmond, where they are completely accessible and safe.  We have also received four grants from the Library of Virginia to restore and repair record books. Mr. Wrenn also noted that he had applied for another grant that day and that in September the Clerk’s office started accepting credit cards as a form of payment, making it easier for people to pay for copies of records, in addition to paying for court cost and fines.  Mr. Wrenn also announced that the Clerk’s office would begin allowing for the recording of land records electronically, at no cost to the citizens.  The official announcement came at an open house on Friday; details will be published in a separate article.

Mrs. Brown was if she would reinstate services that were eliminated due to budget cuts, specifically Passport application acceptance, notary services and use of the Clerk’s office as a clearinghouse on Election Night.  Mrs. Brown stated that she would need to assess the services that were eliminated to discern whether or not they were beneficial.  She added that, in addition any possible restored services, she wished to educate young people on felonies and how it effects their lives’ of the she would also like to start an outreach program offering information on education, training and housing in order to reduce recidivism.  Mrs. Brown stated that these are programs that are generally instituted by the Clerk’s office in conjunction with the Courts.  Mrs. Brown would also like to see an educational program about plea bargaining.  Mrs. Brown was in support of reinstating passport application acceptance, notary services and returning the Election Night clearinghouse to the Clerk’s office.

The next question, for both candidates, involved recent events at the County Clerk’s office in Rowan County, Kentucky.  Both Mr. Wrenn and Mrs. Brown were asked if they would abide by the ruling of the US Supreme Court and issue marriage licenses to any gay or lesbian couples who wished to marry in Greensville County or the City of Emporia.  Both candidates said that they would uphold the constitution.   Mrs. Brown stated that we had to look at the Constitutional Rights of each and every individual and not their personal beliefs; she added that if any same sex couples did wish to marry here, that she would have to abide by the law if she wanted to keep her job. Mrs. Brown added that while Kim Davis did not wish to issue same sex marriage licenses, her staff was; Mrs. Brown also added that if she would not want any of her staff to do something that she was unwilling to do.  Mr. Wrenn opened by saying that when he took office he swore an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of Virginia and the he has faithfully and impartially complied with that oath and would continue to do so in the future.

Mr. Wrenn was asked how he would respond to staff members in his office who abused their power by using office phones and e-mail for personal or church business; he responded that he would, as soon as the complaint was received, reprimand the employee and direct them not to do it in the future.

The final question for the Clerk of Circuit Court candidates was for both Mrs. Brown and Mr. Wrenn.  They were asked what pertinent experience they had that qualified them to be Clerk.  Mr. Wrenn was given the first opportunity to respond; he felt that his years of experience as the Clerk would qualify him.  He stated that he had gone through change after change while he held his office.  Mrs. Brown stated that she is a mental health therapist, has worked with families to deal with behavioral issues, has worked with the Department of Social Services and school systems in six counties in North Carolina, and many of the families were involved with the criminal justice system because of the behavioral and mental health issues; she has also worked with the local jails in those counties.  She felt that her 31 years of experience with those programs gave her ample experience for the Clerk’s office.

(Editor's Note:  Questions and answers for the candidates for Greensville County Sheriff will appear on Emporia News tomorrow.)

Thank You to the Forum Participants

Emporia News sponsored the 2015 Candidate Forum on Thursday evening.  This is an event I hope to sponsor annually.  Despite issues with the lighting that could not be fixed, and some minor sound system problems (thank you Dr. Wilson, for calling in the troops) that were corrected, this year's forum has already been called a success.

First off, A big "thank you" goes to George Morrison and Carla Harris for moderating the forum.  Without the moderators, Thursday's event would have not gotten off of the ground.

I would also like to thank all of the candidates that participated.  I called, emailed or spoke with in person, each of the candidates, and am grateful to those who called back and participated.  All candidates, even those running without opposition were invited.

Those candidates who did participate did so with passion.  I am grateful, not only for their participation, but also, for their well thought out answers and their candor.

Lastly, let me thank all of you who came out to listen to the candidates. 

The forum was just shy of two hours.  I will transcribe the recording and post a full article over the weekend.

Thank you, again, to all who participated.

Jay Osburn, Editor.

Emporia News to Host Candidate Forum

Emporia News will host a live Candidate Forum preceding the November Election.  With so many people standing for Local Offices, there have been few opportunities to hear from all of them.  The questions asked will be submitted by Emporia News readers, and candidates will be given some time to introduce themselves.  The forum will be a town hall style format. 

Given the sheer number of candidates, and in an effort to hold the event to two hours, those who are running unopposed will not be asked questions, but will be given time to introduce themselves.

The event will be held on Thursday, October 15 at 7:00 pm. in the Greensville County Elementary School Auditorium.  Moderators for the 2015 Candidate Forum will be Mrs. Carla Harris and Mr. George E. Morrison, III.  Mr. Morrison is the Chair of the Emporia-Greensville Democratic Committee while Mrs. Harris will represent the Emporia-Greensville Republican Committee.

Stephen King Has Day in Court

Candidate for Sherrif, Stephen King, had his day in court Monday.  While it was only a probable cause hearing, resolution for King is one step closer.  King maintains that he moved to Virginia in the first part of October, 2014, but because of the short time before the election, was allowed to vote in North Carolina.  The Commonwealth maintains that since he voted in North Carolina he was not a resident of Virginia.

At the hearing the special prosecutor, Michael Doucette, present his evidence and called three witnesses.  The first witness was the State Police Investigator, A. L. Darden, who shared detail of her interview with King.  When asked by King's attorney if there was a recording or field notes, neither was available.  Upon cross examination, Investigator Darden admitted that she had not checked a Lease Agreement filed with the Virginia ABC, Tax Records of real estate records.  Investigator Darden also testified that when she asked Mr. King when he moved to Virginia that he said the beginning of October, 2014, but when asked for a specific date said October 1, 2014, which would have made him ineligible to vote in North Carolina.

The second witness was the Greensville County General Registrar, Dorothy Kea.  Ms. Kea was asked by the Commonwealth about the "Declaration of Candidacy," and the "Certificate of Candidate Qualification."  The defense asked Ms. Kea about Mr. King's registration date and she shared that as Mr. King had registered at the DMV, and he had proof, she had back dated his registration to May 22.  The defense asked Ms. Kea to what "residency" meant; she replied, "Where you reside.  It's in the law book, I don't have it with me."

When the Defense argument turned to Voting, the Commonwealth objected, asking if when and where Mr. King Voted was relevant.

The next witness was Ms. Squire, Northampton County, NC, Supervisor of Elections. Ms. Squire explained the "Authorization to Vote Form," and the timeline  for when a person that moved would be allowed to vote.  The Commonwealth asked a few questions about when a person who moved would be allowed to vote; questions that the Commonwealth had previously objected to.

After the Commonwealth rested, the defense called their sole witness, the Emporia-Greensville Commonwealth's Attorney, Mrs. Patty Watson.  The only question for the witness was to ask the name of the person making the complaint; Mrs. Watson answered the only complainant was Steve Allen.

The Defense moved to strike the Commonwealth's evidence, stating that the questions about Mr. King voting in North Carolina were a red herring, and that the code required the violations Mr. King is charged with to be willful.   She also asked, "is there intent."

As Probable Cause Hearings are not Jury proceedings, The Honorable C. Ridley Bain heard the evidence.  The judge found probable cause to certify the case to the Circuit Court.

Several of Mr. King's supporters were in the gallery, and met with him after the hearing.  After hearing from his supporters, Mr. King has decided to stay in the race for Greensville County Sherrif.  The supporters present felt that the charges were just a way to force him out of the race.

Mr. King, in a comment released through one of his legal team, gave his reason for staying in the race. "The people of Greensville County and the City of Emporia deserve someone who wil fight for them and not maintain the status quo."

New Details in King Election Fraud Case

In addition to the open letter from Mr. King published on EmporiaNews.com on Thursday morning, Emporia News now has a copy of the arrest warrant, a brief statement from the Virginia State Police and interviews with both Mr. King and his attorney, Monica Wilson.  Ms. Patty Watson, Greensville County Commonwealth’s Attorney was out of the office and unavailable for comment.

The statement from the Virginia State Police reads as follows:  “On July 28, 2015, Virginia State Police arrested Stephen E. King of Emporia, Va., on one felony count of filing a fraudulent application (Code of Virginia 24.2-1016). The charge stems from an investigation by state police Special Agent K.L. Darden that was initiated as a result of a complaint concerning King’s place of residence in relation to him running for public office in Greensville County. The investigation remains ongoing at this time by the Virginia State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation’s Chesapeake Field Office.”

At the heart of the matter is Mr. King’s answer to question three on the Certificate of Candidate Qualifications for Local Offices.  Question three states “I have been a resident of the Commonwealth of Virginia for the year immediately preceding the election for the office I am seeking,” and the candidate answers yes or no. 

Mr. King maintains that he moved back into the county, renting a room from his father, in October 2014.  When asked if he had receipts for rent payments, Mr. King affirmed that he does.  Mr. King further explained that he had been living in a North Carolina home on his family’s farm, which straddles the Virginia/North Carolina state line, and had intended to move into the home attached to his store, which is not yet ready.  Mr. King also asserts that the investigator for the Virginia State Police had not contacted his father to verify residency. 

At the end of the interview, Mr. King added, “this is corrupt politics and back room politics at its best.”

King, who was never taken into custody, voluntarily surrendered to the Southside Regional Jail and was released on Personal Recognizance with no travel restrictions.  The entire process of arrest and release was over by 8:45 Tuesday morning.  He is to appear in the General District Court on August 3.

Monica Wilson, Mr. King’s attorney, states that they were never presented with any evidence and that she was allowed to read the complaint against her client but not given a copy.  Ms. Wilson did provide Emporia News with a copy of the Arrest Warrant.

The Warrant asserts that Mr. King did “willfully commit election fraud by making a false statement on the Commonwealth of Virginia Certification of Candidate Qualification {Local Offices}.”  The Magistrate found that there was probable cause for the Arrest Warrant based solely on the testimony of the Investigator with the Virginia State Police.

At Mr. King’s bail proceeding on Tuesday morning, his attorney was not presented with any evidence and was not allowed to accompany King through the Sally Port.  Mr. King was not allowed legal representation at Tuesday's proceeding.

Correction:  Emporia News previously reported the the complaint had come from Commonwealth's Attorney Patty Watson.  Ms. Watson confirmed that the complaint was made to her office, not by her, as previously reported.  The prosecution has been turned over to a special prosecutor.

Open Letter from Sheriff Candidate Stephen King

To the Citizens of Greensville County and Emporia,

My name is Stephen E. King and I hope to be your next Sheriff.  Many of you already know my family and me.  For those of you who don’t, I’d like to introduce myself.   I was born and raised in Emporia and I have roots here going back several generations.  I was educated in Greensville County Public Schools and I own and operate Woodruff’s Country Store in the Brink community.  Additionally, I work for my family farm which stretches across the Virginia border into North Carolina.

This past week, an investigator with the Virginia State Police notified me that Patricia Watson, Commonwealth Attorney, had filed a complaint contesting my Virginia residency.   This allegation is baseless and most likely politically motivated.  I assure you that I meet all of the legal requirements to hold the office of Sheriff.  I look forward to a speedy trial and the opportunity to clear my name.  In the meantime, I will continue to work hard to earn your vote.  I will not be distracted by dirty politics or by the conniving of people who are invested in maintaining the status quo.  You deserve better.  The office of Sheriff will require me to balance many serious matters of urgency at the same time.  I consider this to be good practice. 

With your support, I intend to use my more than twenty years experience as a proven leader in corporate management to restore transparency and integrity to the office of Sheriff in Greensville County.  I will put an end to back room politics.  Let’s feed everyone out of the same spoon.  I intend to be an accessible Sheriff who is always available to the citizens, not just during an election year.  Please feel free to contact me directly:  434-637-0843.  Together we can put an end to back-room politics and corruption in Greensville County,we can move this community forward through building relations and open communications with New, Strong, Firm , but Fair Leadership.

HONESTY.  INTEGRITY.  JUSTICE FOR ALL.

Yours truly,

Stephen E. King

(Editor's Note: Letters reflect the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of EmporiaNews.com)

Greensville County Sheriff Candidate Arrested on Charges of Election Fraud

Stephen Earl King, one of four candidates for Sheriff in the November General Election, has been taken into custody on charges of Election Fraud.

The charges stem from alleged false information on forms filed with the State Board of Elections.  If found guilty, of “knowingly making any untrue statement or entry” to the State Board of Elections, which  is a felony under Virginia law, Mr. King could face a fine of up to $2,500 and/or confinement for up to ten years. He may also lose his right to vote.

In the charges filed on Tuesday, the Commonwealth alleges that Mr. King is not a resident of Greensville County  for long enough to be qualified as a candidate.  Virginia law requires that all persons seeking office must, generally, be a resident of the Commonwealth for one year immediately preceding the election.

In May Mr. King provided Emporia News with copies of complaints that his attorney had filed against the Commonwealth’s Attorney, Ms. Patty Watson, and one of the attorneys in her office.  The complaints of misconduct were filed with the State Bar Association.  These complaints were not published as the State Bar Association requires that they remain confidential.

In the message that accompanied the complaints, Mr. King wrote: “Actions like this is what's wrong with our Justice System and it's integrity of it.  Things have been done the same ol way for oh so long time for us to Stand up for Honesty, and Integrity in our limping justice system (sic)”

Neither the State Police nor the State Board of Elections could be reached for comment.  Emporia News will publish more details as information is released.

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