Candidates for Vinton Town Council Speak Out
On May 6, Vinton residents will vote to fill two seats on Town Council. Five candidates are vying for those positions: Bobby Altice, Carolyn Fidler, Matt Hare, Roger Overstreet, and Sabrina Weeks. They are profiled here and have answered a set of questions posed by the Vinton Messenger.
Councilman Bobby Altice is running for his tenth term on Vinton Town Council. He was first elected in 1976 and has served Vinton as Vice Mayor several times throughout his career on Council.
Altice is currently a member of the Public Works Committee and chairman of the Roanoke Regional Cable TV Committee. He has volunteered for 56 years as a member of the Vinton First Aid Crew and has represented Vinton for forty years on the Highway Safety Committee.
Over his career, Altice played an instrumental role in acquiring the new building for the Vinton First Aid Crew and also in establishing the Town’s own water lines and system separate from the County’s. He championed the combining of Vinton’s 911 Department with Roanoke County’s Emergency Dispatch Center and keeping the Vinton Municipal pool open.
Altice was born and raised in Vinton. He and his wife Peggy raised their son and two daughters here as well. His son, Donald Altice, currently serves as a Captain in Roanoke County’s Fire and Rescue Department.
He has owned and operated Vinton Upholstery for 58 years. He is also an active member of Vinton Moose Lodge # 1121.
1. What do you think is the biggest problem Vinton is facing now and will face in the next five years? I think funding for major projects—water, sewer, and roads is the biggest problem facing Vinton.
2. What do you think the No. 1 priority in the town budget should be? The number one priority in the town budget should be service to the people.
3. What motivated you to run for re-election to Town Council? What motivates me is wanting to help the people of the town. My door is always open.
4. How would you solve the problem of funding storm water mandates, needed capital improvement projects, the repair and replacement of the aging water and wastewater pipes, and the repair of the streets in the Town of Vinton, given a limited budget and without cutting services? I think we should use bonds and grants to fund all these projects when available.
5. What is your area of expertise or strength that will benefit the citizens and the Town of Vinton the most? Public Works and Public Safety are the issues that I know most about which will be of the most benefit to the town and citizens.
6. How would you attract more customers, vendors, and special events to the Farmer’s Market? I think we should set days and times for vendors to sell their products and advertise the schedule. Also, there should be more programs for families on the Farmer’s Market.
Carolyn Fidler was the first woman ever elected to Town Council in Vinton and served from 2004 to 2012.
She grew up in Roanoke, graduated from Jefferson High School, and then attended National Business College. She moved to Vinton in 1972 when she began working as a legal secretary for attorney Richard Cranwell.
When Cranwell was elected to the General Assembly, Fidler became his legislative assistant, a position which she kept for over 20 years. Much of her time was spent assisting constituents with their individual concerns. When he retired from the legislature in 2001, she retired as well.
Fidler was appointed by Governor Tim Kaine to the Board of Directors of the Virginia Recreational Facilities Authority, which at that time was tasked with overseeing Virginia’s Explore Park. She was appointed by Governor Doug Wilder to the Virginia Board of Conservation and Recreation.
Fidler has served as a volunteer on the Mill Mountain Zoo Board, Roanoke Valley Beautiful, and is now serving on the Leisure Legacy Foundation, a fund raising group which assists the County Parks and Recreation Program. She volunteered with the Vinton Dogwood Festival from 1973 to 1988 when she worked as staff for L. F. Payne’s election to Congress.
She served on the Roanoke Valley Area Metropolitan Planning Organization and is now a member of the Vinton Highway Safety Commission.
Fidler has one daughter who is a graduate of William Byrd High School, and a granddaughter who is a currently a junior at WBHS.
1. What do you think is the biggest problem Vinton is facing now and will face in the next five years? The decaying infrastructure. Most governments, regardless of size, have the same problems we have now and will have. The necessity for an expensive upgrade now would have been so much easier if someone had said along the way that we need to do a little maintenance so we will not have huge problems all at once. Having said that, we may be a lot better off than other governments. During the last ten plus years, Vinton councils have shown an acute awareness of the future and taken aim at reducing what lay ahead. Instead of continuing to patch broken water mains, Public Works has been challenged with doing more replacing whenever possible, rather than continuing to patch and make do.
2. What do you think the No.1 priority in the town budget should be? The No. 1 priority for all governments is their financial business and the citizens’ public health and safety–whether it is the streets we drive on, the water we drink and use, the provision for waste collection and recycling, fire and emergency services, or the police department monitoring illegal activities that may occur in the town.
3. What motivated you to run for election to Town Council? Most all of my work history has involved working with others for a common good. I like to work with people at a local level to get a feel for where people think we need programs and what needs to happen for the change to be made. A huge stumbling block for citizens is in knowing where to go for help. Just in zoning rules and regulations alone, the rules come from national, state, and local levels. Although we see the picture locally, we are not always able to make changes on the local level because of a stronger wording of legislated law. Vinton can make its own laws and regulations, but they must be at least as strong as the present laws. We cannot weaken them, but we can make them stronger.
4. How would you solve the problem of funding storm water mandates, needed capital improvement projects, the repair and replacement of aging water and wastewater pipes, and the repair of streets in the Town of Vinton, given a limited budget and without cutting services? All government bodies in the United States and beyond are shopping for a remedy for our failing infrastructure. It appears no one had the foresight when our needs for basic services were being addressed to look at the maintenance and expanded systems for the future. There are, I am sure, a number of ways of approaching this dilemma. We will have the work of large and small governments researching issues which we can compare with our own deliberations. No one likes to raise taxes and no one likes to be without basic services, such as sanitary water and waste management. State agencies have had to comply with run-off and drainage regulations for at least 15 or 20 years, especially from roads and transportation needs for the roads, storm water runoff at their facilities (corrections as an example). Hopefully help will be forthcoming from the people who have had hands-on experience.
5. What is your area of expertise or strength that will benefit the citizens and the Town of Vinton the most? I believe I provide a source people can approach with their concerns and know they will at least get an answer, whether it resolves their situation or not, with a recommendation of who they need to contact. I have served on council’s Public Works Committee and the Vinton committee for roads and transportation. I found during my first years on council that my work experience was very helpful and gave me a good handle on how things were done. The biggest plus for me, I believe, is that I not only love this town, but I love the business of governance. When government works at its best, it is truly a beautiful sight.
6. How would you attract more vendors, customers, and special events to the Farmer’s Market? I believe we need fewer regulations and compliance issues which will greatly expand the number of people who will be interested in using the Market and that would make the Vinton Farmer’s Market much more attractive to the people. I have made it a policy to always look in Vinton to see if I can find what I need or want first. Then I go to other localities to buy specialty or other items missing from our services in Vinton.
Matt Hare was first elected to Council in May 2010. He was appointed to Council in 2009 to fulfill the term of Councilman Billy Obenchain who passed away that year. He was known to council members because of his work as Vinton’s representative on the Greenway Commission, where he has now served for seven years.
Hare grew up in a suburb of Columbus, Ohio. He received his degree in Business Administration and Management from Indiana Wesleyan University, the first member of his family to get a bachelor’s degree. He met his wife Julie Reed Hare, a Vinton native, at the college where they both worked in the Student Center and had business classes together. They have three children and are active members of Christ Our Redeemer Church.
Hare is employed by the Kollmorgen manufacturing corporation in Radford as their Director of Finance. He has been commuting for seven years as he “loves where he works and loves where he lives.”
As part of his duties on Town Council, Hare has served on the Finance Committee and the Public Safety Committee for four years.
1. What do you think is the biggest problem Vinton is facing now and will face in the next five years? Vinton faces the challenge that many other towns face, remaining relevant. By that I mean in an era of ever increasing regulation (that does not come with funding to comply), decreasing funding at the state level, aging infrastructure and increasing medical/retirement commitments, the challenges can seem insurmountable. Towns have an uphill battle proving their value. Their citizens and businesses have to believe the services they receive in towns are equal to or better than cities and higher than they are in counties. If they do not, then they choose to leave those towns. I believe Vinton maintains a high level of professional service for the relatively small additional taxes the citizen’s pay and based on surveys, I think the citizens would back my statement up. They perceive the value they receive worth the price they pay. The challenge is maintaining that value while dealing with the challenges.
2. What do you think the No. 1 priority in the town budget should be? Public safety is our number one priority in the Town Budget. We currently dedicate approximately 40 percent of the budget to public safety. Our citizens should feel safe in their community so that if an emergency arises, they know they will receive prompt and professional assistance. What should not be underestimated however, is the vital roll our Public Works Department plays in the safety of the Town. Keeping our infrastructure up to standards helps avoid accidents. In the case of an emergency, they also play a critical role in providing necessary support services. In essence, public safety is a collaboration of many departments in our town and I believe our budget reflects the importance of safety.
3. What motivated you to run for re-election to Town Council? I felt there was still work to be done and that I bring value to the process. We have some large investment projects occurring in the Town with the purpose of generating more excitement and investment. I believe with my experience in business and accounting, I bring a different viewpoint to the conversations on our future. I am keenly aware that we benefit from the sacrifices that the generations before us made, leaving us a solid foundation. We have an obligation to the next generation to build on that foundation and leave them a town better than we found it. I am reminded of that obligation when I see the school buses go by and when I look at my own three children, an obligation I do not take lightly.
4.How would you solve the problem of funding storm water mandates, needed capital improvement projects, the repair and replacement of the aging water and wastewater pipes, and the repair of the streets in the Town of Vinton, given a limited budget and without cutting services? There is no “easy” answer to solving the financial needs of the Town. We are not alone in our struggles with increasing regulations (without funding to support them), infrastructure needs, increasing medical and retirement expenses and capital needs. We did not get here overnight and we will not get out of it overnight. Just as individuals have to figure out with their own personal budgets how to “make ends meet”, so does the Town. And just like individuals’ own budgets, not everything can be solved with the word “and”. Sometimes we can be creative and work through issues, other times we have to make trade-offs. “The roof is leaking and I need a new roof, so maybe this is not the year to buy the new car” or “I got an unexpected bonus so now we can go on vacation and fix the roof”. There will have to be balance and appropriate planning for the future if we are to successfully navigate these issues. Some solutions may require additional funding such as taxes and fees. Other solutions may require rationalizing service levels to reallocate funding to other needed areas. We face some significant challenges as a small town next to a major metropolitan area, challenges that will require us to pull together as a community and be creative. With solid citizen input and strong leadership, I am confident we as a town will overcome the challenges. I am reminded of what my uncle told me–“how do you eat an elephant . . . one bite at a time.”
5. What is your area of expertise or strength that will benefit the citizens and the Town of Vinton the most? My area of expertise is in accounting and management. I serve on both the Finance Committee and the Public Safety Committee. In the four years I have served the Town, we have simplified the monthly financial reporting, driven stronger accountability, and reallocated priorities, all while maintaining quality service levels from outstanding employees.
6. How would you attract more vendors, customers, and special events to the Farmer’s Market? To attract more vendors, customers and special events to the Farmer’s Market we need to understand what is keeping some away. It is healthy from time to time to look at our policies and ensure they are working for a successful market and not hindering it. If there needs to be adjustments to those policies, then we should absolutely consider them. We need to also understand the needs of facilities and if there are improvements that need to be made to encourage more events, then those should also be evaluated. We have some fantastic programming that is already occurring at the market and I believe we can build upon that base.
Roger Overstreet is the owner of Overstreet’s Auto Repair and Salvage located on Pollard Street in Vinton. This is his first bid for elective office.
He grew up in Roanoke and graduated from William Fleming High School. After high school, he worked in construction for a while and then studied computer programming at Virginia College, a private post-secondary institution, which was founded in Roanoke in the 1980’s and located at Roanoke Salem Plaza.
He then worked for Watermatic International, which builds vacuum cleaners, and for Advance Auto. Six years ago he went into business for himself and set up shop in his current location. He lives just down the street from his garage.
Overstreet Auto Repair and Salvage is a family-business, as his son and brother also work for the company. In addition to general repair work, they salvage junk cars and sell used auto parts, and new and used tires. He says they get business from all around the region. He also rents U-Haul trucks.
He has two grown children and three grandchildren. He says in his spare time, he enjoys fishing and attending his grandchildren’s school sporting events.
1. What do you think is the biggest problem Vinton is facing now and will face in the next five years? The lack of notoriety. Nobody wants to visit Vinton. We are completely overshadowed by Roanoke and Salem.
2. What do you think the No. 1 priority in the town budget should be? The cleaning of our local water systems is paramount to how we are viewed by neighboring towns and visitors and to the health of our citizens.
3. What motivated you to run for election to Town? I would like to attempt to “modernize” Vinton. Roanoke and Salem are modernizing and, as a member of the Roanoke Valley, Vinton shouldn’t be left behind. Also, making sure all small businesses are treated equally, so they can prosper.
4.How would you solve the problem of funding storm water mandates, needed capital improvement projects, the repair and replacement of the aging water and wastewater pipes, and the repair of the streets in the Town of Vinton, given a limited budget and without cutting services? Using a closely monitored overarching capital improvement plan, I would set up a step-by-step process for each problem, starting with the storm water mandates and the repair of the water pipes. Then, I would move on to street repair and capital improvement projects as they are a need of our town but not as dire as cleaning and maintaining our surrounding water systems.
5. What is your area of expertise or strength that will benefit the citizens and the Town of Vinton the most? Small Business Practices
6. How would you attract more vendors, customers, and special events to the Farmer’s Market? By advertising more. Many citizens are unaware of the Farmer’s Market and a better marketing campaign would bring more customers which, in turn, would bring more vendors.
Sabrina Weeks is the Assistant Vice President and Branch Manager at the Valley Bank Vinton location on Hardy Road. Her banking career has spanned 23 years.
Weeks was born and raised in Huddleston in Bedford County. She graduated from Staunton River High School and attended Liberty University. She moved to Vinton to be closer to work and has been a resident of the town for 15 years.
She started her career with First Union where she worked at the call center on Plantation Road in the bankcard division. She eventually moved into the branches where she started as a teller and quickly moved up to Teller Supervisor. She worked for the National Bank of Commerce, advancing to Assistant Manager, and then was employed by Valley Bank as a Manager and Bank Officer and subsequently promoted to her current position.
Weeks has been serving as a member of the Executive Board of Directors of the Vinton Area Chamber of Commerce for ten years and served as president for three years, ending her term in 2012. She became involved with the Chamber through her position at Valley Bank when she was asked to serve on the Chamber Board of Directors.
Weeks currently serves on the Town of Vinton Board of Zoning Appeals as a certified member, and has served the Town “as an avid volunteer” on other boards, committees, and civic organizations.
1. What do you think is the biggest problem Vinton is facing now and will face in the next five years? We have to get the water pipes fixed in Vinton. This will take some time and money but it has to be done, it is long overdue, and water is an essential for our citizens.
2. What do you think the No. 1 priority in the town budget should be? Our number one priority needs to be the safety of our citizens. I feel that we have a superlative Police department, Fire Department and Rescue Squad, as well as our exceptional Public Works department. I support the partnership with Roanoke County to provide 24 hour fire and emergency medical services. The Public Works department continues to do an outstanding job from clearing streets when there is inclement weather to collecting trash weekly. The Town needs to continue to make sure that they have the proper equipment required to perform their jobs.
3. What motivated you to run for election to Town Council? I recently served as the President of the Vinton Area Chamber of Commerce. During my Presidency we started several new events in Vinton: Mingle at the Market, the Vinton Wine and Food Festival, and the New Year’s Eve Gala. I feel that these events, as well as the established events, have been beneficial for the Town of Vinton. We have seen new faces in the area and have had people from outside our boundaries show interest in what is happening “In” Vinton. I want to continue to work closely with the Vinton Area Chamber of Commerce and see that growth continue in the upcoming years.
4. How would you solve the problem of funding storm water mandates, needed capital improvement projects, the repair and replacement of the aging water and wastewater pipes, and the repair of the streets in the Town of Vinton, given a limited budget and without cutting services? We will have to increase revenues through economic development by continuing to promote Vinton as an attractive, friendly place for people to come and live, raise families and open businesses. We need to review the process required to start a new business and wherever possible revise ordinances to accommodate the growth. The Vinton Economic Development Outreach committee needs to meet on a more scheduled time frame. I feel that this will help us stay on top of any issues that need to be addressed in Vinton.
5. What is your area of expertise or strength that will benefit the citizens and the Town of Vinton the most? My high energy level, business background, leadership ability, and volunteer experience will be valuable assets to the citizens as well as Town Council. I am the Assistant Vice President and Manager of the Valley Bank Vinton Office where we reach out to small businesses and encourage economic growth. I serve on the Executive Board of Directors for the Vinton Area Chamber of Commerce and I am an active volunteer for the Vinton Breakfast Lion’s Club, Muscular Dystrophy Association, Relay for Life, and the American Heart Association.
6. How would you attract more vendors, customers, and special events to the Farmer’s Market? The farmers market is a delightful place and needs to be utilized at all times. In order to attract vendors to the market, we must advertise, through newspapers, both Vinton Messenger and Roanoke Times, television, radio, fliers in local businesses and Facebook. We will continue the Mingle at the Market Concert series. In addition to the variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, I would like to see herbs, honey, and fresh cut flowers, fresh baked breads, and homemade jams and jellies. The Farmer’s Market is a great venue for the citizens of Vinton to exhibit their talents, whether it’s growing vegetables, canning, baking, or other artistic endeavors. The possibilities are endless.