May 27, 2024

Virginia Beach City Council elections include newcomers – The Virginian-Pilot

Top, from left: Michael Mauch, Barbara Henley, Nanette Miller, Paul Telkamp, Elaine Fekete, Melissa Peck and Rocky Holcomb. Middle, from left: Linwood Branch, Worth Remick, Cat Porterfield, R.K. Kowalewitch, Rona Marsh, Chris Taylor and John Andrews. Bottom, from left: John Moss, T.J. Morgan, Joash Schulman, Amelia Ross-Hammond, Heidi Daniels and Jennifer Rouse. (Courtesy images)
VIRGINIA BEACH — For the first time in Virginia Beach’s history, voters will elect a City Council member for their district only, not for other parts of the city.
Virginia Beach ended its at-large voting system and implemented 10 single-member districts this year following a federal court order. In three of the new districts, minority voters form a majority of the voting population.
This year’s election features a fresh slate of candidates running in six open districts, challenging multiple current council members. A special election will also be held for District 1.
Without having to stump citywide, candidates can hone in on voters in their district, and many of them have been able to do so on a shoestring budget. But that also means they’re not hearing from voters across the city, and that worries veteran Councilwoman Barbara Henley, who is facing four opponents in District 2. She has also made it one of her selling points.
“Once people are elected, they’re going to be voting on all of the issues all over the city,” Henley, 80, said. “I, of course, pretty much know the whole the city because of my background.”
The open City Council seats on the ballot this year are: District 1, 2, 4, 6, 8, 9 and 10.
While issues within individual districts have dominated some campaign conversations, many candidates are also focused on hot topics that affect all residents, including flood prevention, job retention and economic development.
In 2021, voters passed a flood protection referendum authorizing $567.5 million of debt to pay for 21 stormwater protection projects. It will be the job of the City Council to ensure the money is well spent.
Flooding and taxes are top issues in District 9, along the Chesapeake Bay, where three people are running. Joash Schulman, an attorney, and T.J. Morgan, a chiropractor, are challenging Councilman John Moss.
Moss, 68, a self-described fiscal conservative, wants to keep stormwater projects on schedule. Schulman, 43, chair of the city’s Wetlands Board, wants to create more job opportunities that will keep young adults in Virginia Beach. Morgan, 56, has led the Chesapeake Beach Civic League for 10 years. He wants to lower the tax burden on small businesses.
In District 6, which encompasses part of the resort area, Seatack and the North End, four people are vying for the seat. One key issue there is Atlantic Park, a large public-private project on the former dome site, scheduled to break ground this fall.
Linwood Branch, a hotelier who was appointed in 2021, is running against R.K. Kowalewitch, a self-employed home builder; Cat Porterfield, a realtor; and Worth Remick, a real estate adviser.
Branch and Remick have raised the most money of all 20 candidates. As of Aug. 31, each had more than $130,000, according to the Virginia Public Access Project, which tracks campaign donations. Branch’s top donors include local real estate development companies while Remick’s are individuals.
“I’m very happy with the amount of support from my friends that want me to help improve our city and level the playing field,” Remick, 62, said.
Branch, 67, wants to continue to bring more jobs and economic activity by supporting offshore wind initiatives, undersea data cables and Oceanfront development projects. Kowalewitch, 62, supports a plan to recruit more police officers; and Porterfield, 52, will strive to provide more government transparency.
District 2 includes the southern part of the city where preserving agricultural interests is a priority. Henley, who has represented the former Princess Anne District for years and owns a farm, is facing Elaine Fekete, 59, a realtor; Michael Mauch, 39, a restaurant owner; Nanette Miller, 65, a retired U.S. Navy commander; and Paul Telkamp, 46, owner of an information technology consulting company.
Mauch says it’s time for a fresh face on council.
“All companies go through refreshments; they change things,” Mauch said. “It’s just time for a new vision to be in that seat.”
In District 8, which covers parts of Shore Drive, the Great Neck area and Kings Grant, three people are facing off: John Andrews, a manager for the U.S. Navy’s Military Sealift Command; Rona Marsh, a retired fraud examiner; and Chris Taylor, co-owner of a local chain of Smoothie Stop Cafe stores.
Andrews, 65, wants to encourage the city’s positive engagement with the U.S. Navy and work on regional cooperation. Marsh, 66, has been an outspoken voice at City Council meetings where she often signs up to speak at the podium on budgetary issues.
“I’m not the new kid on the block,” Marsh said. “I’ve been going to meetings for years.”
She’s been tracking the tax surplus on last year’s budget and wants to return some of that money to taxpayers. Marsh is also concerned about how much attention is given to the resort area.
“So many of the districts don’t get the love and the money that the Oceanfront gets,” she said.
Taylor, 38, supports more resources for police, fire and emergency services.
Heidi Daniels, executive director of Green Run Homes Association, and Jennifer Rouse, assistant professor at Tidewater Community College, are on the ballot for District 10. It’s one of the three districts with a majority of minority voters and is near the center of the city.
“I can bring a different perspective to City Council,” Rouse, 36, said.
Her husband, Aaron, is a current member of the Virginia Beach City Council, but he’s not seeking another term.
The district is comprised of high density housing with aging infrastructure, which Jennifer Rouse hopes to improve on. She also wants to be the voice for the district’s business community.
“Some of these shopping centers on the perimeter of my district, at least from the perspective of business owners, have been ignored,” she said.
Daniels has lived in Green Run for 22 years and enjoys helping her neighbors.
“I’m passionate about where I live,” Daniels, 51, said. “I’m always fighting for my community.”
In District 1′s special election, Rocky Holcomb, chief deputy of the Virginia Beach Sheriff’s Office and a former state delegate, is hoping to keep a seat on council after being appointed to fill the Kempsville seat last year.
Holcomb, 54, wants to invest in first responders while supporting economic growth. He’s facing Melissa Peck, 43, a mother of four school-aged children, who wants to bring new businesses to Virginia Beach that will create more jobs.
Amelia Ross-Hammond, former Virginia Beach City Councilmember, is running unopposed for District 4.
For more information about the election, visit
Stacy Parker, 757-222-5125, st**********@pi*********.com
Copyright © 2022, The Virginian-Pilot
Copyright © 2022, The Virginian-Pilot


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