In a near-record quick, seven-minute meeting, the Blacksburg Town Council appointed Jerry R. Ford Jr. to fill the one-year vacancy left by Leslie Hager-Smith being elected mayor.
His appointment will run until a special election is held in November. The appointment was approved unanimously to applause. A brief swearing in ceremony followed the meeting.
“I’m humbled by the opportunity and honored by the support of the council,” Ford said.
He has served on the Planning Commission for 18 months, which he believes has helped prepare him for the position. The entire council appoints an interim councilperson.
Mr. Ford brings a wealth of pertinent experience to the job wrote Hager-Smith in an email. Ford served on the town’s Long-Range Planning Committee from January 2016 to January 2018 and as a member of the Town’s Planning Commission from July 2016 to January 2018. He completed the Certified Planning Commissioner Program, which provides the legal and technical background used by citizen-planners.
In addition to his council duties, Ford will act as a liaison to both the Montgomery County -Blacksburg Local Emergency Planning Commission and the Montgomery Regional Economic Development Commission.
According to the town website, Ford is a native of Virginia who came to Blacksburg in 1987 to attend Virginia Tech, graduating in 1991 with a BS in Biology and later receiving a master’s degree in environmental management from the University of Maryland.
Ford co-founded the non-profit NRV Bike Kitchen, Inc. that makes bicycles available to car-less people housed at the Habitat for Humanity ReStore (1675 N. Franklin Street), and has served on the boards of two local non-profits, the New River Valley Bicycle Association, Inc. and Sustainable Blacksburg, Inc.
Jack Davis, a Virginia Tech professor of architecture, and Tim Colley, also an architect, were appointed to the Planning Commission.
Their terms will run through June 30, 2022. Councilperson Michael Sutphin was appointed liaison to that commission. The council approved both motions unanimously.
Earlier, the town manager was authorized by council to sign a lease with HS Development, LLC to use a portion of the old Blacksburg High School site for public use of the recreational facilities. The $10 a year lease is renewable annually and covers 40 percent of the property.
“The new owners were concerned about liability on the track and parking, so they wanted the town to lease that portion of the property for insurance coverage,” Town Attorney Larry Spencer said.
“It covers the front part with the track and the baseball and softball fields and the two parking lots,” he said.
The town is interested in acquiring the entire property and Spencer confirmed that the developers and the town are in informal conversation pursuing acquisition.
The town is interested in getting a portion of the land to try to keep those fields and get another part for a recreation facility.
“[The lease] is mutually beneficial and we appreciate them doing that for us,” Spencer said.
No public hearing and no citizen comments were voiced. In unfinished business, the council adopted the town’s Capital Improvement Program.
The next meeting is at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 6 at Blacksburg Municipal Building (300 S Main St.).