A local businesswoman has only been on the Christiansburg Town Council for a month and is already facing the challenges head-on.
Merissa Sachs has attended her first meeting and work session and is ready to get her feet wet. This is her first opportunity at public office and she plans to take full advantage of it to make the community the best it can be.
Sachs came to the area in 1989 from North Dakota. With relatives in Shawsville, she landed in Christiansburg and started Marketing on Main along Christiansburg’s Main Street, before moving the business to the former Grandma’s Goodies location.
She also worked in the accounting department for Roanoke Restaurant Service, Hubbell Lighting and the Virginia Tech Foundation, and in 2010 opened the “Salvage Junkies.”
Sachs is also very involved in the community through volunteering, serving in the past on the board of directors for the Christiansburg Chamber of Commerce, is a volunteer at the Montgomery County Christmas Store, worked with the development of the Wilderness Trail Festival, advisory board for the NRV Salvation Army and is currently supporting the Women’s Shelter of the NRV with several fundraising programs.
Sachs is banking on that experience as a business owner and also using it as motivation to seek the public office.
Q: Why did you decide to run?
A: This is a multi-faceted answer between timing, experience and support. My daughter is now at East Carolina University in North Carolina pursing her Nursing degree (after graduating from CHS) leaving me with a little more free time. I felt my 30 years of business experience would be an asset to the council enhancing its diverse backgrounds and the support of friends, family and business associates. With these three reasons aligning just right; I felt it was time to make the decision to campaign.
Q: What are your feelings about winning a seat on council?
A: I appreciate the confidence of the voting public putting me in this position. I will do my very best to do right by each voter. Two quotes I live by and will use as a guide on my seat at council are: “every job is a self-portrait of the person who did it; autograph your work with excellence” and “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
Q: What are your goals and objectives, and why?
A: I am passionate about the cohesiveness between the citizens and the business community. We can support each other in a positive way through education and engagement. The recent noise ordinance issues, sign permit issues and storm water fees are a concern to me (in part from stories shared by local business owners).
My position is not to second-guess what prior council has decided; but to move forward and be as helpful as I can. We must foster responsible growth.
I am also passionate about budgets and spending within our means. I feel each citizen and business owner must budget and at times that means we don’t get what we want. It’s my opinion the Town shouldn’t be any different – we need to budget and spend wisely.
After all it’s the taxpayers’ money we’re spending so we need to do it as responsible and frugal as possible all while preparing for future needs. I work for each citizen and business owner and their needs are my goals.
Q: What do you feel are the pros and cons of the town right now?
A: I speak not only for myself but for those that have reached out to me as their representative on Council when I say the pro’s are: We have an amazing staff at the town! They are truly a team and support each other in their duties.
We have a great support system with our first responders; we are in excellent hands with such dedicated employees and volunteer community. We have new growth in the mall area, which is very exciting.
We have great senior opportunities with our Parks and Rec departments. We have nice parks and public spaces. We also have an amazing museum that has embraced sharing their vast knowledge of our area with the public! Look to your neighbor, your friend and you’ll see it’s our citizens that are a PRO for Christiansburg!
Cons: Our high meals tax rate and lodging tax rates are a concern. The town depends on various forms of income including meals and lodging in order to offer its citizens’ services so this is also not a quick fix. In my opinion; if we can reduce these tax rates it will make Christiansburg more appealing to businesses, visitors, event planners and the like.
We may face a short downfall before revenues increase with the lower rates; but with good marketing we can pull more revenue events over the long run. Why is this so important? By taxing meals and lodging at a lower rate this will increase revenue for years to come creating increased revenue into the general fund; which perhaps would satisfy budget/financial needs of the town instead of raising taxes in other areas where citizens would need to pay more.
So, it’s in our best interest overall to dive further into this topic. We need to work on our town codes so we’re progressive and forward thinking when related to our citizens and businesses.
Q: What do you believe is the biggest challenge for the town?
A: Responsible Growth. This is a broad topic but one I feel is the largest challenge. We need jobs, businesses, water and sewer to handle growth, new affordable housing, public works needs to handle growth, future land developments, first responder needs, overall budget and so on. It’s vital to include all areas of government in order to grow responsibly.
Q: Small business continues to be on the downslide in the town. What steps do we need to take to reverse this?
A: Listening! Listening is the first thing we can do as a Council to hear the concerns of the small business owner then ACT! Small businesses generate over 65 percent of new jobs on the average making the small business sector one to pay attention to. The failure rate for a new small business is high but the rewards can be great. The more we can support the small businesses the Town and its residents will receive benefit through new jobs and tax revenue. So, we want our small businesses to succeed. Being self-employed I can relate to the struggles a small business owner faces and I feel I can help facilitate positive change to help all businesses.
There is no overnight fix; but with time we can make improvements. I’ve attended two council meetings thus far and it’s a good start to learning how the system works. I’ve had many business owners share their concerns with me and I’ve already started the process to work on these concerns. This is a team effort with local government and so far I’ve received their full support, which is much appreciated.
Q: After one meeting, how do you feel about the makeup of council and what you hope the group can accomplish together??
A: We have a diverse group of backgrounds and experiences on town council right now. No one person can be expected to know everything about everything, so having an amalgamated group of Council members allows us to lean on each other for advice and guidance in our own respective areas of expertise.
We each are also a part of sub-committees which allows us to dive further into issues we each are passionate about. My sub-committees are the Central Business District Committee and the Water, Sewer & Solid Waste committee. I look forward to serving on both and have already had one meeting under my belt to get 2018 rolling in a positive manner.