Incumbents Sam Bishop and Johana Hicks, along with Kim Bowman, Wendy Glass, and Steve Huppert responded to questions at the last of the Candidate Forum series on Thursday, Oct. 12.
Seven candidates are running for three seats on town council, including Jeff Akers and Mike Scarry who were unable to attend.
Candidates that were present responded to questions about top priorities they have for their candidacy, addressing conflict within the council, managing the budget, meals tax, among other topics concerning the town of Christiansburg.
Sam Bishop currently serves on the Christiansburg Town Council and has over two decades of experience in the military, many years of service as a police officer, and serves on the Christiansburg Rescue Squad. Bishop addressed the need for Council to carefully handle the residence of the Town as well as listen to their ideas and concerns.
“We, as town council, look over the budget, and if there’s things in it that we don’t think needs to be there, we send it back to the department heads and ask them if it is a need or a want,” Bishop said.
As a small business owner and a director of a non-profit organization, Kim Bowman feels that her years of experience serving her community will be an asset as Councilwoman for Christiansburg.
“My top priority is to be a voice for the people,” Bowman said. “First and foremost, I would like to do the will of the people. And of course, you know, keeping our taxes low as much as town council has control over that.”
Wendy Glass has also been a small business owner and shared her human resource professional experience with the audience as a major asset that she can bring to the community. Glass has been a sponsor to the program titled Launch Christiansburg, a 10-week program for entrepreneurs seeking to open or grow new small businesses in the town.
“I think a local economy is the heartbeat of any community and we need to make a pathway to business ownership of entrepreneurship in our community attainable for anyone who wants to be a business owner,” Glass said.
On the topic of the budget, Glass felt that the “Council outperformed their budget last year,” saying that that the town is $4.5 million in the good.
Johana Hicks is running for re-election, beginning her previous term in January 2020. She is a member of the community and a business owner. She serves on the Central Business District Committee and Water and Waste Committee during her current tenure as a council member. Like many of the other candidates, she expresses a need to bring the people’s message to the council and consider their concerns for the community.
“I will have more public meetings for the future, and which will become a legal notice,” Hicks said. “I always try to bring all this [sic] suggestions and inputs to the council.”
Hicks agreed with Bishop on considering the town’s needs before their wants when considering the Christiansburg Town budget, which needs to happen in a conservative way, she said.
Steve Huppert previously served on the Council for 16 years as a member and recently chose to run again. Huppert believes that Christiansburg High School is due for the new facility that is in progress. He expressed a desire to have semi-annual updates on the high school’s construction to Council and the community.
“I think education is very important to be able to educate the people of the community,” Huppert said.
Huppert also discussed an audience’s question about how he would manage the budget if elected as a council member.
“Council will say some of these things, you know, you’re going to have to reduce that, and you have to cut it. And we go through a series of reductions and improvements as they go along, and I think that’s an important way to do it,” Huppert said. “Of course, we have open to the public to come in and discuss our budget and look at it and what they feel their requirements are and to get people involved too.”
Another question asked of the candidates by moderator Molly McClintock was, “Christiansburg has one of the highest meals’ tax in the state. Would you support lowering that tax and if so, how would you replace lost revenue?”
Glass responded that no, she would not support lowering the meal tax.
“That’s 12% of our budget almost, so, if we try to cut that fat, who’s going to bear the burden of that? I don’t want it to be me and you,” Glass said. “The short answer is no, I would rather people coming to visit us pay a higher meals’ tax than our citizens have to pay higher property taxes.”
Bishop agreed with Glass in that visitors coming to the area can help pay that meals’ tax, but also that he pays his share when he eats at local food establishments.
“I would not cut out the meal tax because once again that does mean more taxes for the citizens of Christiansburg,” Bishop said.
Bowman stated as well that it is better to have the meals tax instead of raising people’s home tax, although it would be great to be able to lower the meals tax in the future.
“It is really a choice, not a necessity. If you don’t want to prepare meals, then you will go to eat, and you know that you have the meals tax,” Hicks said.
Huppert agreed with the other candidates that the meals tax is a “cash cow” to keep the town functioning and providing necessary utilities and other benefits that the community wants and needs.
Teamwork, professionalism, and respect were key items presented by the candidates when asked how they would reduce conflict in working together as a council.
“Everybody deserves respect” Hicks said.
Huppert said, “The communication is so important in anything you do in life and everybody knows that and council is certainly one of those.”
“I would really like to see some dignity and respect restored to this Town Council,” Bowman said.
Glass has spent almost 20 years in human resources and would like to apply some of her coaching in conflict expertise to mitigate conflict if elected to Council.
Nov. 7 is election day; however, early voting is an option for registered voters at 1546 N. Franklin St., Christiansburg. Additional information on voting can be found at the League of Women Voters of Montgomery at www.lwv.org.