Filling A Vacancy On BV Council

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Buena Vista is facing numerous daunting challenges. Even before the pandemic, the city was extremely fiscally stressed, with a dwindling fund balance, depressed property values and rising costs for certain services that were beyond the city’s control.

Then came COVID-19, and with it, job losses for citizens, disruptions of businesses and the schools and an urgent need for greater financial resources to address the many facets of the pandemic. Federal funding from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act has helped, but the city and its citizens still find themselves in a dire situation.

Throughout these difficult days, which are presenting similar hardships to jurisdictions across the country, the necessity of providing rudimentary governmental services to its citizens remains a responsibility that Buena Vista must meet. The city is undertaking a big paving project on U.S. 501 and U.S. 60. The city’s aging wastewater treatment plant is in need of expensive repairs. A major capital project looms for the city schools in the nottoo-distant future.

A specific casualty of the pandemic is the withdrawal of Roanoke developer Ed Walker’s involvement in efforts to revitalize downtown Buena Vista. A virtual auction of Walker’s remaining downtown properties was scheduled to take place this week. Still, the city’s hope for a downtown resurgence hasn’t gone away. Buena Vista Forward, an economic development initiative funded by a Community Development Block Grant, is in the planning phase of a process that, it’s hoped, will eventually bring about a revitalization of the city’s business district.

In the midst of these many difficulties and challenges, Buena Vista’s city government is undergoing a change in leadership. On a 5-2 vote back in January, City Council voted to replace City Manager Jay Scudder, though Scudder agreed to stay on until his successor is chosen. The pandemic slowed the subsequent search, delaying interviews of prospective candidates, which are only now being conducted virtually.

A change in one seat on City Council is also imminent. Vice Mayor Lisa Clark, elected to her third four-year term on Council a year ago, recently announced her intention to step down Feb. 1. With all of the challenges facing the city, it’s paramount that City Council choose the right person to fill this upcoming vacancy.

We believe a good choice would be Steve Baldridge, a capable, conscientious and energetic veteran of Council who has also served previously on the city’s School Board. He was the candidate in last year’s City Council election who received the next highest vote total after the three who were elected.

While the city charter doesn’t dictate that Council fill a vacancy with the candidate who received the next highest vote total in the last election, we think it’s proper to consider this fact. Baldridge, a two-term incumbent member of Council at the time, was fully vetted by the electoral process.

An attorney and part-time professor at Southern Virginia University, Baldridge brings with him a level of professionalism and experience that has and could continue to serve the city well. During his previous eight years on Council, he was a judicious voice of reason in helping guide the city through troubling times.

We urge City Council to appoint Baldridge to the pending vacancy.

The News-Gazette

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