Bennett: ‘A need for change’Published 6:22pm Saturday, October 27, 2012
Leroy Bennett is challenging for the mayor’s seat in the upcoming elections.
He has been on City Council for 16 years, but was eliminated from the Nansemond borough in last year’s contentious redistricting process. He has served as vice mayor, chairman of the Suffolk Redevelopment and Housing Authority, chairman of the Industrial Development Authority (now called the Economic Development Authority), chairman of the Western Tidewater Regional Jail Board and chairman of the Southeastern Public Service Authority.
He also has served his community through the South Suffolk-Pleasant Hill Civic League and the Wilroy Civic League for about 20 years, he said.
“I want to serve as mayor of the city of Suffolk, because there is a need for change at the top level of city government,” he wrote in an emailed response to questions. “There is a clear need for a mayor who is independent-minded and capable of representing the interests of the people, rather than those of special interests, friends, neighbors or business partners.”
Bennett, who declined to meet personally with a reporter for this story, responding that he was too busy to do so and requiring an exchange via email, stated that his experience at many levels of community service has prepared him for the mayor’s position.
“From my service in the civic leagues in both communities where I have resided to representing the Nansemond Borough on City Council for the last 16 years, I have consistently demonstrated my dedication to helping to solve the problems of my fellow citizens,” he stated in the email. “I am honored to serve as ‘a voice of the people.’”
Bennett lists his top issue as attracting more industry, which will provide more jobs for citizens, he said.
“I believe it is of primary importance for a city to exhibit a business-friendly attitude, which signals to interested industrial partners that Suffolk values its small businesses as well as large corporations,” he stated. “All businesses should expect assistance with solving problems rather than harassment over minor issues.”
Jobs would come along with the industry, he said.
“While Suffolk has been fortunate in having the U.S. Navy relocate four commands here, which will add about 1,000 jobs, there is still a dire need for more modest paying employment opportunities,” he said.
Bennett recommends that the city again employ a downtown development coordinator who could pursue business candidates for the “depressed” downtown business district.
He also wants to establish a small business advisory board to “facilitate an effective channel of communication and cooperation between the city’s small business community and the administration.”
Bennett said he would also tackle the transportation infrastructure by becoming “closely allied with regional partners to seek solutions to transportation problems that affect all of our citizens.”
He also said he would seek public-private partnerships to finance projects such as a new downtown library and parking garage, a bowling alley and skating rink, and other projects.
Other priority areas for him include fully supporting the school system, promoting affordable housing, making public transportation convenient and taking “actions that will reduce the tax burden on residents.”