Roger Leonard – Whaleyville Borough (City Council)

Published 12:00 am Sunday, May 2, 2004

Name: Roger A. Leonard

Age: 49

Profession: General Manager – Owner: Cardinals Pilot Shop, Inc. / Consultant

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Education: Master’s degree in public administration, Troy State University, Troy, Ala., 1999

Why are you seeking this office? Our community is growing rapidly and has many competing needs. We need to have leadership that is aware of what we truly need, rather than what is nice to have. The recent ego-driven decision to build the hotel and marina on Constant’s Wharf is an expensive example of the thinking of what is nice to have, rather than the water and sewer services we need in the Whaleyville Village.

Why should a citizen vote for you?

As a community, we need more expertise in the conduct of public business.

We also need more attention to finding solutions to citizen requests, rather than just saying NO. Our city has rapidly grown in both population and complexity over the last few years and we need to have a more professional, actively involved City Council.

City staff makes too many critical policy decisions, rather than city council as required under the city council-city manager form of government.

With a good educational background, practical business experience and keen interest, I am the most qualified for this position.

The City Council has asked City Manager R. Steven Herbert to study ways to fund a 3 cent tax cut in his proposed $277 million budget for the 2004-2005 fiscal year. That equates to approximately $1.4 million. Is this tax reduction feasible right now and if so, where do believe the cuts should be made? I do believe that this tax reduction is both feasible and necessary right now.

I have done a detailed review of the City Operating Budget and this one-half of a percent reduction in fat can easily be found in three main areas.

These include changes and privatization of City Risk Management (Insurance), Fleet Management (cars, trucks, and equipment), and financial accounting/financial services outsourcing. The savings from just these departments by outsourcing and job reductions can fully fund these tax reductions.

I do not propose any reductions in the school budget.

What is the most important action the City Council has taken over the past four years?

Even though it has been a little more than four years, it would have to be the enactment of the Unified Development Ordinance. The UDO seriously stripped private property rights.

Suffolk is one of the fastest growing cities in the United States today, with more than 1,000 new homes being built in the city last year. Is the city adequately equipped to handle this much growth at one time?

What can the city do to better manage it?

We have been fortunate so far that we have been on the leading edge of the growth that has take place in our city and we have absorbed it well so far. We are on the cusp of losing this issue due to a lack of vision and leadership on City Council.

We must focus on three areas to handle growth properly. First, we must set proper priorities, which as the most important; is schools and teacher salaries. Secondly, we have to focus on public safety salaries so we do not just become the training ground for our neighbors and have a drain of our youngest and brightest police and fire personnel. The third is a pragmatic focus on economic development to fund good salaries and the funds to establish jobs and to power our quality of life. Setting proper goals also requires dealing with real priorities, rather that ego items. We need to keep focus on what we need, rather than on what we want.

The city’s is embarking on a five-year review of 2018 Comprehensive Plan, the city’s road map for managed growth. Do changes need to be made to this document?

Yes, we need to establish some realistic methodologies for proper economic growth corridors and supporting residential growth areas that focus on our strengths and real needs. Anyone who thinks they will dictate to the market the manner of growth is not dealing in reality. The markets are much smarter than the local city leadership as we have seen with almost twice the growth projected under the UDO. The UDO has been a causal component that has driven up land and home prices by reducing the supply of affordable homes in our community. With the impact that could accrue under the 2018 comp plan, these issues could be exacerbated if there is not proper active leadership to bear.

What are the most pressing issues facing the borough for which you are seeking office? How would you address them?

The extension of water and sewer services to resolve the issues of failing septic systems and high fluoride levels in our drinking water. Another issue is the increase in traffic on Route 13 due to growth in Gates County, N.C., and our city, with no improvements to this vital traffic corridor planned in the next 20 years.

We need to set realistic needs as our priorities and the council must commit to meeting the past assurances that water and sewer will be run down to Whaleyville. If we allow the city to take over roads from the Virginia Department of Transportation, we must have assurances from council that the Route 13 corridor will be significantly improved to handle the increased traffic we are seeing.

— Compiled by Allison T. Williams