Ralph stresses teamwork

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 2, 2004

Suffolk News-Herald

&uot;The bell has rung for the new year and I’m ready to go.&uot;

With those words, newly elected Mayor Bobby L. Ralph embarked on his first day at the city’s helm, narrowly defeating Councilman E. Dana Dickens III.

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Ralph was tapped to lead the city shortly after Thursday’s investiture ceremony, when reelected council members Linda T. Johnson, Curtis R. Milteer and Leroy Bennett, of the Sleepy Hole, Whaleyville and Nansemond boroughs respectively, were sworn into office.

Ralph was elected to the city’s top seat by a 4-3 paper ballot vote during the City Council’s re-organizational meeting. In addition to his own vote, the city’s retired social services director garnered the support of council members Linda T. Johnson, Curtis Milteer and Charles F. Brown.

Vice Mayor Leroy Bennett retained his seat, beating out fellow nominee Brown 4-3 for the seat.

In campaigning among fellow council members leading up to Thursday, Ralph, 64, said he would recommend few changes to the City Council’s existing priorities, including quality of life issues, economic development, smart growth, and education.

However, he wants to see transportation moved higher on the council’s list of priorities.

Ralph, who worked with eight mayors and city managers during his three decades with social services, says he intends to tap that experience.

&uot;I intend to draw on those things that worked and put aside those things that didn’t serve us very well,&uot; Ralph said in a statement after he was named mayor.

&uot;I have two former mayors on the council to lean,&uot; he said.

&uot;We have a great team.

&uot;And if you look at the spelling of the word ‘team,’ you don’t see an ‘I’.&uot;

Later, at the reception at Riddick’s Folly, Ralph said it’s &uot;too early&uot; to elaborate on his vision as mayor, saying he wants the opportunity to initially discuss pending issues and plans with his fellow council members. He added, however, that the direct election of the mayor is a priority he intends to add to council’s agenda for its September retreat.

&uot;I think we need to revisit the idea,&uot; said Ralph.

Dickens, who campaigned heavily among fellow council members to retain his mayoral seat, is hopeful Suffolk will continue on its current path.

&uot;In the last several years, Suffolk has become a prominent player in the region and state,&uot; Dickens said. &uot;I certainly hope that will continue.

&uot;I think the framework and the path the city is following is correct,&uot; he continued. &uot;I think the challenge for City Council is to stay the course.

I fully expect we will.&uot;

Ralph, Bennett and other council members praised Dickens, and agreed he has done much to advance the city as mayor.

&uot;Mayor Dickens has served the city quite well,&uot; said Ralph. &uot;He has led the city into a state we are all proud of. We have stayed the course and we are now reaping the benefits of that.&uot;

Bennett echoed those remarks.

&uot;He’s done a great job in making us a part of the region,&uot; Bennett said. &uot;He’s made us recognizable throughout the state of Virginia.&uot;

That isn’t likely to change, said Del. S. Chris Jones, guest speaker at the investiture.

&uot;Dana (Dickens) has been tireless in his efforts to promote the city. Knowing Dana as I do, he will continue to make significant contributions to the body,&uot; he said later in an interview.

As for the new mayor, &uot;I think Bobby (Ralph) will do a fantastic job,&uot; Jones added. &uot;I have known him for 20 years.&uot; Having formerly served Suffolk on council and as mayor, Jones said he could easily identify with Thursday’s chain of events.

&uot;I’ve been through that,&uot; said Jones, &uot;and I think City Council has set goals and they have a vision. I think they will be fine as long as all seven members of council put the city first.&uot;