Three council endorsements

Published 10:39 pm Friday, October 31, 2008

With all of the focus this election season on the opportunity that Suffolk citizens have to participate in the first direct election of a mayor, the regular City Council elections have taken something of a back seat. That does not mean the seven council positions are not just as important, though.

Three of those council seats are on this year’s ballot. Two of those races are contested, while one, the Sleepy Hole Borough, features a single candidate who will take the place of Linda Johnson, who chose this year to relinquish a shot at re-election in her bid to become the city’s first popularly elected mayor.

Fortunately for voters in the Sleepy Hole area, Robert C. Barclay IV has the experience and the knowledge needed to help guide the borough through the changes that are expected eventually to transform it from a rural area to a suburban one. His experience on the Virginia Port Authority will be a bonus to the city as it evaluates proposals from CenterPoint and other port-related industries.

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Voters in the Nansemond and Whaleyville Boroughs get a choice of candidates, but if they’ve done much research on the contenders, they may be wishing for more options.

In the Nansemond Borough, incumbent Leroy Bennett faces a challenge from Trisha Marche James, a newcomer to both Suffolk and to the political process. It’s pleasing to see a transplant to North Suffolk getting involved in the city’s governance, but James’ résumé is a little thin when it comes to the kind of experience necessary to lead a growing city like Suffolk.

We’d like to see a strong challenger running against Bennett, whose complicity in the financial debacle of the Southeastern Public Service Authority makes it impossible to offer him an unqualified endorsement. Even so, his 48 years in Suffolk and his moderating voice on City Council tip the balance in his favor this year.

The race in the Whaleyville Borough suffers from the same fundamental problems this year: a flawed incumbent facing a weak challenger. Curtis R. Milteer has served on the City Council for 28 years and claims an impressive list of benefits brought to the community during those years, including a fire station and a community center. His distracted, somnolent demeanor during City Council meetings, however, leaves one wondering just how well he understands the problems and needs of Suffolk in the 21st century.

Unfortunately, his opponent, Jay P. Quigley has little to show in the way of community connections, and his frequent boast that he lacks local political connections reveals a naiveté about the political process. Once again, we must offer a qualified endorsement for the incumbent.