Incumbent, challenger seek council post

Published 9:27 pm Saturday, October 9, 2010

Cypress voters next month will have a choice between incumbent Charles Brown and challenger Bill Newsome to fill their seat on City Council.

Interviews with the candidates by former mayor Andy Damiani can be seen on Charter channel 13 at 8 a.m., 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. each day.

Charles Brown

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Incumbent Charles Brown is seeking re-election to his fifth term on City Council. Brown, an instructor at Northrop Grumman’s Apprentice School in Newport News, also formerly served on the Suffolk Planning Commission and the Suffolk Redevelopment and Housing Authority Board of Commissioners. He holds a bachelor’s degree in math and physics from Fayetteville State University, and a master’s degree in human resources from George Washington University.

Charles Brown

Brown said he is running again because he wants to be “the servant of the people.”

“I love my city, and I think I have a lot to offer,” Brown said. “I can get things done. I want to continue to work with council and the people in Cypress and all Suffolkians to continue to get things done in a quality way in our city.”

Brown especially highlighted accomplishments in the realms of education, economic development and public safety during his time on City Council.

“We have some of the best-looking schools in the district, and I think all the schools are fully accredited,” Brown said. “I think we have reached our goals.”

In terms of economic development, Brown said Suffolk has surpassed “everybody in the region in terms of economic development and the number of jobs we have brought to the city. We continue to recruit high-paying jobs for our citizens.”

Safety and community also have improved under his tenure, he said.

“When I first got on council, that was one of the greatest problems we had — citizens that were afraid to go to the mailbox to get the mail because it was so infested with vices within the neighborhood,” Brown said. “It was not safe. Now, you can go to any neighborhood within the city and feel safe. Our police department is doing an excellent job.”

Brown also pointed out that several playgrounds, as well as the East Suffolk Recreation Center, have been built in his borough during the last 16 years.

“When we look at all aspects of our city, I think you’ll see the quality is there and it’s measurable,” Brown said. “Junk cars, clogged-up ditches, high grass — you don’t’ see those types of things in our city any more.”

He said he also had helped improve the diversity of city employees.

“We had no department heads that were African-Americans,” Brown said of when he first arrived on City Council. “Now we’re well-diverse in every aspect, from age to color.”

Brown also noted the police department is working on improving traffic flow on East Washington Street, a chief complaint from his opponent.

Bill Newsome

Bill Newsome traces his family roots in Suffolk back some 200 years. He is retired from teaching in Norfolk Public Schools for 25 years, but also taught in Suffolk and in Newark, N.J., during his career. He holds a bachelor’s degree in education from Norfolk State University, and also attended Virginia State University and obtained his certification from Seton Hall University in New Jersey.

Bill Newsome

Newsome says he is running for City Council because he does not like the way things have been done in Cypress.

“I think there’s some things that need to be changed,” he said. “I can see there’s no progress being made in the Cypress borough. We still have open ditches and no sidewalks.”

Newsome founded a civic league some years ago to help get things done. Through the civic league’s advocacy, the area received painted crosswalks and some landscaping.

“A lot of things have just not been done,” he said. “Being underrepresented is almost like no representation at all.”

Brown said that everything that gets done in Suffolk seems to happen on the northern end. Many business opportunities have been lost to Chesapeake and counties to the west, he added.

Newsome says he’s running to represent Cypress “from Skeetertown Road to Wilroy Road.” He’s promised to meet with the leadership of the borough’s civic leagues quarterly to discuss issues in the borough.

“Many of them feel they’ve lost hope of anything happening,” Newsome said. “We’re not asking for streets paved with gold, but we’re asking for certain things that would improve the neighborhood.”

One of those things would be sidewalks, Newsome said.

“The poor little kids have to stand in the middle of the street to catch the school bus,” he said. “That’s ridiculous. I just think it’s time for a new vision on council.”

Newsome also proposes to make salaries for public servants like teachers, firefighters and police officers more competitive with nearby cities so Suffolk is able to attract and retain the best staff.

“We have to be competitive with them in terms of salaries,” Newsome said.

An admirer of former City Council member Moses Riddick, Newsome also thinks Milton Liverman, recently retired superintendent of Suffolk Public Schools, “did a very outstanding job.”

Newsome also thinks a new city hall should be built on the old Obici Hospital site, rather than placing it in a proposed location on West Washington Street.

“The bottom line is, I love Suffolk,” Newsome said. “Once you get that peanut dust in your blood, you can’t shake it.”