Bennett: ‘A voice for the people’

Published 2:25 am Sunday, November 4, 2012

By Leroy Bennett

In the early ’60s, after completing my tour of duty aboard the USS Forrestal, I proudly became a resident of Suffolk. I immediately joined the South Suffolk Civic League, and later the Wilroy Civic League, both of which I served as president for a total of nearly two decades.

During this period, I was privileged, also, to serve as an auxiliary police officer. This experience afforded me special insight into the needs and aspirations of the citizens of Suffolk.

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Other positions that have offered opportunities for service include city councilman for 16 years; Education Committee; Health/ Human Resources Committee; vice mayor (’04-’08); and past member and chairman of the following boards: Tidewater Regional Jail Board; Southeastern Public Service Authority; Suffolk Redevelopment and Housing Authority; and the Suffolk Industrial Development Authority.

During these years of varied experiences, I always served the citizens of this city with a commitment to honesty and integrity. I have formed no alliances or allegiances that will, in any way, result in indebtedness to any special interest group, friend or foe.

My record as the councilman for the former Nansemond borough confirms that I have always chosen to vote on issues independently, rather than in tandem. I have throughout my tenure in civic organizations been an advocate for the people.

Suffolk has made great strides in the last 16 years. It is with pride that I, through partnership with council and staff, can list many outstanding accomplishments, a few of which include: a widely emulated Unified Development Ordinance, which offers a comprehensive growth-management plan; incentives for the improvement of poor housing in older, crime-infested communities, such as Huntersville in North Suffolk; inclusion on the list of 100 Best Places to Live by CNN Money magazine; and actions that promote the continuously improving quality of life that makes Suffolk one of the fastest growing cities in Virginia.

Despite the recent addition of 1,000 or more tentative, military-related jobs, the most pressing problem in the city remains — not enough jobs. To alleviate the problem, there must be more industry.

In order to compete with other cities in the region in attracting industry, Suffolk must undergo an attitude adjustment. It must strive to overcome the appearance of not being a business-friendly city.

To help solve the problem, I would offer tax incentives and other perks as attractions. My plans also include establishing a Small Business Advisory board, which would include members from North Suffolk and downtown, and reinstituting the position of downtown development coordinator, a position that proved successful in the past.

If elected, some other initiatives would include: fully supporting the school system for maximum opportunity for student achievement; acting to reduce burdensome fees/taxes on citizens; promoting affordable housing; striving to improve public transportation; adding to quality-of-life experiences by fully supporting public safety, public works, and recreational opportunities; providing personal and organized opportunities (advisory boards) for citizen input; treating every citizen with dignity and respect; and establishing a code of conduct for City Council members.

Some policy changes that I would seek include the following: requiring city agencies to shop Suffolk first, especially for autos; requiring that all department heads reside in Suffolk; and requiring that city-owned vehicles remain in the possession of the city during off-duty hours, with exceptions for public safety.

Past events have indicated a need for change in Suffolk. The people want to be seen and respected. The people want a voice in their government. I will serve proudly as the “Voice for the People.”

Vote for Leroy Bennett for mayor.

Leroy Bennett has represented Suffolk’s Nansemond Borough for 16 years. He announced his candidacy for mayor after the boundaries of that borough were redrawn, placing him outside of it.