Bass: ‘Go in a new direction’

Published 5:20 pm Saturday, October 8, 2016

Brian Bass is making his first run for elected office this year in a five-way race for the mayor’s seat.

Bass is a Suffolk native who traces his lineage back to the Nansemond Indian Tribe. He said he feels called in the same way the biblical Jonah was called to Nineveh.

“I guess Suffolk is my Nineveh,” he said. “I feel compelled to make a difference and help the city go in a new direction.”

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After graduating from Forest Glen High School, Bass worked for about eight years at the Tidewater Research Station in Holland.

He then worked at International Paper for 15 years, until he got laid off in 2010 when the company closed its Franklin paper mill.

Having been an operator and a member of the mill’s safety team, Bass said he had heard multiple times, “You ought to teach,” after he trained a new employee to do something.

He took it to heart after he got laid off. He began pursuing an education career but found that too much of teaching is about paperwork and bureaucracy, not actually working with students.

So he took a different track, eventually receiving a degree in environmental studies from Ashford University. He currently works at Isle of Wight County Public Works as a construction inspector.

Bass has three primary goals if he is elected mayor — improve the educational system, boost the number of city staff and work on the appropriation of city funds.

Bass said all three of his children, two of whom are still in school, have grown up in Suffolk Public Schools. However, the city does not support education as much as it should, he said.

“We should be involved in our educational system, not just at graduation and ribbon-cuttings,” he said. “I think we can have some impact, but we’ve got to work together.”

Bass said he’ll work to improve the numbers of city staff, especially in key departments like fire and police. When there aren’t enough public safety staff, “you’re compromising not only their safety but also the citizens’ safety,” he said.

It’s not just front-line personnel, he added: “There’s a number of administrative positions that need to be addressed citywide.”

He also wants to improve the city’s appropriation of the funds it has and make it more transparent where money is going, he said.

Also on his list to tackle is growth planning. What’s being done now is not ideal, he said, and it’s already creating traffic congestion and other issues.

“Our population is going to increase by almost 30,000 in the next 25 years. If we continue the way we’re doing it, it’s going to be a nightmare,” he said. “I’ve heard some nightmare stories about how long it took somebody to get half a mile in the city of Suffolk.”

Bass said he wants to ensure the city is using its Geographical Information System to track population growth. He also is in favor of protecting conservation areas and establishing a 30- to 50-year growth plan — more long-range than the current 20-year plan, which is reviewed every five years.

Bass said he believes a new mayor will be able to make a change on council that was started two years ago.

“We brought in a new city council, and things have turned,” he said, referring to three new council members elected in 2014. “If we had a new mayor and a couple of other offices, we would see tremendous strides in the city.”