Smithfield Town Council Election 2022: Valerie Butler

Published 5:44 pm Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Valerie Butler is one of five candidates running for four available seats on Smithfield’s Town Council in the Nov. 8 election. The Smithfield Times asked each candidate to answer seven questions.

1. Can you briefly summarize why you decided to run for office?

I am running for reelection. When I ran my first term, people would say, “Valerie, I didn’t know you were interested in politics,” and I would tell them, “I am not.” I do not look at what I do as political, but one of service. My campaign was run on being transparent, open and honest. This position has allowed me to serve, listen and make decisions that have/will improve lives of people as well as our community. My goal was to represent “ALL” citizens while maintaining our uniqueness where businesses will thrive and continue to grow Smithfield as a tourist destination. I have maintained an “open door” policy and have been responsive to citizens.

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2. What should be Smithfield’s top priority right now?

There are a few things that I feel should be our top priority.  We have an excellent staff that keeps Smithfield operating. Our treasurer is active in financial discussions. In order to retain good staff we have, make sure they are compensated (salary and benefits) competitively with our local markets.

We have completed the last phase of the Pinewood Heights relocation project. That area is planned for a Business Industrial Park. We are in discussions and planning stages of development. There has been a lot of interest from businesses.This should prove to be an economic impact to Smithfield. There is a need to improve infrastructure.

We have several new projects planned which will affect mobility about town. It’s urgent to continue planning, collaborating and managing roadways and routes to make it easier for commuting and traveling about town. Discussions are happening and must remain in the forefront.

3. What’s one thing you’d like to see change in terms of Smithfield’s town government?

I feel we work together as a cohesive group and I can’t readily think of any changes in town government per se. There are a couple of changes that I would like to see integrated, though. I would like to see us livestream our meetings. This will make it convenient for those who can not attend meetings in person.

I would also like  to see us partner with Isle of Wight Schools and develop a program in which our young people can be a part of and see how local government works.

4. Should Smithfield contribute money to the building of a new farmers market building at former Smithfield Foods Chairman Joseph W. Luter III’s proposed “Grange at 10Main” development at Route 10 and Main Street?

The renewal of the existing lease for the current Farmers Market location is uncertain. I have polled several vendors at the Farmers Market and the ones that I have spoken with are excited and are in favor of the new farmers market building.

I am not ready to speak on our financial contribution on this project until the due diligence is completed by the task force. When making my decision, I want to know this is the best decision for citizens, for local businesses, vendors and overall community.

5. How big of a priority do you consider the completion of Smithfield’s town-funded portion of the park-to-park bicycle and pedestrian trail, and how much local money should be put toward the project?

This multipurpose trail has been on the books for 10-plus years and I would like to see a culmination of this project. If not the multiuse trail, definitely something comparable that promotes safety and esthetically improves the South Church Street corridor. This project will connect South Church Street to Windsor Castle Park and promote walkability as listed in our comprehensive plan. We are researching ways of paying for this project via grants, Smart Scale funds, etc., to save on costs to the town.

6. Should Smithfield make the temporary 13-cent car tax rate reduction it adopted in June permanent, reduce the rate further, or restore it to the prior year’s rate of $1 per $100?

This was a temporary rate adjustment made due to the increase in vehicle values (this is usual as vehicles usually depreciate). Once vehicle values normalize, we will reevaluate the rate, have a discussion and make a decision at that time.

7. Should Smithfield decommission or restore the town-owned Smithfield Lake Dam?

There are other things to consider in decommissioning the dam. We have heard from the Fire Department, who says the lake is a resource, and citizens who use the lake for recreation.

We are still investigating the costs of decommissioning the dam compared to upgrading the dam to meet state regulations plus annual costs to the town. When all the information is gathered, the community will be informed of the cost of the two solutions and there will be public input before a decision is made by the council.