Eight, including Rountree opponent, seek Town Council seats

Published 5:41 pm Friday, November 17, 2023

Smithfield’s call for applicants to fill ex-Councilman Wayne Hall’s and Councilwoman Renee Rountree’s available seats has netted eight names so far, including the man who ran against her in this year’s Board of Supervisors election and a former county schools superintendent.

Rountree was elected on Nov. 7 to the Smithfield-centric District 1 seat on Isle of Wight County’s Board of Supervisors and will have to resign her Town Council seat by Jan. 1 before assuming her county office. Hall resigned the same day as Rountree’s electoral win, a day after he was arrested on misdemeanor charges connected to his allegedly groping a woman.

Chris Torre, a retired real estate developer and contractor who made a write-in bid against Rountree that netted nearly 40% of the vote in the county race, submitted an application on Nov. 9 to the town’s “talent bank.”

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Residents have until Nov. 29 to download and submit the talent bank form, available at https://www.smithfieldva.gov/library/view/691/talent-bank-form, to apply for the council vacancies. Applicants are to complete the form and return it to Town Clerk Lesley King either by emailing it to lking@smithfieldva.gov or in person at 911 S. Church St.

Retired Isle of Wight County Schools Superintendent Jim Thornton has also applied for one of the seats, citing his “strong background in education and finance” as potentially ideal for the council.

Thornton’s application is dated Aug. 16, nearly three months prior to either council member signaling their intent to resign. The talent bank is a standing submission process that predates the two resignations and allows residents to apply for multiple positions, including seats on the Town Council, Planning Commission, Board of Zoning Appeals and Board of Historic and Architectural Review should they become available.

Other council applicants include:

  • Respiratory therapist-turned-lawyer Adam Short.
  • Schoolhouse Museum board member and former Realtor Charlotte “Candy” Hayes.
  • George “Bo” Hamrick III, a three-year member of the Smithfield Recreation Association’s board and director of business for Real Foundations, a real estate-focused professional services firm.
  • James Collins, a general contractor and member of Isle of Wight County’s Economic Development Authority.
  • Nick Hess, who in 2021 opened Red Point Taphouse on South Church Street and earlier this year became a manager of Gatling Pointe Yacht Club.
  • Kyle Bentley, a former Fairfax County police officer-turned-employee of Checkmarx, an Atlanta-headquartered security company.

None of the submitted applications makes any specific reference to the controversial 267-home Grange at 10Main development proposed for the west edge of the town’s historic district, slated for a public hearing and potential rezoning vote on Dec. 5

Torre, earlier this year, organized community opposition to a larger, 304-home version of the Grange – a project Rountree has said she supports.

Short’s application asserts “growth is both important and necessary,” while Bentley and Collins, in their applications, reference maintaining Smithfield’s “small-town” culture as their inspiration for seeking a seat.

Mayor Steve Bowman, on Nov. 8, appointed Vice Mayor Valerie Butler and Councilman Randy Pack to a committee tasked with vetting the applicants. 

Town Manager Michael Stallings said the committee would meet separately, and in private, from the full council and public, but would then make its recommendations to the full body at a public meeting, likely in December. Council members have the option of rejecting the committee’s recommendations and instead nominating someone themselves. If the committee returns its recommendations by December, Rountree as a still-sitting member, would be able to vote on her replacement and Hall’s unless she chooses to abstain, Bowman said at the Nov. 8 meeting.

Whoever is appointed would likely serve in the role for a year until a special election could be held. Town Attorney William Riddick, at the Nov. 8 meeting, said the elections likely wouldn’t be held until November of next year.

Rountree’s seat is already set to be on the general election ballot in 2024, as her term expires at the end of next year. The seat vacated by Hall, who was reelected to a four-year term in 2022, would have a two-year remainder as of November 2024.