Two planning commissioners among 16 applicants for Town Council seats

Published 1:46 pm Wednesday, November 22, 2023

Two members of Smithfield’s Planning Commission, and a third member’s husband, have joined the pool of residents seeking two available Town Council seats.

Smithfield’s call for applicants had netted 16 names as of Nov. 21, doubling from the eight to have applied as of the prior week. The town will continue to accept applications through Nov. 29 via its online “talent bank” form, available at Applicants are to complete the form and return it to Town Clerk Lesley King either by emailing it to or in person at 911 S. Church St.

Councilwoman Renee Rountree, who was elected on Nov. 7 to the Smithfield-centric District 1 seat on Isle of Wight County’s Board of Supervisors, will have to resign her council seat by Jan. 1 before assuming her county office. Ex-councilman Wayne Hall resigned the same day as Rountree’s electoral win, a day after being arrested on a misdemeanor charge connected to his allegedly groping a woman.

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Planning Commissioners Bill Davidson, a Northrop Grumman retiree, and Raynard Gibbs, a Navy medical officer-turned-real estate developer, have each applied for one of the available seats, as has Timothy Hillegass, a retired business owner, member of Isle of Wight County’s Economic Development Authority and husband of Planning Commission Vice Chairwoman Julia Hillegass.

Other applicants include:

  • Herbert Bevan III, a retired pediatrician and past member of the Planning Commission.
  • Teresa Frantz, the former manager of the town’s farmers market and a marketing professional.
  • Bruce Gearey, a commercial real estate developer.
  • Jackson Goodman, a regional sales manager for the sausage manufacturer Salm Partners.
  • Gene Monroe Jr., a 36-year employee of NASA’s Langley Research Center.

The eight applicants from the prior week include:

  • Kyle Bentley, a former Fairfax County police officer-turned-employee of Checkmarx, an Atlanta-headquartered security company.
  • James Collins, a general contractor and member of Isle of Wight’s EDA.
  • 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.
  • Schoolhouse Museum board member and former Realtor Charlotte “Candy” Hayes.
  • Nick Hess, who in 2021 opened Red Point Taphouse on South Church Street and early this year became a manager of Gatling Pointe Yacht Club.
  • Respiratory therapist-turned-lawyer Adam Short.
  • Retired Isle of Wight County Schools Superintendent Jim Thornton.
  • Chris Torre, a retired real estate developer.

None of the applications received over the past two weeks make any specific reference to how the applicants would vote on the controversial 267-home Grange at 10Main development proposed for the west edge of the town’s historic district. The project is slated for a public hearing and potential rezoning vote on Dec. 5. A number of the applicants, however, referenced growth and development in general among their reasons for applying.

Monroe’s application contends the town he moved to in 2007 is “changing too much” and asserts “a growing majority of our citizens are unhappy with our current growth rate.”

Davidson, Gibbs and Hillegass’ wife, Julia, each joined with three other commissioners in a unanimous Nov. 14 vote to recommend the Grange’s approval. Hillegass, in his application, describes himself as “fiscally conservative with a business mindset.”

“I want to see the Town of Smithfield continue to prosper and thrive economically, while maintaining our small town, southern charm,” his application states.

Frantz too contends in her application that Smithfield will “need to make some changes, but not so much that we lose our character and charm as a historic small town.”

Goodman, a 2013 Isle of Wight Academy graduate and former Division I football player at Gardner-Webb University, states in his application that he hopes to bring the perspective of Smithfield’s younger residents to the council. If appointed, the 30-year-old would be the youngest of the sitting council members.

He too says in his application that he “wants to see Smithfield grow but keep the small town feel.”

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 will likely return with a recommendation to the council in December. Council members also have the option of nominating someone not among the talent bank applicants, 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 would’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 two years remaining as of November 2024.