Letter- Citizens lose trust in council

Published 5:17 pm Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Editor, Smithfield Times, 

Citizen trust in our elected leaders relies on the pillars of transparency and integrity in governance. Recent decisions made by Smithfield Town Council have eroded that trust.  

Lack of transparency regarding the Grange Development, or even feigned interest in citizen input, demonstrated by three of the current council members was one of the most egregious examples of Town Council disinterest in these critical principles. The Grange, a development which the vast majority of Smithfield and Isle of Wight County citizens spoke out against, appears to still be inexplicably fast-tracked for rezoning by this council.   

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Earlier this month nearly 40% of Smithfield voters chose to WRITE IN the name of someone else versus vote for Renee Rountree based on her disinterest in citizen input or concerns related to the Mallory Scott development and the Grange. They wrote in the name of Chris Torre – a citizen with a background in commercial construction and development – who wrote and spoke to town and county leaders about options to include citizens and improve the Grange development.  When the Grange continued to move forward without adequate vetting, Chris reached out to citizens to ensure we were informed.  

Mayor Steve Bowman’s decisions related to the selection of two citizens to fill the two vacant seats on council – creating a vetting committee of two council members and selection of Randy Pack and Valerie Butler, both proponents of the Grange development, to compose that committee – has further eroded citizen trust and undermines the very foundation of a democratic society. Citizens will have no choice in the selection of these two new Town Council members. Mayor Bowman has continued to demonstrate a disinterest in citizen input and lack of awareness of how this Town Council is perceived.  

To our Town Council members – to restore trust in this Town Council it is imperative for you to prioritize openness and honesty in Town Council actions.  

We as citizens must advocate for a council committed to the highest standards of integrity, ensuring that citizen input is valued and our leadership is accountable for transparency in all aspects of governance.  


Leah Walker