Town Council to vote Dec. 19 on Hall’s, Rountree’s replacements

Published 1:40 pm Thursday, November 30, 2023

Smithfield’s Town Council will meet Dec. 19 to appoint replacements to ex-Councilman Wayne Hall’s and Councilwoman Renee Rountree’s seats.

Mayor Steve Bowman has tasked Vice Mayor Valerie Butler and Councilman Randy Pack with vetting the 23 applications received as of the close of business on Nov. 29, when the town’s three-week solicitation of applicants ended.

The pool of applicants includes three members of Smithfield’s Planning Commission and a fourth member’s husband. Planning Commission Chairman Charles Bryan, a Newport News Shipbuilding retiree, had as of Nov. 29 joined fellow commissioners Bill Davidson and Raynard Gibbs in applying for one of the available seats.

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Davidson, a Northrop Grumman retiree, and Gibbs, a Navy medical officer-turned-real estate developer, had each applied a week earlier, as had Timothy Hillegass, a retired business owner and Isle of Wight County Economic Development Authority member who is also the husband of Planning Commission Vice Chairwoman Julia Hillegass.

In addition to Bryan, the latest applicants include:

  • Mark Dalton, a member of the board of directors of the Rushmere Volunteer Fire Department.
  • Bill Harris, a retired teacher.
  • Vicky Hulick, a Hampton teacher and ex-member of the Isle of Wight County School Board.
  • Brian Lally, a civil engineer.
  • Jennifer Stevens, a personal trainer.
  • Jacob “Jay” Walls, owner of Walls Insurance Agency.

The 16 applicants from the prior two weeks include:

  • Kyle Bentley, a former Fairfax County police officer-turned-employee of Checkmarx, an Atlanta-headquartered security company.
  • Herbert Bevan III, a retired pediatrician and past member of the Planning Commission.
  • James Collins, a general contractor and member of Isle of Wight’s EDA.
  • Teresa Frantz, a marketing professional and former manager of the town’s farmers market
  • Bruce Gearey, a commercial real estate developer.
  • Jackson Goodman, a regional sales manager for the sausage manufacturer Salm Partners.
  • 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.
  • Charlotte “Candy” Hayes, a Schoolhouse Museum board member and former Realtor.
  • Nick Hess, who in 2021 opened Red Point Taphouse on South Church Street and earlier this year became a manager of the Gatling Pointe Yacht Club.
  • Gene Monroe Jr., a 36-year employee of NASA’s Langley Research Center.
  • Adam Short, a respiratory therapist-turned-lawyer.
  • Jim Thornton, a retired superintendent of Isle of Wight County Schools.
  • Chris Torre, a retired real estate developer and contractor.

Harris has been a frequent voice of opposition to the Grange at 10Main development proposed at the western edge of the town’s historic district. The mixed-use development would include an entrance off Grace Street, where he lives. HIs application lists among his goals “to guarantee that the Smithfield of the future grows and develops in ways that enhance and maintain the historic, small town charm that makes it so special today.”

Lally’s application also references a desire to “maintain the town’s unique character as a desirable place to live, work and visit.” He and his son, Timothy Wenk, recently took issue at a council meeting with the town’s plans to relocate a “burn building” constructed from shipping containers, which the Smithfield Volunteer Fire Department uses for live-fire training, to town-owned land near Wenk’s home on Cary Street, citing environmental concerns.

Hulick describes herself in her application as a “proven leader,” citing her two consecutive terms on the School Board.

“I have worked for equity in school and believe it belongs in our community,” her application states.

Some, like Dalton, are lifelong residents of the area. Others, like Stevens, say they came to love the area upon moving here.

Pack, at the council’s Nov. 27 committee meetings, said he and Butler plan to meet at the Luter Sports Complex at noon on Dec. 1 and immediately go into a closed session with the goal of narrowing the choice down to “no less than five names.”

The council will interview each finalist, also in closed session, Dec. 11-14 in one-hour slots spanning 3-5 p.m. each day, posing the same set of questions to each, Pack said. Based on the interviews, Butler and Pack will recommend two names to the full council.

The Dec. 19 meeting is set for 5 p.m. in The Smithfield Center. Pack said someone qualified to administer the oath of office will be on hand to swear in Hall’s replacement, though Rountree’s replacement won’t be sworn in until Jan. 2.

State law sets a 45-day window starting the date of a council member’s resignation for the remaining members of the body to appoint a replacement. Hall resigned Nov. 7, a day after being arrested on a misdemeanor charge connected to his allegedly groping a woman, making the deadline to appoint his replacement Dec. 22.

Rountree, who was elected the same day as Hall’s resignation to the Smithfield-centric seat on Isle of Wight County’s Board of Supervisors, will have to resign her seat by Jan. 1 to take her county office, but will still be a member of council as of the Dec. 19 meeting with the ability to vote on her own and Hall’s replacements.

At the Dec. 19 meeting, the council will have the option of accepting one or both of Butler’s and Pack’s recommendations, choosing other applicants or appointing someone who didn’t apply through the town’s online “talent bank” form.

The two appointees will serve as council members until a special election is held. Town Attorney William Riddick said last month he expected the elections wouldn’t be held until November of next year. State law specifies court-ordered special elections are to coincide with the next November general election unless the governing body requests a different date in its petition to the court.

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.

Editor’s note: This story was updated on Dec. 4 at 9:36 a.m. to correct that Brian Lally’s son, Timothy Wenk, and not Lally himself lives on Cary Street.