Five Town Council applicants make the cut

Published 4:36 pm Friday, December 1, 2023

A two-member committee of Smithfield’s Town Council has named five finalists in its search to fill ex-Councilman Wayne Hall and Councilwoman Renee Rountree’s seats.

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

Following a closed-session meeting on Dec. 1 at the Luter Sports Complex boardroom, which lasted just over an hour, the two named five candidates who will receive interviews:

  • James Collins, a general contractor and member of Isle of Wight County’s Economic Development Authority.
  • Raynard Gibbs, a retired Navy medical officer-turned-real estate developer who currently serves on the town’s Planning Commission.
  • Bill Harris, a retired teacher.
  • Charlotte “Candy” Hayes, a Schoolhouse Museum board member and former Realtor.
  • Vicky Hulick, a Hampton teacher and ex-member of the Isle of Wight County School Board.

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Butler and Pack had named a sixth finalist, Jackson Goodman, whose name was withdrawn after the town learned he “is in the process of moving out of town,” according to an email from Town Manager Michael Stallings.

Three of the five referenced growth and development in their applications for the available seats.

Collins and Harris each referenced preserving Smithfield’s “small-town charm,” or a variation of the phrase, to describe their goals.

Harris has been a frequent voice of opposition at council meetings to the Grange at 10Main development proposed at the western edge of the town’s historic district. Gibbs, who voted as a commissioner in favor of the retooled 267-home version of the Grange when it went before the advisory body on Nov. 14, states in his application that he hopes to “bring economic development to the forefront.”

Hulick describes herself in her application as a “proven leader,” citing her two consecutive terms on the School Board. Hulick was first elected in 2015 and reelected in 2019 but stepped down midterm in 2021 when she moved from the Carrollton-centric Newport District, now District 2, to Smithfield.

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

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 at a special Dec. 19 meeting 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 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 next November.