Collins, Gibbs join Smithfield Town Council

Published 7:36 pm Tuesday, December 19, 2023

Jim Collins and Raynard Gibbs will join Smithfield’s Town Council in January as interim appointees until special elections are held next November to permanently fill ex-councilman Wayne Hall’s and Councilwoman Renee Rountree’s seats.

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. The council voted 4-2 at a special Dec. 19 meeting to appoint Collins in place of Hall, who’d resigned on Nov. 7 a day after the ex-councilman was arrested and charged with allegedly groping a woman.

The council followed the vote on Collins with a 3-2 vote to appoint Gibbs in place of Rountree, who was elected the same day as Hall’s resignation to the Smithfield-centric District 1 seat on Isle of Wight County’s Board of Supervisors.

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Three weeks after Mayor Steve Bowman tasked a committee consisting of Vice Mayor Valerie Butler and Councilman Randy Pack with vetting 23 applications for the two available seats, the two met in closed session on Dec. 1 to narrow the field to five finalists.

After Butler seconded Pack’s motion to appoint Collins, Councilman Michael Smith seconded a competing motion by Councilman Jeff Brooks to instead appoint Bill Harris, another of the five finalists. When Town Clerk Lesley King called upon each of the six sitting members to vote for either Collins or Harris, Brooks and Smith voted for the latter.

Brooks and Smith again nominated and voted for Harris during the vote on a nominee to replace Rountree, who plans to resign her council seat on Dec. 28 to assume her county office.

Rountree joined Bowman, Butler and Pack in supporting Collins but didn’t vote on her own replacement on the advice of Town Attorney William Riddick.

Collins, a general contractor and sitting member of Isle of Wight County’s Economic Development Authority, had in his application listed “maintaining and improving the historic and small-town sense of Smithfield” among his goals if appointed, while Gibbs, a retired Navy medical officer-turned-real estate developer and sitting member of the town’s Planning Commission, referenced a desire to “bring economic development to the forefront.”

Harris, a retired teacher, had also referenced a desire to preserve Smithfield’s “small town charm.”

Pack described Harris as “well suited” to potentially succeed Gibbs on the Planning Commission.

Bowman, following the two votes, named Brooks and Smith to a committee tasked with vetting applicants for two available seats – including Gibbs’ – on the Planning Commission. According to Pack, who serves as the eight-member advisory body’s council liaison, Commissioner Mike Swecker also plans to step down.