Town Council proposes naming Smithfield street, walking trails for former mayors

Published 4:52 pm Friday, March 1, 2024

Smithfield’s Town Council is looking to honor two former mayors by naming a street and network of walking trails after them.

Mayor Steve Bowman, at the council’s Feb. 25 committee meetings, proposed naming the trail system at Windsor Castle Park for his immediate predecessor, Carter Williams, who prior to Bowman’s 2022 election held the title for 12 years.

Bowman further proposed renaming Quail Street for the late James Chapman, who in 1978 became Smithfield’s first Black councilman, in 1990 became the town’s first Black mayor, and by his 2008 retirement had become the longest-serving official to hold either office. Chapman died in 2022.

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“Mayor Chapman spent many, many years in this town providing dedicated service, care, empathy and hard work,” Bowman said.

Williams, who’s still very much alive, can be found walking and running the trails at Windsor Castle Park “almost daily,” his son, Allen, noted in 2022 when nominating his father for Smithfield’s 2021 “Citizen of the Year,” award, which the town’s Rotary and Ruritan clubs give annually to an outstanding resident. Williams is also a “trail doctor,” a group of volunteers who clean and maintain the park.

“Carter loves that park,” Vice Mayor Valerie Butler said.

Williams served his first four-year term on the council from 1992-96 and rejoined the council in 2007 to fill a vacant seat. He was reelected and chosen by his colleagues as mayor in 2010.

Bowman urged his fellow council members to honor Williams’ “lifetime of services to the town,” which in addition to his Town Council tenure includes lifetime membership in the Smithfield Volunteer Fire Department, chairmanship of the Benns United Methodist Church Council and volunteer work with the Smithfield Kiwanis Club and local Veterans of Foreign Wars and American Legion posts.

Six months after Williams was honored at a 2022 banquet as the prior year’s Citizen of the Year, voters handed him a defeat at the ballot box. Williams, who’d taken criticism from opponents of two proposed housing developments Williams had supported during his time on the council, finished last among five candidates vying for four available seats that year.

Bowman, on Feb. 22, urged his fellow council members and the meeting’s attendees to set politics aside.

“Regardless of what some folks may think one way or the other … you cannot ignore the amount of public service that both of these fine citizens put in as far as this town is concerned,” Bowman said.

Quail Street, located in Smithfield’s Lakeside Heights neighborhood off Great Spring Road, was among the first to be paved under an initiative Chapman had spearheaded with the help of state grants, according to The Smithfield Times archives.

According to Tammie Clary, the town’s director of community development and planning, 22 Quail Street residences would be affected by address changes were the town to officially rename the road. Another option Clary and Parks and Recreation Director Amy Novak suggested Is to do as the city of Newport News did when it renamed a stretch of J. Clyde Morris Boulevard to “Avenue of the Arts” for its proximity to the Virginia Living Museum, former Peninsula Fine Arts Center and new Mary Torggler Fine Arts Center on Christopher Newport University’s campus that succeeded PFAC in 2021. According to Daily Press reporting from 2005, the “Avenue of the Arts” name change was ceremonial and didn’t require any businesses or residents to change their addresses. At the corner of J. Clyde Morris and Warwick boulevards, a brown, honorary “Avenue of the Arts” directional sign now stands atop the green directional sign listing the street as J. Clyde Morris.

Butler suggested, instead of Hillcrest Drive, renaming the street in Lakeside Heights where Chapman lived, which she said would impact only one family. Town Councilman Michael Smith further proposed that instead of renaming an existing street to work with Grange at 10Main and Luter Acres developer Joseph Luter IV or Mallory Pointe developer Napolitano Homes to name one of the new streets to be built in the planned subdivisions after Chapman.

State law gives localities, including towns, the authority to name streets, roads and alleys. According to Virginia Department of Transportation spokeswoman Kelly Alvord, Smithfield wouldn’t need Commonwealth Transportation Board or General Assembly approval to rename any roads owned and maintained by the town.

“The Town owns and maintains the majority of roads within the town limits, with only a few exceptions that fall within VDOT’s responsibility,” Alvord said.

For VDOT-maintained roads, a locality can initiate a renaming, but it must then be approved either by the CTB or General Assembly. In the event a road extends beyond the town limits into its surrounding county, which Hillcrest and Quail do not, the county supervisors would also need to pass a resolution supporting the change and agreeing to pay the cost of new signage, Alvord said.

As for how to actually go about naming the Windsor Castle Park trail for Williams, Novak said plaques bearing the name “T. Carter Williams Trail System” could be added to the 26 location markers throughout the 3.8-mile trail network. Williams did not immediately respond to the Times’ requests for comments.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to correct that the committee meetings occurred on Feb. 25, not Feb. 26.