Local Politics: Elrod, Cox vie for leadership roles in Lexington

Story by Chris Graham
freepress2@ntelos.net

I know Mimi Elrod and David Cox because of Ben Cline, or more to the point, because they both ran against Cline for the 24th District seat in the Virginia House of Delegates, Elrod in 2002 and Cox in 2005.

Democrats then, Elrod and Cox are running as independents in the November city elections in Lexington, Elrod for mayor and Cox for a seat on Lexington City Council. Elrod already has a city-council seat, after being appointed to fill out an unexpired term in 2003 and then getting elected to a full term in 2006. Her run for mayor risks taking something valuable away from her.

“I will not be able to vote, and people have constantly reminded me of that. Why do you want to be mayor? You won’t be able to vote,” said Elrod (photo right) of the nuance to the elected-mayor position in Lexington, which keeps the mayor above the fray of council politics. The tradeoff is worth it to Elrod, though. She’ll “be able to get out in front on the issues,” she said, and play an important leadership role in setting the agenda for city government.

Elrod has taken on that role as one of the founders of the Concerned Citizens Circle, which was formed in response to the news that the Museum of the Confederacy was looking at Lexington as a possible new home. Elrod and the biracial CCC opposed the effort, and the Circle has stayed active since with a focus on community issues including the graduation rate in Lexington city schools and downtown development.

Part and parcel to Elrod’s approach is the community interactivity that the CCC is trying to foster. “Six people can’t know everything. We have a six-member city council and a mayor. We can’t know everything that’s going on,” Elrod said. “We have a very highly involved population here in the city of Lexington, and we have a lot of people who could make real contributions. So I think one of the things that I could do as mayor is reach out to some of those people,” Elrod said.

Cox (photo right) has a similar mindset. Cox, a retired minister who also ran for the 24th Senate District seat in 2007, coming in second in a three-way race with Republican incumbent Emmett Hanger and Libertarian Arin Sime, has been talking up Lexington residents to see what they want city leaders to take on. “For me, it’s not, Here I am, vote for me, here is what my credentials are. You listen to people, and what I’m hearing confirms what I think the issues are. And that is the overall concern for quality of life. We have already a high quality of life in Lexington. We want to keep it that way and expand it, make a good thing even better,” Cox said.

It is Cox who is the more open of the two about having fallen short in the bid for higher political office. He said running for city council is “a welcomed contrast.” “I have raised and spent my budget of zero. That’s a nice change. I think I went through one pen getting signatures,” Cox said of the change of pace running for city office compared to running for the General Assembly.

Cox does sense that his forays into General Assembly politics could be an advantage should he be elected. “My previous efforts have given me a network of people in terms of voters and citizens on the local level and also people on higher levels. I’ve come to know many of our legislators and state officials and our governor and both of our Senate candidates. And I think that helps and will help over time,” Cox said.


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