Home Civil service: Staunton voters will have tough choice in November

Civil service: Staunton voters will have tough choice in November

Rebecca Barnabi
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Last Thursday, Staunton City Council interviewed five of 20 candidates for a vacancy, and chose businessman Terry Holmes after nearly two hours of closed session discussion.

So, let me just make it clear: no, I have neither run for nor been elected to serve public office. My position as a local journalist has always prohibited that interest. However, I would not have even if it had been an option. I know I don’t have it in me to serve the community in that way.

What I do have is more than 15 years of experience covering local government: city councils, school boards, county boards. And I can tell you that Staunton’s city council had difficult decisions to make last week and on Thursday night.

How do you narrow down from 20 to five candidates just for interviews? Then, how do you choose one from five qualified candidates?

I thought for sure Lisa Hatter, who ran for Staunton School Board in November’s election, would have gotten an interview. She presented a wonderful case in her application for an opportunity to at least be interviewed.

Wilson Fauber pretty much raised the bar of expectations as far as I’m concerned. While Holmes made it clear in his interview he will not run in November, Fauber went so far as to say he’s already starting the process to campaign for Election Day. He was born in Staunton and is vice chair of the city’s Economic Development Authority.

And Jordan Zipser. What a great opportunity for the city to have a transgendered individual on council. I have interviewed Zipser, who uses the pronouns they and them, and I think Zipser would be great on a school board. A few months ago, Zipser spoke at a Waynesboro School Board meeting when students were encouraging the school board to keep its transgender policy. Any public issue I might want someone to speak about in public, I want Zipser up there at the podium on my side. So, why didn’t they get at least an interview last Thursday?

I know, only five slots for interviews.

And how about Adam Campbell? How impressive is he? Even members of the public afterward got up to speak in support for Campbell.

I also supported Kenneth Venable, a member of Staunton’s branch of the NAACP and most recently chair of the Staunton School Board, who led the school system through the COVID-19 pandemic. We need leaders like him on all boards and groups and nonprofits.

I’m not surprised council chose Holmes, who just ended a more than eight-year shift on city council. Holmes has owned and operated Mill Street Grill in downtown Staunton since the early 1990s. I interviewed him a few years ago for a story about the restaurant. (Love the veggie pasta, by the way.) He was the council’s safe choice to fill the vacancy until Election Day on November 7 when Staunton residents will go to the polls and make their votes heard.

I cannot wait to see if Campbell and Fauber throw their hats in for November. I think we’re about to have quite the city council race later this year for a seat left vacant by former mayor Andrea Oakes. But, in November, the decision will be up to voters.

In closing, I want to say what Mayor Steve Claffey said to all candidates who put their hats in for this vacant position: please try to find another way to serve your community. I can tell you as a local journalist, nonprofits and organizations ALWAYS need volunteers and individuals willing to give their time and support.

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca J. Barnabi is the national editor of Augusta Free Press. A graduate of the University of Mary Washington, she began her journalism career at The Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star. In 2013, she was awarded first place for feature writing in the Maryland, Delaware, District of Columbia Awards Program, and was honored by the Virginia School Boards Association’s 2019 Media Honor Roll Program for her coverage of Waynesboro Schools. Her background in newspapers includes writing about features, local government, education and the arts.