Home Meet the candidates for Staunton City Council, Staunton School Board
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Meet the candidates for Staunton City Council, Staunton School Board

Rebecca Barnabi
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On Nov. 8, city of Staunton residents will vote for three seats on Staunton City Council and Staunton School Board.

Vying for a seat on city council are Brad Arrowood, Erik Curren, Michele Edwards, Ted Lawhorn, Yvonne Wilson and Alice Woods.

Fontella L. Brown-Bundy, Velma Bryant, Lisa Hatter, Stephanie Mason, Kristin M. Siegel and John T. Wilson are running for Staunton School Board.

Staunton residents will also vote for the Sixth District House of Representatives choosing between incumbent Republican Ben Cline and Democratic challenger Jennifer Lewis.

A sample ballot for Staunton residents is available online here.

Brad Arrowood

Arrowood grew up in Minnesota and graduated from the College of Charleston in South Carolina with a degree in history. He moved to Staunton 15 years ago, has served on the city’s planning commission and helped with the Staunton Downtown Development Association’s design committee.

Chief operations officer of Habitat for Humanity for three years, Arrowood is concerned about affordable housing in the city.

According to Arrowood, Staunton is at a turning point and residents need to decide what the want the city to be. He supports fully funding Staunton City Schools, and better communication between council and the school board.

If elected, Arrowood would encourage transparency of government, economic revitalization of the West End and efforts to encourage workforce to live in the city. As a single father of two, he is also interested in expanding after-school programs and increasing capacity of existing programs.

“We all just have to talk about the city we want,” Arrowood said.

Erik Curren

Curren served two terms on City Council between 2012 and 2020. He is an author, PR specialist for a solar power developer and marketing instructor at Mary Baldwin University.

“Number one, I want to protect the tradition of nonpartisan government that we have at the local level, where we just cooperate on stuff like schools, economic development, and fixing potholes that are not Republican or Democrat issues, they’re just issues,” Curren told AFP in July about why he chose to run again.

“And then number two, I’m the only person with any experience on City Council who was ready to step up. I kept waiting for other people to do it. And the only ones who did, bless their hearts, were people who hadn’t done it before. I think it could be wonderful to have some new folks in there, but I think just having new folks in the difficult, contentious City Council environment that we have, I’m not sure that that will calm things down and improve local government. So, I felt, you know, more or less obliged to step forward and bring my experience to bear.”

Michele Edwards

Raised in Alexandria, Edwards moved to Staunton 20 years ago. She is a graduate of UVA. In 2017, she ran for House of Delegates.

If elected, she would advocate for the school board, especially during budget season, and focus on creating good jobs and continuing economic development in the city. She also supports workforce housing, so that residents can live in the city where they work.

Staunton City Council, according to Edwards, is at a crossroads.

“We just need to focus on good governance,” she said. City Council members need to discuss issues amicably and collaborate. “Because it’s not about me. It’s not about any of the other six. It’s about the 25,394 other people who live in Staunton,” Edwards said.

Ted Lawhorn

Lawhorn said city council needs a reset because of all the arguing among members. Businesses will not be interested in coming to the Queen City if they see so much disagreement in its local government.

“When they see discord — that is a turnoff right there for a business,” he said in August.

Lawhorn hoped that the city would wait until January to hire a new city manager, but interim city manager Leslie M. Beauregard was named as city manager last week. Previous city manager Steve Rosenberg was forced to step down in February.

Retired from selling commercial building supplies, Lawhorn was born in Staunton and raised in Augusta County. If elected his goals include further progress at Staunton Crossing, better maintenance of the train station, supporting funding of police and schools, and helping local businesses.

He also hopes to bring a centered, pragmatic voice to council, improve relations between council members and provide residents with more transparency and accessibility.

Yvonne Wilson

Wilson, who grew up in Maryland and served in the U.S. Marine Corps right after high school from 1997-2001, supports former President Donald Trump. She voted for him in the 2016 presidential election.

A resident of Staunton’s West End, if elected, Wilson would work on public transportation and economic development in the West End.

“A lot of residents of the West End feel that they have been ignored a lot [by the city],” she said.

As a conservative black woman running for council, Wilson would like to stop identity race politics in Staunton. She is also concerned about public safety.

Alice Woods

Born in New York City, Woods moved to the Queen City 35 years ago. Nine years ago, Woods realized she wanted to make a difference in local politics and bring a “unity of purpose” to city council.

The renaming of Robert E. Lee High School to Staunton High School in 2019 made some members of the community feel they were not being heard by city council. Woods said the city lacked a representation of diversity.

“There’s a voice that I knew was missing, and it’s the voice of the citizens. The voice of the community that’s missing from [City Council],” Woods said. She would like to be the voice to bridge the gap between the city and the community. “I hope that we can work together toward Staunton’s future.”

If elected, Woods’ goals include affordable housing for Staunton residents, adequate funding for Staunton Schools, and to improve local resources for mental health and substance abuse. She would also listen to the needs and concerns of resident to determine further goals as a member of council.

Woods hopes to bridge the communication gap between City Council and the community.

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.

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