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Waynesboro: Sam Hostetter aims to be an independent voice, consensus builder in Ward D

Crystal Graham

sam hostetterWard D is up for grabs in the Waynesboro City Council election on Nov. 8. Sam Hostetter is the only incumbent Council member seeking re-election this term.

This election is different in many ways from his first run in 2018. Instead of everyone in the city voting for the winner of the Ward D seat, only people who live in Ward D will vote for Hostetter, or his Republican opponent, Jim Wood.

“It obviously focuses campaigning within the ward,” Hostetter said. “I will be reaching out to other folks in the community and certainly still working for other folks in the community. But they, in fact, cannot vote for me.”

“Our future is bright” signs for Hostetter popped up over the weekend throughout the city. Early voting is already under way.

City Council elections, typically held in May in Waynesboro, have moved to November per direction from Virginia’s General Assembly.

“I anticipate the numbers to be higher for the November election than it would be for, you know, a local election in May,” Hostetter said.

However, since it is a non-presidential election year, and there is only one House of Representatives race on the ballot, he estimates that voter turnout will be somewhere in the middle. He said the next election cycle will coincide with a presidential election and that turnout could significantly impact local candidates.

“My opponent is sponsored by a political party,” he said. “I think that running as an independent for local office is a better path to the future. I don’t think we need to have national politics trying to intervene in local issues. I’m hoping folks will respect that.”

As an incumbent, Hostetter has his record to stand on, and he said he does try to go above and beyond what is required of him as a member of City Council and the community as a whole.

“I think being involved in the community and being an individual that has a lot of ties, has been a great asset,” he said. “Oftentimes, if I don’t have a City Council meeting, I’m in a Boy Scout meeting. I have a family and a son who’s in high school here.”

COVID-19 and employee compensation

When Hostetter took his seat in the summer of 2018, no one saw COVID coming.

“That was a major impact on everything that we were trying to accomplish,” he said. “With my medical background and knowledge, that allowed me to be a point personal on a lot of things when we had conversations and discussions.”

Hostetter has given a COVID update at most meetings since 2020, because he said information is key. And, he said, there were a lot of bad sources of information, so he tried to provide “well-grounded information, involving COVID, involving vaccines, involving where we are as a community.”

Hostetter said that Council was ready to enact an increase in payment compensation for employees and had to put that on hold due to the unknown impact of the pandemic on the economy.

“We are now bringing that back to fruition, and we’ve put that into the budget,” he said. “And we’re actually talking about whether we can expand the increase in compensation and try to enact a plan a little more quickly that we thought we could.”

Revenue sources have done well this year, he said.

“Tourism has come back. And food and lodging taxes have come back strong, and so we are going to be talking about that possibility.”

He said it is an issue they need to continue to revisit regularly to stay competitive as other municipalities and employers have increased their compensation.

Looking ahead

Hostetter is proud of the work he’s done on council related to Sunset Park and the Natural History Museum.

“Hopefully, within a couple of years, there’ll be groundbreaking and perhaps before I end my second term, we will be having an opening for the Natural History Museum downtown. You know, those are all things that I’m proud of,” Hostetter said.

He also is proud of the work Council has done on the Capital Improvement Plan and how Council has managed to chip away at some large ticket items even in the midst of COVID.

Some of the items he mentioned specifically were:

  • New ladder truck for the fire department because previous one became non-serviceable
  • Expanding space for city employees, some employees are in temporary spaces currently, wants to be a part of the resolution to this
  • Phase two of school improvements, need to start the conversations again
  • Sunset Park plans become finalized
  • Breaking ground on the South River Preserve

“I think some transitional things for downtown Waynesboro, for Waynesboro as a community, are going to be happening here in the next few years,” Hostetter said. “And I’m looking forward to being a part of it.”

His vision for Waynesboro

Hostetter, an avid outdoors enthusiast, hiker and runner, said that his family loves Waynesboro in part because of its beautiful setting.

“We are nestled up against the mountains. We’re right off the Appalachian Trail, adjacent to the Shenandoah National Park,” he said. “We also have great transportation links with Interstate 64 and I-81. Obviously, the railroad as well.”

His vision for the future?

“I see Waynesboro continuing to have modest growth over the next 10 to 20 years – staying true to its roots in the natural setting here. I’d like to see us continue to build links to our natural setting, utilize the transportation availability and continue to build our economic base.”

He said one of the things that Council is working toward is developing Nature’s Crossing and the infrastructure so that it is ready to host new employers.

“Our community has seen a lot of growth for folks that are working elsewhere. I don’t think that’s a surprise because we are an affordable and comfortable community. I think making sure folks that are living in Waynesboro enjoy playing and having fun in Waynesboro and enjoy living here.”

Where does money and politics fit in local elections?

Long-time residents of Waynesboro remember the blockbuster city elections pitting big names in Waynesboro against each other and raising upwards of $20k per candidate for a local election.

The cost of running likely kept many viable candidates on the sidelines. But things have certainly settled down in local elections in the last decade.

Historically, for most elections, candidates have run as independents.

“What really moves the local voter?” asked Hostetter. “I guess this election is going to be a test of that. I’m confident that people are familiar with what I’ve done and familiar with who I am. And I’m going to keep working to get out there and meet new folks.

“We’ve got a lot to be proud of with what we’ve done here in the last four years. I consider myself a consensus builder. And I think that has shown in the last four years in City Council.”

His opponent, Jim Wood, has the endorsement of the local Republican Party.

“Bringing in divisive national politics, I think that would be a negative,” Hostetter said. “I think that’s not going to be of service to the people of Waynesboro.

“I like to say I’m an independent voice for an independent Waynesboro because I think that’s an important component of where we are now and where I hope to see us going.”

For more information on Hostetter’s candidacy, visit facebook.com/HostetterforCityCouncil.

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Crystal Graham

Crystal Graham

Crystal Abbe Graham is the regional editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1999 graduate of Virginia Tech, she has worked for nearly 25 years as a reporter and editor for several Virginia publications, written a book, and garnered more than a dozen Virginia Press Association awards for writing and graphic design. She was the co-host of "Viewpoints," a weekly TV news show, and co-host of Virginia Tonight, a nightly TV news show. Her work on "Virginia Tonight" earned her a national Telly award for excellence in television.