Local candidates offer views on what their towns need

MOUNT JACKSON – Local candidates in the upcoming May elections offered their visions of Shenandoah County’s future during a local candidate forum hosted by the Republican Women of Shenandoah County on Saturday morning.

Rodney Shepherd, a Mount Jackson councilman, said he wants to encourage others in the communities to vote and help plan the future of the towns in the county.

He is seeking another term on council and said he is proud of the work the Town Council has done.

“We run a smart council in Mount Jackson,” he said, adding  that he would like to boost tourism in the town and in the county.

“I think we have a tremendous opportunity for tourism and travel,” he said.

He recounted a time he visited Vermont and someone spoke about how nice the Mount Jackson water tower looked. He said he wants to see more done to promote tourism.

He also said he would like to see more businesses coming into town and noted how seeing the empty storefronts is “heartbreaking.”

Kim Bishop, who is running for a seat on the Strasburg Town Council, said she wants to see changes in the local government. There are four positions open and seven people running for those seats.

“One never knows what’s going to happen in Strasburg politics,” she said.

Bishop said she was opposed to the Unified Development Ordinance and “now they are working on correcting all the things that were wrong that were pointed out when they were getting ready to vote for it.”

“I was asked to run because I wanted to get the citizens in town, at least someone on the council that will listen and bring their concerns up to the council, up to the town office,” she said. “I do think in Strasburg we have a problem with citizens feeling like they’re ignored.”

Justin Ritenour, who is running for Strasburg mayor against Donald LeVine and Rich Orndorff Jr., was also at the meeting and spoke on how he wants to see unity, trust and open government in Strasburg.

“We need to make our citizens feel like it is their government and not the other way around. They need to feel like they are part of the decision-making process and they are the ones that are heard and their input is valued,” he said.

He noted that Strasburg is suffering from sprawl and the impact of Interstates 81 and 66.  He said he wants to create accessibility to the town’s small businesses and encourage developers to revitalize downtown by allowing them to purchase density credits to increase commerce.

“Strasburg’s best days are ahead of us,” he said. “It’s very important that we remain positive and we move forward in a positive direction, and we are going to need the leadership to do that.”

New Market Mayor Douglas Bradley is seeking another term as town mayor.

He said he wants to see more businesses move into New Market and create more jobs within the town. He added that he sees people go to work in Harrisonburg, then shop in the bigger city before returning to New Market at the end of the day, and that is hurting the town’s economy.

“We are working on a Main Street enhancement program,” he said.

He is also trying to bring the fireworks display back to the town, create more tourism to the area and bring the town together during the holiday.

“If you don’t work together, it’s going to be a very difficult journey for you,” he said about the unity on the council.

Brad Pollack, who is running for Edinburg Town Council, also spoke about bringing life back to the town.

“Edinburg operates on a shoe string,” he said.

He said he wants to see more businesses around the interstate to entice people to get off the interstate and explore the town.

He said creativity is needed to “help make Edinburg flourish” and “promote how wonderful this little community of Edinburg is.”

All candidates who gathered at a local restaurant for Saturday’s forum agreed that the towns need to come together and create a more successful Shenandoah County.

Contact staff writer Kaley Toy at 540-465-5137 ext. 176, or ktoy@nvdaily.com