On Thursday morning, members of the Shepherd’s Center Adventures in Learning, current events class gathered for a Lewisburg City Council candidates forum.
Incumbents Heather Blake and Recorder Shannon Patrick-Beatty joined fellow Citizens Party candidate Kim Morgan Dean, who is vying for councilman Josh Baldwin’s seat (Baldwin is not running for re-election) in introducing themselves to the attendees. Citizens Party incumbent Mark Etten was not in attendance due to an emergency, Patrick-Beatty said.
Also presenting were members of the newly formed Majority Voice Party, Mark Carver, Deborah Sams, and Michael Teubert, who spoke on behalf of his wife, Majority Voice Party candidate Dorcus Tuebert, and Al Petrie, who is running against Patrick-Beatty for city recorder.
The format of the forum allowed each candidate five minutes to introduce themselves. Due to time constraints, questions from the audience were not entertained, but attendees were invited to visit with the candidates after the forum.
Incumbents Patrick-Beatty and Blake used their time to detail their experience and expertise as recorder and city council member, respectively. Patrick-Beatty, a Greenbrier County native, said that she has worked for the city of Lewisburg since 1998 and has served as recorder for three elected terms.
Patrick-Beatty touted her involvement with Lewisburg in Bloom beautification projects and her certification as a certified municipal clerk, Mountain Transit Authority board of directors president, and membership with the West Virginia Municipal Clerks Association as concrete examples of how her experience in her role makes her the best candidate for recorder.
Blake, a former newspaper reporter, also detailed her experience as a city council member since 2013. Over the past four years, Blake has served on the city finance committee, under finance committee chairman and candidate Mark Etten, and the public works committee. Blake stated that operating with a balanced budget that boasts yearly carry-over funds is something she is proud of, along with the ability of council, all of whom are Citizens Party members, to work together despite their diverse backgrounds and world views.
Citizens Party candidate Kim Morgan Dean, a new candidate, used her time during the forum to express her appreciation for the city of Lewisburg. A South Florida native, Dean has lived in Lewisburg full-time for just four years.
Dean, the associate artistic director for Greenbrier Valley Theatre, said that she has been made to feel welcome in Lewisburg from day one.
“I’d like to return the favor,” she said, by serving the citizens of the town.
Dean related that she hires actors from all over the country to perform at GVT, and she loves to watch them fall in love with Lewisburg. Usually, she said, after spending time working in Lewisburg, those same actors end up calling her asking for theater roles so that they can return.
“Lewisburg is a bit of an anomaly in West Virginia,” she said, noting that she’d like to continue to grow the city in ways that can both retain young adults and attract retirees.
Majority Voice Party candidate for city recorder, Al Petrie, said he first came to the Greenbrier Valley as a student at Greenbrier Military School, and then, years later, returned as a retiree. A member of the Shepherd’s Center of the Greenbrier Valley Board of Directors, Petrie said he has previously served on the county planning commission and currently serves the municipal airport advisory board.
“I love Lewisburg; coming back was like coming home,” he said. As for his platform, he said, “Everybody should be heard and I don’t think that’s being done … my job is to speak for the people, regardless of my philosophy.”
City council candidate Debra Crites-Sams, a member of the Majority Voice Party, said she was approached by the newly-formed party and asked to run for council. After much consideration, and prayer, Crites-Sams said she agreed to do it.
“I want the people’s voice to be heard,” she said. “I’m an advocate for people’s rights.”
Crites-Sams is a physician and is the vice chief of staff at Greenbrier Valley Medical Center.
Majority Voice Party city council candidate Dorcus Teubert could not attend the forum due to work responsibilities as director of operations of Greenbrier Valley Airport, so her husband, Michael Teubert, spoke on her behalf.
Michael Teubert described his wife’s political beliefs as a desire to “ensure that the Lewisburg my children were raised in is the same one my grandchildren will be raised in.”
Further, he said, “The people should be heard … we want this to be a safe and prosperous community.”
Majority Voice Party city council candidate Mark Carver is the only member of the newly formed party with previous experience on Lewisburg City Council. During his speech, Carver said he served as a councilman from 2001-2003, when he resigned the position to serve as the city’s public works director.
“People feel disconnected (from) council,” he said, stating he envisioned more open forums that allow for further public input.
Carver said that his experience as public works director keeps his focus on infrastructure, and as a former ad-hoc, non-voting member of the parks commission, and a father of two school-age athletes, on park and recreational development in the city.
“My goal is to get your kids to stay here (after they graduate),” he said, stating the need for higher quality jobs to augment the rich arts community that already exists in Lewisburg. “We need to plan for the future to keep the town strong.”
After the forum, attendees were invited to speak with the candidates one-on-one. Carver was the only member of the Majority Voice Party candidates present after the forum.
When asked why the group had formed a new party, Carver said, “We need a change. For as long as I can remember, it’s been the Citizens Party and the People’s Party. We wanted something new.”
The Mountain Messenger asked Carver if the Majority Voice Party was formed in opposition to the LGBT non-discrimination ordinance, commonly referred to as the “bathroom bill,” passed by Lewisburg City Council last year.
Carver denied that was the reason the new political party was formed.
The Mountain Messenger asked Carver if repealing the “bathroom bill” would be a priority, should he be elected to council.
“No,” he said, stating his interests lie in building and enhancing infrastructure, easing traffic and finding places for kids to play sports. “That’s not on my agenda.”