2022 Local Candidates Survey

Thank you to all of our candidates who completed our election survey. If we receive additional responses, they will be added. Responses are listed in the order the candidates will appear on the ballot and have not been edited except for formatting.

Early voting begins September 23rd. Election Day is November 8th.

 

City Council (3 seats)

BETSY GENTRY LUCK

1. Please tell us a bit about your background and involvement in the community.

My name is Betsy Gentry Luck.  I was born in Colonial Heights and my husband and I raised our children here.  I taught school in Prince George and Colonial Heights for 35 years.  I served on the Colonial Heights School Board for 5 years, the last two years as Chairman.  I have served on the Colonial Heights City Council since 2000, with the exception of 2012 – 2015.  I retired from teaching in 2015 and decided to run again.  I have served as the Vice Mayor since 2016.

2. Do you consider yourself a Republican, Democrat, or Independent?

I am registered with the Republican party, but I have voted for people representing all political parties, so I consider myself Independent.

3. Please tell us why you are running for City Council.

I am running for reelection to City Council to maintain and improve the integrity of our city.  There have been many changes in our city and I offer both experience and a fresh perspective.  Our current City Council works well together.  We can disagree amicably and not create an embarrassing public display at our meetings.  We set goals at our yearly retreat and work with our city manager and staff to see those goals carried out.  I enjoy helping our citizens answer questions, and solve problems.  It is very rewarding to assist our citizens with relaying their input and with any concerns they may have.  I believe we have a responsive, effective council and I am proud to serve our citizens.

4. What are two or three things that the City of Colonial Heights is doing well?

Our city does many things very well.  We are extremely proud of our public safety departments, our school system and all of our employees!

One thing the city is doing well is developing our culture and recreation programs.  We have a very active Community Center, offering a multitude of daily activities and trips.  Our youth programs are extensive and affordable.  Having the Chili Peppers playing at Shepherd Stadium has been extremely exciting and well received by the community.  Our library is unrivaled in the activities and media that they offer, serving approximately 3,000 patrons per week!

The city is proud of their ability to maintain excellent financial status.  Colonial Heights received it’s 42nd consecutive Government Finance Officers Association Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting.  This is the highest form of recognition in Government accounting and financial reporting.  Also, in response to the increase in the values of Personal Property this year, city council voted to reduce the personal property tax rate from $3.50 per $100 to $3.10 for 2022.  This provided some much-needed financial relief to our citizens this year.

5. What are two or three things that the City of Colonial Heights need to improve on?

The City’s aging infrastructure is currently one of our biggest problems.  We are working hard to restore and maintain our utility lines and streets. Our city staff works together to ensure that citizens and customers benefit from well-built and properly maintained infrastructure systems.  These services are funded by general fund revenue, permit fees, stormwater, water and wastewater fees, solid waste and recycling fees, and state and federal financing.  City Council set this as a priority goal and earmarked Capital Improvement funds, along with the 2021 Infrastructure funds from Congress. 

Our city enjoys a variety of retail and dining experiences.  Unfortunately, in our current economy, retail businesses are facing many challenges.  Our city is working hard to assist in maintaining and improving our retail business’ situation whenever possible. We are pursuing economic development opportunities throughout the city.  In the past year we have been able to bring approximately 13 new businesses to Colonial Heights.  

Maintaining the overall feeling of a small town with high standards is something city council continues to work on.  We have recently hired a new Director of Planning and Community Development.  Council is stressing the need for code enforcement so that we can maintain the integrity of our beautiful, but aging city.  We are pushing the idea of residential and commercial development along with redevelopment.  Property maintenance is essential and we offer assistance through the Home Repair Program funded through the Community Development Block Grant.  We have two part-time Code Enforcement officers who patrol the city daily and respond to complaints about compliance. 

6. How will you seek to be responsive to city residents if elected to City Council?

City Council holds monthly meetings and citizens are always welcome to come and speak.  We listen and follow up with solutions to problems whenever possible.  When I am personally emailed or called, I always respond.  Because I have lived in Colonial Heights for 64 years and through my connections at Wesley United Methodist Church, the school system, friends and neighbors I feel very connected and well informed.  I also try to keep the public aware of city activities through my social media posts.  Being an active and life-long citizen in Colonial Heights has helped me be very responsive to the needs of our residents.

7. In your opinion, what is the number one issue facing the City over the next four years?

Colonial Heights, along with our general society, is facing so many changes and challenges.  Our city has been able to grow and improve but an aging, land locked city always faces challenges.  We need to maintain our wonderful public safety services and our outstanding school system while keeping Colonial Heights an affordable place to live.  Because we are land locked, we will need to find a way to rebuild and/or repurpose buildings into more efficient, modern uses.  As with all challenges, we will do our best to find the most economical, cost-effective solutions for our citizens.

8. Is there anything else you would like to share that was not already asked?

It has been an honor to serve on the Colonial Heights City Council for the past 20 years.  Even though my seat on Council is uncontested in this election I want to ensure the public that I will continue to work to the best of my ability to maintain and improve the quality of life in Colonial Heights.

City Council – Special (1 seat)

 

TRICIA L. PALMER

1. Please tell us a bit about your background and involvement in the community.

My name is Tricia Palmer, I am 43 years old and have been married to my husband, Mark, for 20 years. Together
we have 5 children, 3 of whom graduated from Colonial Heights High School. I currently own and operate a
successful business in the city which has been in operation for over 9 years. Having been raised in this city, I
have always tried to do my part in giving back to the community whenever possible. This has included serving
on the board for the Colonial Heights Band Boosters for 5 years (2 terms as President and 3 as Vice President),
volunteering with the Colonial Heights Soccer Association as a coach for 10 years and Director of Coaches for 4
years. I am currently a member and immediate Past President of the Colonial Heights Kiwanis Club, and I remain
very active in the local Chamber of Commerce where I serve on the Executive Board. 

2. Do you consider yourself a Republican, Democrat, or Independent?


Independent.

3. Please tell us why you are running for City Council.


I love my city and the citizens in it. Our city has so much to offer, but COVID and other economic factors have
caused significant changes to the world around us in recent years. It’s more important now than ever that City
Council focuses on making the appropriate and educated decisions that will help us continue to evolve and grow
in a positive direction. Take for example our commercial vacancy rate which currently stands at 8 percent.
There are options out there I feel can help to improve this and turn it in a positive direction. As a member of
City Council I believe I can help bring in new business to our city while also giving a voice to our people.

4. What are two or three things that the City of Colonial Heights is doing well?


Our city does an excellent job by offering low cost or free activities and services for the residents of our city.
This includes free leaf pickup, our low-cost recreational sports activities, the adult activities that are offered at
little to no cost. We also have top-notch Police, Fire, and Public Works. The readiness, professionalism,
courtesy, and respect that they provide on a daily basis to our citizens is outstanding.

5. What are two or three things that the City of Colonial Heights need to improve on?


Three areas where I feel that the city needs to improve are as follows:

  • Our city’s infrastructure is severely old and outdated, especially in the South end of the city.

  • We need to work on transparency between City Council and our citizens.

  • Bringing new business into our city needs to be a priority. 

6. How will you seek to be responsive to city resident’s if elected to City Council?


As I stated in the above question, having transparency between City Council and our citizens is extremely
important. I’m going to find a way to make myself available to our residents for their input and comments,
whether it’s by phone, text, e-mail… or all three. 

7. In your opinion, what is the number one issue facing the city over the next few years.

 

Unfortunately, I don’t feel there is just one issue that stands out. There are multiple issues that without prioritized focus could lead to more serious problems within the next four years. If I did have to choose one of the most important issues, it would be the SouthPark Mall area. The outdated mall with empty storefronts in and around the mall has become something that needs to be addressed immediately. With that area being the largest source of tax revenue for our city, we simply can’t afford to let this be overlooked any longer.

KENNETH B. FRENIER

1. Please tell us a bit about your background and involvement in the community.  

I am currently filling Mike Cherries seat as he was elected as a Delegate in the General Assembly.  I have previously served 12 years on City Council.  My involvement in the community is that I have served on Colonial Heights Fire & EMS since 1973.

2. Do you consider yourself a Republican, Democrat, or Independent? 

I am an Independent.


3. Please tell us why you are running for City Council.

A vacancy was created when Delegate Cherry was elected to the General Assembly and Council selected me to fill the vacancy.  Having been off Council for a year, I found that I missed being able to participate in the decisions of the City and to help citizens with a problem they might have. 


4. What are two or three things that the City of Colonial Heights is doing well?

  • The council has a good comradery where council operate as a team not as an individual.

  • The yearly budget process is discussed at a retreat each year and this allows council to get the bigger picture of projects to come.


5. What are two or three things that the City of Colonial Heights need to improve on?

  • The City needs to find more creative ways to fund infrastructure, (Street repair, Sewer Line repair and Water line repair.  These repairs cost thousands of dollars.

  • The city needs to find incentives to hire employees and retain them. 


6. How will you seek to be responsive to city residents if elected to City Council? 

I am always open to hear what a citizen has to say.  Citizens often have questions as to wye does or does not the city do something, and I like to give them the accurate information. 


7. In your opinion, what is the number one issue facing the City over the next four years?

Obtaining and maintaining quality employees. 


8. Is there anything else you would like to share that was not already asked?

I would like to continue to share my experience with handling problems in the city.

LEN F. HALL JR.

1. Please tell us a bit about your background and involvement in the community.

I’m a life member at Colonial Heights Fire Department after 20 + years of service, I worked as a firefighter, Paramedic and as a volunteer Lieutenant, I have worked as a Registered Nurse leader at several local medical facilities for a total of about 20 + years , I currently work at a local Jail as a Heath Service Administrator, I’m and active member of Life Church, I’m an ordained Minister with Global Christian Ministries.


2. Do you consider yourself a Republican, Democrat, or Independent?

Republican

3. Please tell us why you are running for City Council.

I want to give back to the community by bringing my skills as a people person to give the great citizens of Colonial Heights a voice within the city council, I’m a great communicator and want work alongside the community and community leaders to make our city #1 again, I want your concerns to be our concerns .  I want the city to have a great economy and be a place everyone is happy and gets along. I want Colonial Heights to be a place where people will want to come visit our many historical sites and restaurants.

4. What are two or three things that the City of Colonial Heights is doing well?

  • Tourism 

  • Public Safety

5. What are two or three things that the City of Colonial need to improve on?

  • School Systems

  • Public roadways

6. How will you seek to be responsive to city residents if elected to City Council?

I would like to have an email and phone # set up to be able to communicate with everyone that has concerns, I want to know when they have something on their minds, I would like to set up monthly public meetings with the community to hear all their concerns before council meetings. I want every member of this community to know that I have their backs, I will work to make this city a better place by listening to what they consider problems and issues, and I will take them to city leaders with hopes to resolve there concerns as quickly as possible.

7. In your opinion, what is the number one issue facing the City over the next four years?

Public Works / Projects

8. Is there anything else you would like to share that was not already asked?

Not at this time


School Board (2 seats)

 

STEVEN R. NEECE

1. Please tell us a bit about your background and involvement in the community.

The Colonial Heights school system has been a part of my life for 33 years.  I moved to Colonial Heights in 3rd grade, attended Tussing, Colonial Heights Middle School, and graduated from Colonial Heights High School in 1999.  I received my bachelor’s degree from the University of Virginia and upon graduation returned to Colonial Heights where I started my career with Capital One.  I have been with Capital One for 20 years, and while my field is not education, the skills from my job will support me in being a successful board member.  Through my roles at Capital One, I have had to learn how to develop business cases to ensure budgets are being allocated properly, and I have had to learn how to drive innovation across different groups.  The ability to collaborate, influence, and hold myself and others accountable to meeting objectives will all serve me well if elected.

Through the years, I have stayed very connected with the schools as my wife started as a substitute teacher in 2004, and my oldest daughter went from kindergarten to being a 2020 graduate.  My younger two daughters are now 1st and 4th graders at Tussing.  My wife is now teaching 5th grade at Tussing and is President of the PTO.

Over the years, I have volunteered with different parts of the community, typically connected to my children’s activities.  For my oldest, I helped manage the cookie sales for her girl scout troop and was a part of SYC’s pool board.  More recently, I have been volunteering with my younger daughters’ sports teams, primarily coaching soccer.  I also am involved in helping the Tussing PTO.  In 2019, I also became Treasurer for the Conjurer’s Neck Homeowners’ Association.  All my volunteer work has allowed me to meet many teachers, parents, and students across our school system helping me to understand what their needs are.

2. Do you consider yourself a Republican, Democrat, or Independent?

I consider myself an Independent.

3. Please tell us why you are running for School Board.

In August of 2020 I attended my first School Board meeting in a long time to advocate for our children to return to school.  As a parent, I saw firsthand the impact of not having the schools open was having on our children and I wanted to make sure the board heard that.  I was surprised to find myself being the only parent to speak in the meeting.  Since then, I have been regularly attending the monthly meetings.  Through attending, I realized that being a former student, parent of students, and spouse of a teacher put me in a unique position in understanding the issues brought before the board.  With the issues put forth, I had the history of what had happened prior, but also knew what was happening now.  The topics in front of the board were also things I as a parent would regularly be discussing with our friends who were also parents and teachers.  Knowing that I could represent the interests of parents, teachers, and students has led me to want to serve on the board.

4. What are two or three things that the Colonial Heights Public School is doing well?

The strength of our school system is the community that the teachers and staff create for our students.  We have teachers that take a genuine interest in caring for our students by investing in experiences for them such as the elementary school STEAM night, many other school programs, and showing interest in our students by at times attending their outside of school activities.  The investment in our students by teachers and staff is not matched anywhere in the area and has been the main reason my family has chosen to live in Colonial Heights.

Another strength of our school system is the connection to the overall community of Colonial Heights.  I believe our school system is a core asset of our city and a key reason families choose to live here.  Because of that connection, a strong bond is necessary between the School Board and City Council.  The reliance on each other should lead to decisions being made that will serve the school and the city overall.

I believe our school system led well through Covid.  The plans that were put in place to get students back into school while trying to minimize the risk of having school shut down again was the envy of my peers at work.  My coworkers are from across the country, and I did not hear of any other school district returning students to school as well as we did.  I believe this was accomplished with both leadership across the school system, and the devotion of our staff and parents to the school community.

5. What are two or three things that the Colonial Heights Public Schools need to improve on?

The first priority for our school system needs to be addressing the rate at which we are losing teachers and staff.  We must make sure our pay and benefits are competitive with the systems in the area.  We must also make sure we keep Colonial Heights as a place that people want to work.  This must be done by making sure the staff has the support they need through resources, training, and flexibility within the learning objectives to do their job well.  They must also feel that all levels of leadership up through the school board are here to serve to help them best educate our students.

I would also like to see our school system be more responsive to the unique needs of our students.  We are a small school system, so it is hard for us to have the numbers to support specialty programs.  However, unlike many other small systems, we are surrounded by resources.  I would like to see us figure out how to partner with nearby school systems and community colleges to further increase specialty offerings to students across the entire spectrum of needs.  I believe we should also leverage these resources to increase the training in trades and allowing students to obtain associate’s degrees by graduation so that they are set up better for entering the world after high school.

6. How will you seek to be responsive to city residents if elected to School Board?

If elected, I will want to be in situations to really hear the needs of parents, teachers, and students.  I believe I will continue to have those opportunities being at my children’s events, hearing from the parents of their classmates.  I will also hear from teachers through the friendships my wife and I have.  I also will want to hear from the community through email and meetings to understand their concerns.  I also would regularly tour the schools to understand what is really happening in our schools.  I believe that strong leadership comes from understanding problems firsthand. Through all my daily interactions, I will feel accountable to the people around me to provide them the best decisions for our school system.  

7. What is the proper role of parents in their child(ren)’s public school education?

Parents should have a very active role in a student’s education.  The best outcomes come from a strong partnership between parents, teachers, and the school administration.  It is important for parents to understand what is happening in school and to take part in their children’s education. 

8. Does critical race theory (CRT) have a place in public schools?

Critical race theory (CRT) should not be part of public schools.

9. Is there anything else you would like to share that was not already asked?

My biggest strength that I will bring to the board is collaboration.  In my professional career, I have had the reputation for always being able to bring different sides together to achieve solutions to serve the interests of everyone.  I believe we all have different needs that are not actually in conflict with each other if we find the right way to work together by listening and collaborating on solutions.  I look forward if elected to working with everyone involved to support our school system, serving our students and community in the best way possible.

DEBBIE MAYES WALWER

1. Please tell us a bit about your background and involvement in the community.

I have been a resident of Colonial Heights for 54 years. I graduated from Colonial Heights High School and earned a BS degree in Elementary Education from Longwood University. I earned a master’s degree from Capella University in Curriculum, Instruction, and Technology. I began my teaching career in Dinwiddie County and was employed by the Colonial Heights School division for 42 years. I taught at Lakeview Elementary School for 28 years and served as the Elementary Educational Technology Coach for 16 years before retiring in 2021. I was the administrator for Summer School PreK-12th in 2003 and interned at the School Administration Office for two summers.  I currently work as an Adjunct instructor for Virginia Commonwealth University’s School of Education. I supervise student teachers during their practical clinical work in school settings in the greater Richmond area. I serve as a liaison between Virginia Commonwealth University and area schools. I’ve completed VCU’s Clinical Faculty training program to become a University-Based Educator. My daughter graduated from CHHS in 2014. During her years in high school, I volunteered for the Band Boosters. I am a member of Grace Lutheran Church and was honored to serve on the Leadership Council for several years. 

2. Do you consider yourself a Republican, Democrat, or Independent?

Independent 

3. Please tell us why you are running for School Board.

 

Last year was my first year as a retired educator and I missed the involvement in education. I’ve been searching for a way to stay involved in education, and this drove my decision to run for a seat on the Colonial Heights School Board. I feel that with my experience I have insight in how schools operate and how policies inform the instructional process. I want to use my knowledge and experience to serve the school system and the community. 

4. What are two or three things that Colonial Heights Public Schools is doing well?

●    Rigorous academic programs are in place that challenge students. 
●    Educators have the resources and technology they need to plan instruction and integrate 21st-century skills into the curriculum. 
●    We employ highly qualified teachers and administrators. 

 

5. What are two or three things that the City of Colonial Heights/Colonial Heights Public Schools need to improve on?

●    Teachers need to have more participation in the decision making process when changes to curriculum, resources, and policies are made. Teachers have the knowledge and experience to make informed decisions that impact teaching and learning.                                                
●    More opportunities for students in Vocational Education need to be offered for students who excel outside of the academic environment. 
●    Teacher retention needs improvement. During the past two years, many of our teachers have left our school district. The school system invests funds to provide staff development, tuition reimbursement and opportunities for professional growth. We need to retain teachers that have gained experience, been provided training, and earned advanced degrees while employed in our division. 

 

6. How will you seek to be responsive to city residents if elected to School Board?

I will be available to discuss concerns with parents, teachers, and community members. I believe discussions and written communication between board members and those that they serve should be kept confidential.

 

7. What is the proper role of parents in their child(ren)’s public school education?

I believe in participatory decision-making. Parents should have open access to information on instructional materials and input on their adoption. Processes need to be in place to address the concerns of parents in a timely manner. I believe parents should have input in the process of adopting policy changes. 

8. Does critical race theory (CRT) have a place in public schools?

CRT should not be included in our curriculum. These concepts are inherently divisive, we need to teach concepts that ensure that all students are taught to respect individuals regardless of their race, sex, or faith. 

9. Is there anything else you would like to share that was not already asked?

My first priority for my service on the School Board is educating our students. I’d like to work to ensure our students are taught by highly qualified teachers. I’ve “walked in the shoes” of educators. I have insight into the expectations of teachers and staff. I will be an advocate for students, teachers, and staff if given the opportunity to serve my community as a member of the Colonial Heights School Board.
 


LISA HALES KOCHUBA

1. Please tell us a bit about your background and involvement in the community.

As a lifelong resident of Colonial Heights, I attended and graduated from Colonial Heights Public Schools. I graduated from the University of Virginia with a BS in psychology and a minor in early childhood education. I’m married to Greg Kochuba and we have three married children, all of whom attended Colonial Heights Schools, and three precious grandchildren.

For the past 20+ years, I have held several positions within the Colonial Heights school system, to include classroom instruction and family resource support. I have served as acting chairman of the Special Education Advisory Committee, and served as a member of the Juvenile Domestic Violence Task Force and the Southside Trauma Informed Community Network. On a state level, I have served on the Virginia Department of Education’s Family Engagement Network, which is a collaborative group working toward achieving better educational and mental health outcomes for Virginia students and their families. I currently serve on the operating board of ChildSavers, a nonprofit which focuses on childhood development and mental health support.

In our local community, I served as the co-founder and director of Women of Worth, a mentoring program for middle school girls. I served on the board of directors and the personnel committee for Mount Pleasant Baptist Church as well as Youth Council and the Women’s Ministry Leadership Team. I also had the joy of serving as a Girl Scout troop leader for thirteen years in the Colonial Heights community.

I’m a gardening enthusiast and opened a floral design business in 2014, along with my daughter Katie. I enjoy volunteering, traveling, event planning, and spending time with my family. 


2. Do you consider yourself a Republican, Democrat, or Independent?

Republican

3. Please tell us why you are running for School Board.

My goal is to preserve and improve the quality of education for students and families in the Colonial Heights School district.

4. What are two or three things that Colonial Heights Public School is doing well?

  1. Colonial Heights Schools are well supported by the community and students/staff benefit from strong parent involvement.

  2. Colonial Heights Schools are well funded by the city, state, and national governments, which potentially allows for exceptional academic, athletic, and enrichment opportunities for our students and families. It also provides for quality facilities for learning, sports, and extracurricular events. 

 

5. What are two or three things that Colonial Heights Public Schools need to improve on?

  1. Retention of quality staff - CH has seen record numbers of teachers leave our system to go to other districts, in addition to retiring or changing career fields. In the past, CH has been well known for its high quality educators and positive work environment; however, in recent years, the work environment, lack of support, and poor communication with administrative leadership has led to a seismic exodus of experienced and caring educators. The middle school alone lost approximately 30 teachers just last year.

  2. Need better strategies for making students and staff feel safe and supported.

  3. Poor job training and life skills preparation for non-college bound students.

  4. Not enough parent input/engagement/consideration in decision making.

  5. Need better collaboration between community partners/support programs

6. How will you seek to be responsive to city residents if elected to School Board?

Ask questions, find the facts, collaborate on solutions! 


7. What is the proper role of parents in their child(ren)’s public school education?

Proper role for parents is to be present, pro-active, and supportive! Statistics prove that students with actively engaged parents have exceedingly better academic success! I support the new VDOE draft policy which states:

  1. Parents have the right to make decisions with respect to their children.

  2. Schools shall defer to parents to make the best decisions with respect to their children.

  3. Schools shall keep parents informed about their children’s well- being. 

8. Does critical race theory (CRT) have a place in public schools? 

No. CRT is not currently a curriculum, it is an academic theory.

9. Is there anything else you would like to share that was not already asked?

I appreciate your vote!

BLAND DERBY CAMPBELL

1. Please tell us a bit about your background and involvement in the community.

For the past twenty years, I’ve been teaching for Richmond Public Schools, Colonial Heights Public Schools, and Life Christian Academy. I currently serve on the CH Youth Services Commission.

2. Do you consider yourself a Republican, Democrat, or Independent?

Republican

3. Please tell us why you are running for School Board.

Current tensions between parents, school boards, and teachers are threatening the quality and excellence of a Virginia education. Students deserve an education that equips them with means to seize opportunities and achieve the American dream. Parents deserve transparency and choice in their children’s education. Quality teachers deserve support and recognition for their value and impact. We must bring our students higher, rather than lowering the bar. We must go back to basics!

4. What are two or three things that the Colonial Heights Public School is doing well?

  • They offer a complete curriculum

  • They offer good opportunities in technical education

5. What are two or three things that the Colonial Heights Public Schools need to improve on?

There is too much emphasis on test scores and not enough on critical thinking skills.
Teachers are required to spend time on reporting what they are doing instead of allowing good teachers to do what they do best…TEACH

6. How will you seek to be responsive to city residents if elected to School Board?

I will answer, to the best of my ability, all questions asked by parents and city residents.  If I don’t know the answer, I will find out.

7. What is the proper role of parents in their child(ren)’s public school education?

Parents should be fully involved in their child’s education and there needs to be more transparency. 

8. Does critical race theory (CRT) have a place in public schools?

Absolutely not!

9. Is there anything else you would like to share that was not already asked?

I want to represent our city by supporting the following:

  • Parents’ rights

  • Transparency

  • Rigorous academics for all

  • Preparation for career or college

  • Ensuring a safe and nurturing learning environment

  • Fiscally responsible decisions