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ELECTION 2023: Fairfield District supervisor – Delta Bowers (independent), Roscoe Cooper, III (Democrat), James “Bo” Middleton (independent) | #childsafety | #kids | #chldern | #parents | #schoolsafey


Delta Bowers (left), Roscoe Cooper, III (center), James “Bo” Middleton

Editor’s note: The Henrico Citizen posed the same 10 questions to every candidate for the Henrico Board of Supervisors and is publishing their answers in Q&A format, along with previews of each race, on an individual race-by-race basis. Candidates’ responses appear in alphabetical order according to last name.

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Three candidates are seeking the Fairfield District seat on the Henrico Board of Supervisors and the chance to replace seven-term supervisor Frank J. Thornton, who is retiring following 28 years on the board. They are Delta Bowers (an educator and longtime homeowners association president), Roscoe Cooper, III (a pastor and the district’s current two-term representative on the Henrico School Board) and James “Bo” Middleton (the founder of the Southside Community Development and Housing Corporation).

The candidates share a number of the same prioirities for the district, including a desire to address crime and environmental concerns in the district and county as a whole. They differ slightly in their views about affordable housing and development.

Bowers served as an associate professor of management and marketing at Virginia Union University and later as the university’s interim dean. She will begin teaching as an adjunct professor this fall at Reynolds Community College. Previously, she spent 25 years in technical and management consulting. She also spent 12 years as president of the Northern Henrico Civic Association and 14 as president of the Chickahominy Bluffs Homeowners Association.

In addition to his service on the school board since 2016, Cooper (the pastor of Rising Mount Zion Baptist Church in the Fairfield District) has served on a number of other boards and commissions, including the board of Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, the Capital Area Health Network and the Baptist Ministers Conference of Richmond and Vicinity. He is a graduate of Henrico High School and Virginia Union University and also holds a doctor of divinity degree from Richmond Virginia Seminary.

Middleton, who considers himself a Democrat but is running as an independent to avoid what he termed the perception of being driven by political ambitions. He established and managed the SCDHC for 26 years and also has served on a variety of advisory boards, including those of the Richmond Better Business Bureau, the Tuckahoe Family YMCA and the Henrico County Chief of Police Advisory Board.

Bowers raised nearly $4,700 between Jan. 1 and Sept. 30, according to the Virginia Public Access Project. www.vpap.org/localities/henrico-county-va/elections/. Her top contribution (of $985) came from herself, while Yolanda Reed ($700) and Carmen Daugherty ($500) provided the next-largest donations. Her campaign showed a balance of nearly $2,000 as of Sept. 30.

Cooper raised just more than $24,000 between Jan. 1 and Sept. 30 this year, according to VPAP. His top donations came from Varina District Supervisor Tyrone Nelson ($5,500) and the Home Builders Association of Virginia-Richmond ($4,000). His campaign had a balance of nearly $10,000 as of Sept. 30.

Middleton had raised just $229, from a total of three contributions, during the first nine months of the year, according to VPA. His campaign had a Sept. 30 balance of $230.

 

LEARN MORE

Delta Bowers’ campaign website

Roscoe Cooper, III’s campaign website

James “Bo” Middleton’s campaign website

Virginia Department of Elections – Citizen Portal

Map of Henrico’s magisterial districts

Register to vote

Henrico Office of the General Registrar and Electoral Board

 

1. What is the most important issue facing your district?

Bowers – Crime.

Cooper – The Fairfield District’s population is growing and represents a melting pot of residents encompassing a spectrum of various socioeconomic backgrounds. This diversity of unique needs expands geographically from Northern Fairfield to Eastern Henrico, to the Lakeside communities. As such, there are several significant challenges that require strategic action. To begin with, the issue of increased crime demands a proactive approach. Collaborating closely with law enforcement agencies, community leaders, and residents, I aim to implement targeted crime-reduction strategies. By fostering community engagement, promoting transparent communication, and investing in proactive measures, we can work together to maintain secure and thriving neighborhoods.

Secondly, ensuring high-quality schools is paramount. Our children’s education is the foundation of their future success, and it’s our responsibility to provide them with the best possible learning environment. I will advocate for increased funding for our schools, teacher development programs and incentives to support, attract and retain highly qualified educators for our high need schools, and modern educational resources to empower our students to excel in an ever-changing world.

Affordable housing is another pressing challenge that affects the well-being of our entire community. By fostering partnerships with local organizations, developers, and housing authorities, we can explore innovative solutions to expand the availability of affordable housing options. It’s essential to strike a balance between addressing this issue while preserving the unique character of our neighborhoods. 

Furthermore, I recognize the importance of public transportation connectivity. Enhancing access to social services, recreation, and job opportunities through an efficient public transportation system is pivotal. By collaborating with GRTC and local stakeholders, we can develop well-connected transit routes that benefit residents across the district, improving their access to essential services and contributing to a more sustainable community.

Middleton – Of the five Henrico magisterial districts, the Fairfield District has the highest concentration of household income disparity in the county. Consequently, there will continue to be a need to ensure that the residents of this district have equal access to services and opportunities as do those living in other areas of the county. There is a higher percentage of residents with more substantial educational needs, more affordable housing issues, and more convenient public transportation needs not being met. By focusing in on these issues, it helps to minimize the need for other county resources to be disproportionally devoted to communities in the Fairfield District. Keep in mind, that every time we make the effort to help educate, mentor, and nurture kids with challenges at home, it potentially decreases the future demands on our social service or public safety systems.

2. What are the most important issues facing Henrico County overall?

Bowers – Crime, schools unaccredited, segregated districts, inadequate climate action plan. The county deviating from its master plan to satisfy developers instead of considering residents’ concerns.

Cooper – Same as above.

Middleton – With few exceptions, Henrico is an urban county. As such, we need to acknowledge that our infrastructure and our development patterns need to be more reflective of that. As we grow denser, we need to continue to transition from our rural roots. For example, our transportation system is evolving from more than just the automobile. The county has to acknowledge a role in providing services for its growing population. Although we acknowledge Henrico as a wealthy county, we have a large number of people living in poverty; we have thousands of smaller older homes; and we have a rapidly aging population. The shifting demographics alone will dictate much of what the county needs to do to serve its population in the near future.

3. What will you do as a supervisor to address crime in the county?

Bowers – I have a plan, “Operation Safety & Security of Henrico residents.” It is a plan designed to include community policing, citizens, state and federal agencies engagement. Additionally, incentives to retain, reclaim and recruit the best and most dedicated law enforcement officers. Last, any ongoing threats to the citizens of Henrico County will be given my full support to address these issues via law enforcement agencies.

Cooper – Addressing crime in Henrico County is a top priority for me. I believe in a multi-faceted approach that combines proactive community policing, investment in youth programs, and collaboration with local law enforcement agencies. Additionally, I’ll work to improve access to mental health services and substance abuse treatment to address underlying causes of crime. Engaging with residents through neighborhood watch programs and fostering a sense of community will also be key. Together, we can create a safer environment for all Henrico residents.

Middleton – Having had the privilege of serving on the Henrico Chief of Police Advisory Board since 2019, the professionals in the Henrico Police Department are an amazing group of individuals, and the men and women who serve are impressive. It’s critically important that we continue to adequately fund this department. Community policing needs to be maintained at the highest level, which involves us all. Without neighbors being the eyes and ears (see something, say something), the police can do very little! We need to continue to invest in strategies that promote public safety and crime prevention from the onset. Examples are things like mental health programs, youth programs (for the purpose of engagement with officers), enforcement of housing and environmental ordinances, quality school and after school programs, summer activities for youth, and enhancement of citizen crime watch programs. Most importantly, police hardware alone and more officers on the street are helpful, but certainly not the only answer!

4. How do you view development in Henrico – is there too much of it or is more necessary? What will you do to ensure future development is appropriate?

Bowers – I believe some districts have become over-developed while others have been under-devleoped. Appropriate growth is essential for communities to grow and survive. GreenCity is a game changer. It will be the center of the Fairfield District. The Fairfield District is finally engaging in some economic devlopment initiatives. Amazon and the new Henrico Sports and Events Center will add jobs and tax revenue to the county. Hopefully, Fairfield District residents will be provided some of these employment opportunities. The housing development projects are promising. I would like to see more trees and landscaping in the new housing developments. I will work closely with the community and conduct feasibility analyses to ensure the demand for the development and integration into the district is seamless.

Cooper – As a candidate for Henrico Board of Supervisors, I believe balanced development is crucial for our community’s growth. We need to carefully evaluate each project, considering its impact on infrastructure, environment, and the needs of our residents. I’m committed to fostering responsible, sustainable growth that aligns with Henrico’s long-term vision. This includes engaging with stakeholders, conducting thorough assessments, and advocating for smart zoning policies to ensure any future development is in the best interest of our community.

Middleton – Currently, I believe that development in the county is adequate. In the big picture, we need to rely on the Henrico Planning Commission to oversee both development and long-range planning to guide development. I believe that comprehensive plans are critical since they serve as specific guidance for future growth and development, with our focus on environmental issues, infrastructure needs and compatibility with neighboring properties. The county comprehensive plan is an important document. Henrico must get more serious about responding to long-range development issues that are citizen-based, coupled with good technical information. Citizens of the county should have an opportunity to provide comments that will be given full consideration by county officials on what’s proposed in the plan. Realizing that decisions regarding developments are not always going to be popular with all residents, since in this country we are plagued by NIMBYism (Not In My Backyard), as county supervisor I would support developments that are in the best long-term interest of the entire county. Elected officials sometimes need to make decisions and take unpopular stands on things that are for the benefit of the entire county. This is not just a Henrico issue, it is a national issue. As your elected official, that is what I will do.

5. What responsibility, if any, does the board have to address climate and environmental concerns locally?

Bowers – The board of supervisors bears a great deal of responsibility for Henrico County’s climate and environmental concerns along with state and federal agencies. I would propose that Henrico County start implementing common-sense plans to protect the environment and water immediately beyond what is being done currently.  As with the GreenCity project, which is considered an eco-city, the same approaches should be considered for all new developments and retro-fitted for older developments as much as possible.

Cooper – I recently received the endorsement from the Sierra Club recognizing my commitment to being a clean air, clean water, and climate action champion. I believe it is our duty to address climate and environmental concerns locally. The board plays a crucial role in implementing policies and initiatives that promote sustainability, protect natural resources, and mitigate the impacts of climate change within our community. This includes supporting renewable energy projects, advocating for responsible land use planning, and collaborating with stakeholders to develop effective environmental policies. By taking proactive steps, we can ensure a healthier, more resilient future for our residents and the environment.

Middleton – We all have the right to breathe clean air, the right to clean water, the right to health and healing. There are things the local government can do, such as constructing energy efficient buildings, installing solar panels, and purchasing energy efficient vehicle fleets (electric or hybrid). The county should do much more to address the climate crisis and environmental concerns by having a tree planting ordinance on streets and public rights of way to reduce heat, maintain forested areas and adopt policies to reduce risks to our communities and ensure the future for our children who deserve a clean healthy living environment.

6. Describe one effort, program or initiative in Henrico (currently in existence or not) for which you would propose more funding than is currently being allocated?

Bowers – New construction for schools in the Fairfield District. The renovated schools, like Henrico High School and Chamberlayne Elementary School, are not state-of-the-art schools. Students should not have to go outside to go from one class to the other.

Cooper – The county has made some strides in addressing barriers to affordable housing and promoting homeownership, and if elected I would support, expand, and build on many of the established programs and policies such as:

• collaborating with housing agencies, nonprofit organizations, and developers to prioritize the creation of affordable housing units within new and existing developments. This can be achieved through zoning incentives, streamlined permitting processes, and public-private partnerships.
• encouraging the development of mixed-income neighborhoods like the RiverMill community in Fairfield and through urban mixed-use zoning such as the planned GreenCity, which is also located in the Fairfield District. This approach fosters a diversity of housing products that provide affordable living alternative such as multi-family, townhouses, two-over-two, villas, single family, senior multi-family, and senior villas. More flexible standards for accessory apartments in commercial districts, new planned development districts, new form-based alternative overlay districts, and the ability for owners of single-family detached homes to add accessory dwelling units.
• allocating funding through CDBG, HOME, and county general funds to expand targeted programs that offer financial support such as down payment and closing cost assistance, low-interest loans, grants for purchase plus rehab, and funds to support off-site costs of developing affordable housing.
• supporting employer-assisted homeownership programs through a private/public partnership with many of the local businesses/industries serving Henrico County.
• expansion of the newly developed Henrico County Home Purchase Assistance Program that will provide forgivable loans up to $20,000 for qualified Henrico County Government Employees including teachers, Henrico Public Schools staff, first responders, etc.
• property tax incentives such as the Real Estate Advantage Program (REAP) that provides real estate tax exemption to qualified seniors and disabled persons.  Tax abatement for single-family and multi-family housing rehabilitation.
• supporting the expansion of Henrico’s participation in the Maggie Walker Community Land Trust.

Middleton – I would propose more funding for public transportation so that GRTC can be expanded to more areas of the county with park and ride facilities that are easily accessible, well lighted and have enclosed waiting areas and benches. Also, would like to see more bus locations near high schools, hospitals and medical buildings. I would also like there to be support for the development of business associations in older commercial areas and resources allocated for maintaining alleys, which are public owned rights of way, in several neighborhoods in the county.

7. Describe one county effort, program or initiative for which you would propose reducing the amount of funding being allocated?

Bowers – In reviewing the budget, at this time, there is no project that I would recommend reducing the budget.

Cooper – At the moment, there is no program/effort/initiative that I would propose reducing the amount of funding being allocated.

Middleton – I would look very carefully at any funds that are spent for land acquisition and make sure property is actually needed and costs are realistic. Look closely at property disposals to make sure the county is getting fair market value.

8. What will you do as a supervisor to address housing issues in the county?

Bowers – In the Fairfield District, we have a significant amount of low-income housing. As a result, it has decreased property values and affected the schools relative to SOLs. As the next Fairfield District supervisor, I will advocate for equitable low-income and affordable housing across all five districts. The Fairfield District should not carry the low-incoming and affordable housing banner for Henrico County on the whole. This does a disservice to the Fairfield District residents.

Cooper – I’m committed to addressing the pressing issue of affordable housing in Henrico. I would propose allocating more funding to establish a robust affordable housing initiative that includes incentives for developers to build affordable units, subsidies for low-income families, and resources for housing counseling services. This investment will help ensure that everyone in our community has access to safe and stable housing options. In addition to bolstering the affordable housing initiative, I firmly believe in providing targeted housing incentives for crucial public service professionals such as teachers, firefighters, and police officers.

Expansion of the newly developed Henrico County Home Purchase Assistance Program will provide forgivable loans up to $20,000 for qualified Henrico County government employees including teachers, Henrico Public Schools staff, first responders, etc.  Property tax incentives such as the Real Estate Advantage Program (REAP) that provides real estate tax exemption to qualified seniors and disabled persons.  Tax abatement for single-family and multi-family housing rehabilitation.

I support the expansion of Henrico’s participation in the Maggie Walker Community Land Trust. By allocating more funding towards this effort, we can implement programs that offer housing subsidies, down payment assistance, or even specialized rental options to make living in Henrico more feasible for these essential community members. This not only supports our dedicated public servants but also strengthens the overall fabric of our community by ensuring that those who serve it can comfortably call it home. This investment in recruitment and retention will help maintain a skilled and dedicated workforce, ultimately benefiting the well-being and safety of our residents.

Middleton – Code enforcement is critically important. Continue to fund repair programs for qualifying low-to-moderate income homeowners, with assistance from federally funded programs. Where necessary, help facilitate the redevelopment or renovation of properties that need substantial home improvements to bring them up to HUD standards. I will encourage and support programs for first-time homebuyers. Also, will support tax credits to developers for setting aside a percentage of housing units for affordable housing, especially for our teachers, police officers, health care providers and other service providers. I would also support zoning for a variety of home types, especially townhomes, condos, duplexes, provided they are in keeping with neighborhood stability. I would be open to allowing accessory dwelling units (ADUs), provided they are done so with the intent of maintaining the integrity and general welfare of a community, neighborhood or subdivision.

9. Why are you the best choice for supervisor from your district?

Bowers – Experience, leadership and advocacy for over a decade for the Fairfield District. Of all of the 3 candidates, none can match my experience of advocating and getting results for the Fairfield District. My advocacy efforts include support for:

• equitable property assessments – adding hundreds of millions of dollars to property owners’ portfolios;
• new sewage and water lines installed;
• where necessary, new curbs installed;
• calming programs for roads in the Fairfield District;
• beautiful signage to distinguish subdivisions;
• sports complex at Virginia Center Commons;
• ongoing community maintenance;
• VDOT road maintenance and improvements;
• Stanley Martin development;
• O’Reillys development;
• Green City development;
• safety and security of Fairfield communities by forming an alliance with Henrico County law enforcement.

Cooper – I have deep roots in our community and understand its unique needs. Over 35 years living in Fairfield, 20 years serving as Pastor of Rising Mt. Zion Baptist Church (Central Gardens), Brookland Middle and Henrico High School graduate, father of 3threeHCPS students (two recent grads and a current eighth-grader), community leader and current Fairfield representative on the Henrico School Board (twice elected since 2015). I have a track record of working tirelessly for our neighbors, building strong partnerships and delivering for our community. I’ve been fighting on the school board for the past eight years to build stronger schools, invest in our classrooms, prioritize safety, raise employee pay, and ensure all students have equitable access to the resources needed to succeed! I will take that same passion to the board of supervisors, and will work to build a brighter future for Henrico. I come ready on Day 1!

Middleton – I have lived in the Fairfield District for more than 38 years, where my wife and I raised our four accomplished children and I committed to establishing and managing a non-profit community development corporation for 26 years. Initially as executive director and later as president and CEO, we successfully transformed one of Richmond’s Old South District’s most blighted communities, Blackwell, into a thriving community of choice through the structuring of affordable housing homeownership programs, which assisted first-time home buyers, renters and seniors seeking independent living spaces.

I have served on a variety of boards over the years, including the Better Business Bureau of Richmond, the Tuckahoe YMCA and the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond’s Community Development Council. I am a graduate of Leadership Metro Richmond (LMR) and a member of Bible Study Fellowship (BSF) as a discussion group leader for over 20 years, a member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc., and have served on the Henrico County Chief of Police Advisory Board since 2019.

I have always been a community-minded person and a servant leader. I credit my success to my relationship with Jesus Christ and the love of my family! Although a lifetime Democrat, I’m running as an Independent. I’m not interested in being a politician…just an advocate and representative for the residents of the Fairfield District. When elected, I will do what I’ve always done…listen, be transparent, accessible and responsive to the needs and concerns of my Henrico family. Go with Bo!

10. As a supervisor, how would you weigh the need for adequate road system with the desire to add sidewalks and bike lanes?

Bowers – I have asked our current supervisor for years to install sidewalks for the residents in the Fairfield District in various communities. I have not seen many installed. Under my watch, it will be one of my top agenda items. Moreover, I will advocate for adequate bike paths. In addition to removing carbons from the environment, walking and bike riding is essential to a healthy lifestyle.

Cooper – As a candidate for Henrico Board of Supervisors, I recognize the critical need for both an adequate road system and expanded pedestrian infrastructure. The demand for sidewalks and bike lanes has grown significantly, aligning with Henrico’s expanding population. While retrofitting sidewalks presents challenges, it’s essential for creating a more walkable, bikeable, and accessible community to all residents.

During my time on the school board, I’ve received countless emails and calls from parents/guardians expressing their concerns regarding their child’s safety when walking to and from our schools due to the lack of extended sidewalks and crosswalks. Throughout my talks with residents, I’ve heard stories from senior residents, and primary caretakers of family members with mobility impairments, about the need for safer pedestrian infrastructure that’s wheel-chair friendly, particularly along Brook Road, Laburnum Avenue, Nine Mile Road, and Azalea Avenue.

Henrico has made progress, with over 15 miles of sidewalks and shared-use paths built in the last five years. This focus on expansion has been funded through a combination of local, regional, and state grants. Safety is paramount, and we must implement evidence-based solutions, such as dedicated pedestrian signals and improved lighting. By addressing these transportation issues, we not only enhance safety but also contribute to the overall livability and affordability of Henrico County. This approach can foster economic growth and make Henrico an even better place to call home.

Middleton – In some areas, depending on such factors as visibility, topography, design of the roadway, speed limit, I would support sharing roadways/streets with bicyclists and pedestrians by having designated bike lanes and well-constructed sidewalks that allow pedestrians and cyclists to get around safely and efficiently…much like the draft bike route plan that has already been proposed, just with greater community input!

 

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