Neighbors in South Roanoke Meeting, Tuesday, October 17, 2017, 7:00 pm
South Roanoke United Methodist Church – Candidates’ Forum
Board President Barbara Duerk called the meeting to order at 7:00 and invited the attendees to “meet and greet” with our local elected officials and candidates. At 7:30 the candidates’ forum began. Delegate Sam Rasoul informed the meeting attendees that now is the time to tell him about any concerns or ideas that they may have. He is drafting bills now to be presented in Richmond during January and February. The uncontested candidates – Commissioner of the Revenue spokesman for Sherman Holland (Greg Emerson) and the Treasurer spokesman for Evelyn Powers (Jonathan Craft) both said that Mr. Holland and Ms. Powers would like to be invited back to address the membership with any questions. Mr. Craft also informed the membership about the DMV services available to be processed at the Treasurer’s office (anything but obtaining a driver’s license.) Retired WDBJ-7 General Manager, Bob Lee moderated the forum.
For the Sheriff’s candidates:
The primary responsibilities of the Sheriff’s office are the jail, courts, the civil process. What work experience do you have that would support these responsibilities?
(Republican) Mac Westland: He is a combat veteran, an Army Intelligence Officer, and he has over 10 years of experience in law enforcement. He believes that he will bring leadership accountability to the role.
(Independent) William Billingsly: He believed that there is no room for politics in the position. He is a former sheriff’s deputy and believes that he can bring effective leadership to the office.
(Democrat) Incumbent Tim Allen: He was born and raised in Roanoke and has been in law enforcement since 1987.
Recently, the media has highlighted suicides in the Roanoke City jail. Many sources have cited mental health as the contributing factor. What mental health training do you have?
Westland: Training and leadership start at the top. There need to be policies and procedures in place to deal with suicidal individuals.
Billingsly: There have always been suicides in jail. There is a lack of manpower to help with these people, specifically mental health staff.
Allen: This is a growing issue. There are not enough places for people to go for mental health. The jail has a high population of homeless people, drug users, and mentally ill. Everyone who appears to be a risk is put on “suicide watch.” This year has seen the largest amount of people (684.) Sometimes, there are no warning signs.
What will you do about the high turnover rate in the police department?
Westland: Salaries must be increased.
Billingsly: Morale needs to be lifted and the officers need to feel respected by the leadership.
Allen: The turnover is not excessive. There has always been a shortage of people who want to serve, and there were 26 retirees and 31 left for a job with higher pay. The salaries need to be increased, and there is no training on mental illness.
For the Commonwealth Attorney candidates:
Should Roanoke become a “sanctuary city?”
(Democrat) Melvin Hill: No, there needs to be a comprehensive immigration reform in place.
(Independent) Current Commonwealth Attorney Don Caldwell: No, this would be a divisive move. The law should be followed in regards to immigration.
How would you handle violent crime cases in Roanoke?
Hill: I would have prosecutors get involved in neighborhoods to form bonds with the residents to help prevent crimes and to help people be comforable to come forward with information that they may have concerning a crime.
Caldwell: I hold people accountable and prefer prosecution over plea deals.
The meeting was adjourned at 8:35 pm. There were 61 people in attendance. Please remember to vote on November 7, 2017.
Minutes respectfully submitted,
Secretary, Neighbors in South Roanoke