Covington City Council convened Tuesday evening for a special called meeting to conduct interviews to fill the vacant District 1 seat left behind by the late Bill Zimmerman.
Two candidates completed the necessary steps to make it to the interview portion of the process, Virginian Review Publisher Mary Ann Beirne and C.J. Entsminger, a long-time District 1 resident and veteran Covington firefighter.
One will serve through the end of 2018, following a special election in November to fill the remainder of Zimmerman’s term.
Beirne was the first candidate interviewed by council.
When she stated her intent to run for the vacant seat, Beirne said that her interests in Covington were strong because she is a lifelong resident of the Highlands, currently residing on S. Lexington Avenue.
Beirne also stated that she has a desire to assist Covington and city council in all areas of economic development, including the creation, retaining and retention of small businesses, with an emphasis on downtown Covington.
She feels that her 40-year involvement in small business will be an asset.
District 3 Councilman Raymond Hunter asked Beirne what role local governments should play in economic development efforts in Covington and the Alleg-hany Highlands.
“They should all work together, definitely, to improve things in the area. I would personally love to see economic change in the area, but that is going to require more businesses and more industry to turn us around,” Beirne answered.
Later in her interview, she was asked by Vice Mayor David Crosier if she would be able to separate personal relationships and make difficult decisions if she felt it was in the city’s best interest.
Beirne state to Crosier, “I’m involved in a situation right now, that if appointed to this [seat], I have a relative that basically wants to break a ruling in the area. I kind of have a feeling that it would come down on me and that I would be blamed if this would not be able to take place.”
She continued her response by stating, “That’s fine because it’s not good for the area. It’s just not a wise decision to take an older house and convert it into multiple apartments in an area where there are at least three widow women living.”
Beirne said that those are things you need to consider, individuals who try to do something and what effect it would have on residents in any given area.
The final question in Beirne’s interview, which was posed by Hunter, focused on the relationship of Covington with surrounding localities.
“I think it’s good, a lot better than what it was. Years ago, the city squabbled over stuff, the county squabbled over stuff. Over the past few years, I’ve seen them getting together and there’s not so much jealousy. There’s just a lot more cooperation among them,” Beirne declared.
Shortly after Beirne’s interview, Entsminger then faced council for his interview for the vacant District 1 seat.
Entsminger informed council that a part of his intent to run came from him being a resident of District 1 all of his life.
He currently resides on S. Marion Avenue.
In addition to being a lifelong District 1 resident, his ties to the community include being a 40-year member of the Covington Fire Department and currently serving as its president, being a past member of the Covington Rescue Squad, a member of Covington Moose Lodge No. 610, Covington Masonic Lodge No. 171 and being a life/active member of the Westvaco Rescue Squad.
The first question Entsminger was asked in his interview was his thoughts on the role local government should play in economic development of Covington and the Alleghany Highlands.
“Quite frankly, they ought to look out for the whole area,” Entsminger said. Hunter continued questioning by asking Entsminger how he felt about Covington’s relationship with the surrounding areas.
Entsminger answered, “I know from what I’ve seen and what I gauge my eye on is from the fire department. I think that for the most part that there is a somewhat good working relationship and there are some areas that need a vast improvement.”
Entsminger gave an example of long-time talks of a combined 911 dispatch. “It never has progressed to the point to where we’re actually doing it,” Entsminger said of the joint 911 dispatch effort.
Entsminger concluded this point by stating he felt that economics would dictate a forced merger to survive.
Later in his interview, Crosier also asked Entsminger if he would be able to separate personal relationships to make choices in the city’s best interest.
“Yes, I feel like I could,” Entsminger answered.
He continued, “Sometimes, you just got to do the right thing, whether you make somebody mad or not. Sometimes you got to look at the whole big picture. You got to do for the good of everybody.”
To conclude Entsminger’s interview, he was asked what has been the biggest success and the biggest failure in the past two years in Covington.
“I’d say one of the biggest successes I’ve seen is the relationship between the school board and city council. I know there have been times with arguments over budgets. It seems like the last few years that the relationship isn’t nearly as strained as it was,” Entsminger said.
He continued answering the question by stating, “I’d like to see a better relationship between the city and the county.”
Entsminger also re-emphasized that a consolidation of the area would have to happen in order to survive.
Council is expected to fill the District 1 seat during its regular December meeting Tuesday.
Council voted on and approved the following items be placed on the agenda for its regular meeting:
— Public hearing regarding Virginia Water Facilities revolving loan financing agreement (Waste Water Lift Stations Improvements);
— To consider acceptance of annual audit report;
— To consider approval of joint radio system contract documents;
— To consider an appointment to the Community Services Board;
— To consider an appointment to the Social Services Board;
— To consider second reading of Ordinance O-17-13 regarding rezoning portion of old Edgemont property from M-1 to R-2;
— To consider second reading of Ordinance O-17-14 regarding the rezoning of the “Riverside Corridor” (WestRock area property) to M-2;
— To consider second reading of Ordinance O-17-15 regarding vacation of a portion of Riverton Road;
— To consider first reading of Downtown Parking Ordinance amendment;
— To consider Resolution R-17-40 — A Resolution of Respect to honor William B. Zimmerman Jr., council member and former vice mayor;
— To consider resolution R-17-41 regarding establishing a fund balance policy;
— To consider Resolution R-17-42 regarding VA Water Facilities revolving loan financing agreement;
— To consider personnel policy amendment regarding annual leave/PTO carryover;
— To consider Appropriation Resolution R-17-43 regarding crane services at the water treatment plant in the amount of $9,435.50;
— To hold a closed session pursuant to the Virginia Freedom of Information Act. Sec. 2.2-3711 (A)(3) regarding real estate.