Hillsville citizens have voted for change, electing a new mayor and a new council member in the May 1 Municipal Elections.
Challenger Greg Crowder defeated incumbent Bill Tate in the mayoral race by 30 votes, 312-282. Although Tate edged Crowder in two of the four Wards (winning Pine Creek 97-87 and Laurel Fork 75-48), Crowder made up the difference with a 103-66 edge in the Sulphur Springs Ward and a 70-36 margin in the Pipers Gap Ward.
Challenger David Young also defeated long-time Pipers Gap Ward Council member Orba Alderman by 31 votes, with 70 votes compared to Alderman’s 39.
Pine Creek Ward Council member Ed Terry was the lone incumbent to retain his seat, defeating challenger Phyllis Lackey by a 140-49 margin.
Crowder and Young both ran with a platform campaign of change, and that is what the majority of the voters wanted, Crowder said.
“I am very happy that the hard work we put in paid off. We just want to let the voters know we heard their wishes and I will carry them out to the best of my ability,” Crowder said. “I feel like Bill got his 275 votes like he seems like he always gets and it was up to me to get over that number. I knew that was a number he would probably get and I felt like I had to get 300 or above. I just barely got there, but the majority of the people voted for change.”
Young said when he and Crowder first began seeking office, they ran on a campaign consisting merely of rallying against utility increases and overspending. That quickly changed, however.
“After visiting our first 100 houses, we started realizing the displeasure of the voters with upper town management,” Young said.
In fact, Young said he didn’t even intend to run for Town Council at first. After conversations with Crowder about how his water bill was going up and the mandatory sewer line hookup in his community, Young decided to to seek office.
“All my neighbors were very upset about mandatory hookup when they already had a septic system in place. My main concern when I went to the town is what can we do to help these citizens? I was told I could get a hardship letter, and I said I am not worried about that, we need to know what we can do,” Young said. “We hooked up to the water and everybody was tickled. We know eventually we can hook up to sewer, but for mandatory, some of my neighbors on low-income cannot afford to pay the town the hookup fee, $600 for that. And plus paying the contractor to put the line in and the materials was a real hardship to at least 80 people in my area.”
Young said he believes Crowder has an excellent plan for the water situation that will help many people. While he said he didn’t know the legalities yet of the sewer situation, they plan to work on that as well once they take office July 1.
Young said he will be stepping down at the Hillsville Volunteer Fire Department as treasurer to avoid any appearance of a conflict of interest.
“I want to thank Hillsville Volunteer Fire Department for all their service and years I’ve been with them,” Young said. “My top priority and whole goal is volunteer service, so I support them 100 percent.”
While Crowder said he has many goals he wants to accomplish within his first six months in office, he said his first plan as mayor would be to immediately look at giving farmers at least the same amount of tax relief that Carroll County currently offers. Another plan would be to make sure town employees can get paid for any leftover sick days they have when they retire, also at least at the same rate the county offers.
“Luke Farmer put in his whole life for the town and basically had to give his sick leave away,” Crowder said. “We didn’t feel like that was fair.”
Within six months, he said he’d like for the Town to be able to use the New River Regional Water Authority Water Plant in Austinville that the county has worked with on its Long-Range Water Plan.
“It is extremely cheap,” Crowder said. “We want to get hooked to that to get our average water costs down, and to look at our sewage treatment plant that we are currently using 18 percent capacity to try to reach some kind of deal with the county on potential use of that.”
In fact, Crowder and Young both said the past is gone as far as town and county relations go. The mayor-elect said he plans to have a much closer relationship with Carroll County than Hillsville has ever had, and he said Hillsville citizens should benefit.
“Anything we can share with the county as expenses like for office supplies, computer repair, anything that we can buy in bulk together or resource together, I’d love to take a look at that to save taxpayers’ money,” Crowder said. “We’ve had numerous visits from almost all the board members already thinking together and working together if we were elected.”
Another thing Crowder would like to get accomplished within six months would be to have a Mount Rogers planner and auditor come in to get a picture of where the town stands financially. He’d also welcome any suggestions they might make for the betterment of the taxpayers and how to conserve money.
“The last thing would be as mayor I am going to concentrate more on how to bring a dollar in to the town other than trying to figure how to get a dollar out of my taxpayer,” Crowder said. “The voters that voted me in, I hope the current administration will realize the voters voted for change and to give us our time to work for the citizens and the voters like they asked for. I don’t want it to be a year of them squabbling trying to delay any changes being made. The council could be changed in two years. If we’re not doing a good job, they can have it right back in two years.”