Two independents seek seats on Harrisonburg City Council

Published: Jun. 27, 2022 at 7:29 PM EDT
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HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) - In November, two open four-year seats on the Harrisonburg City Council will be up for grabs. In addition to two Democrats, two independent candidates will be on the ballot hoping to break into the all-Democratic Council.

Independents Marshall Orenic and Rick Nagel are joining Democrats Dany Fleming and Monica Robinson in the race for the two seats.

Nagel is the latest candidate to enter the race, announcing his candidacy just last week. He has a law enforcement background and has spent years working in politics as a public policy advocate at the state and federal levels which he feels makes him well equipped for the job.

“A big part of what I do is bringing Republicans and Democrats together and I’ve worked exclusively in Richmond on that and I’ve been very successful passing bills that are now law because I’ve worked with Republicans and Democrats on pieces of legislation,” said Nagel.

As an independent, Nagel wants his campaign to be inclusive to all different kinds of people across the city.

“I want it to be supported by Democrats, Republicans, and Independents and invite everyone to join my campaign because I think we’re facing some serious issues in Harrisonburg. My campaign will focus on affordable housing, education, jobs, and public safety,” he said.

Nagel believes affordable housing is one of the biggest issues facing the city and finding the correct way to bring more housing in would be a priority. He was one of the organizers of a group of neighbors who opposed a controversial Lucy Drive development that the council approved in February.

“My primary concern with putting affordable housing in certain areas away from needed services from some of the folks who may not drive or rely on public transportation or their feet is pedestrian safety. So you have to have the infrastructure,” he said.

Nagel said there are other issues contributing to the lack of affordable housing.

“There are some impediments to developers for building in Harrisonburg, there are some roadblocks and some fees that make it pretty expensive to develop in Harrisonburg,” he said.

Nagel said if elected he would also work to broaden STEM programs in Harrisonburg City Public Schools and bring more pro-business policies to the city.

Marshall Orenic grew up in the Harrisonburg area before leaving and then returning ten years ago. He has a background in restaurant management and now works in insurance. He said providing an independent voice for the city is very important to him.

“I don’t like having to be tied to one party or the other. I think in politics that creates an agenda and my agenda is helping the people here. I want to hear from them and see what their needs are and not hear from a political party if that makes sense. So my independent voice would be a voice of the people,” said Orenic.

As a father of three, Orenic said improving education in the city is one of the biggest parts of his campaign.

“I have seen the school budget increase by 27% over the last five years and yet SOL scores have gone down and there needs to be some investigation into why that happens,” he said.

Orenic also said the city’s housing crisis is one of the biggest issues he hopes to address.

“The homeless up to the people that live by the golf course, everybody is feeling the pinch of inflation, taxes are going up, just everything. I would take a look at the budget and see where things might need to be cut to ease the tax burden on the citizens,” he said.

Orenic launched his campaign in March and said he is making every effort to connect with residents of the city and hear their concerns.

“I’ve always had a servant leadership attitude where I think it takes everybody to tackle problems and figure out solutions and things like that,” he said.

There will also be a special election in November to fill the remaining two years of the term of former Councilman Geroge Hirschmann who resigned in May for health reasons.

Thus far, Democratic incumbent Chris Jones and fellow Democrat Paloma Saucedo are running for the party’s one nomination for the seat. No other candidates have announced a run in the special election.

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