Elkton town council candidates talk reasons for running

Published: Sep. 20, 2022 at 7:40 PM EDT
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ELKTON, Va. (WHSV) - With Election Day less than two months away, local candidates are ramping up their campaigns. Towns across Rockingham County will hold elections for their leadership and no ballot is more crowded than Elkton’s.

In total, 12 candidates will appear on the ballot for Elkton leadership positions. Eight candidates are running for three open council seats, two other candidates will face off in a special election for the final two years of the unexpired term of a fourth council seat. Two additional candidates are also in the race for mayor.

Over the past few days, WHSV had the chance to talk with nearly all of the candidates on the ballot.

“I feel like the town is in desperate need of some strong leadership which I feel like I offered over my 27 years with 27 balanced budgets and numerous things that have made Elkton a better place for our people to live which was my goal,” said Wayne Printz, a candidate for Elkton Mayor.

Printz spent a total of 27 years on the Elkton Town Council and served as the town’s mayor. He now challenges incumbent Mayor Josh Gooden.

According to the Virginia Department of Elections, Gooden and Printz have faced off in three of the last four Elkton mayoral races with Printz winning in 2014 and 2016 and Gooden winning in 2018 and 2020.

Printz said issues he hopes to tackle include the town’s budget, the creation of a campground on a rural property near the Rockingham County Landfill’s Elkton Branch and hopes to install mandatory revitalization of vacant and abandoned buildings in the town like the Elkton Theatre and provide more types of family entertainment downtown.

Incumbent Mayor Josh Gooden is seeking a third term in his race against Printz. Gooden said his top priority is to continue to support the town’s business growth.

“The biggest goal for me is supporting our downtown business community. If you have a thriving business community, you have a thriving town so at least having those businesses in our community and supporting our business owners always makes for a more thriving community and diversifies the tax base for the town,” said Gooden.

Eight candidates will compete for the town’s three four-year council seats. Among them are incumbents Randell Snow, Jay Dean, Phillip ‘Rick’ Workman, and David Smith, as well as newcomers Virginia Fulginiti, Margaretta Isom, Claud Dean, and Michael Eppard.

Snow has served on the town council since the 1980s. He said one of the biggest issues the town is facing is its outdated water infrastructure and that’s something he hopes to help rectify if re-elected.

“What we have facing us is a major overhaul of our water system. We just did our sewer plant for about $12 to $15 million and we’re not completely finished but the plant itself is pretty well taken care of. Now we’re gonna have to focus on the water system that’s been neglected for 30 or 40 years,” he said.

Snow also expressed a desire to see the Elkton Theatre revitalized and reopened. He defended the decision of the council to fire Town Manager Greg Lunsford back in June. He said that he sees the council hiring a full-time employee to handle much of the day-to-day operations that a town manager normally would.

Incumbent Councilman Rick Workman was appointed to the town council to fill the seat vacated by Jessy Beasley in February. He is now seeking a full four-year term.

“My main interest is economic development, or one of my main interests is economic development. This benefits the town by providing us with growth,” said Workman.

David Smith was appointed to the town council in July to fill the seat vacated by Heidi Zander in June. Smith has worked in production at Lakeside Book Company in Harrisonburg for the last 17 years and writes monthly articles on the Elkton Town Council meetings for the Valley Trail.

“I’m just the type of person who likes to help people and that’s kind of what drives me is to help people out, to help the citizens and just get the information out there on what goes on,” said Smith to WHSV after he was sworn in.

Smith could not be reached for comment on Monday or Tuesday.

Jay Dean is a veteran who has lived in Elkton for 45 years and has been on the town council for the last 12 years. He said if reelected, finding a way to renovate or replace the town’s outdated drinking water system is his top priority.

“We’re losing 52% of what we pump, that’s a lot. It’s not gonna be a cheap fix and we need a lot of help with grants and everything. But if there are no grants I don’t know what we’re going to do because I don’t want to saddle citizens with more debt than what they already incur so we’re going to have to be very proactive,” said Dean.

Virginia Fulginiti is one of the non-incumbents seeking a seat on the council. She hopes to help Elkton continue to grow its businesses and attract more visitors.

“We can move forward and let our town shine as a true gateway to the Blue Ridge and even if you’re not passing through and you are local, come down and see what we have to offer,” said Fulginiti.

Claud Dean served as the Town of Elkton’s electrician for 25 years. Now, he’s hoping to bring a voice to those who feel unrepresented by the current town leadership.

“I’m interested in getting involved in some of the projects that are in town. I disagree with some of them and I’d like to be a voice for the citizens. I don’t feel like they have a voice and they’re overlooked sometimes. I’d just like to get involved and see if I can help them out a little bit,” said Dean.

Margaretta Isom is a lifelong Elkton resident who previously spent 14 years on the town council. She’s looking to get back to serving the community after the passing of her husband last year.

“When I went into council before, I told them that the only thing I could make a promise to was that I would work hard for them, that I’d be a voice for them, that I’d make a commitment to attend the meetings and to do my homework. I think that my record proves that and I’ll continue to do that,” said Isom.

Michael Eppard is a lifelong Elkton resident with a background in business management and construction. He is seeking his first bid at an elected office. He wants to cut the town’s spending to decrease utility rates. He also hopes to see more youth-oriented projects in the town.

“If you look around town there’s virtually no youth programs or any youth-oriented activities, the most that we have is a basketball court. There’s just not much for younger people to do in this town,” Eppard said.

Elkton will also have a special election to fill the remaining two years of former council member Jessy Beasley’s term. There are just two candidates in that race: Rachel Michael and Nick Campbell.

“I like servant leadership. I like that we can continue to build and grow our community and have a strong voice in that,” said Rachel Michael, who is an operations manager at Merck in Elkton. “So, honesty and transparency and running our town to be as efficient and as effective as possible.”

Nick Campbell is a lifelong Elkton resident and a contractor who does residential construction. He said he was inspired to throw his hat in the ring after seeing the fallout in the town over former town manager Greg Lunsford’s firing in June. He said one of his goals would be for the town to develop an economic development liaison to help support and reach out to local businesses.

“I’m a pretty straightforward person, I’m open and honest. I have no agenda, I have no plans for one side or the other I think that our community simply needs to work together. We’re a small town, we’re a proud town, and it’d be nice to see everyone get the respect back that our town deserves to work toward a mutual goal,” Campbell said.

Early voting begins Friday, Sept. 23 and lasts through Saturday, Nov. 5.

Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 8.