New Staunton City Council members more conservative, ready to work

Three of the signs for city council members elected Tuesday. Amy Darby was also elected. | Credit: WHSV
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STAUNTON, Va. (WHSV)— After Tuesday's election, Staunton City Council looks a bit different, with three new city council members.

Steve Claffey, Amy Darby and Mark Robertson were elected to council, beating out vice mayor Ophie Kier, James Harrington and Erik Curren.

Claffey was elected over Kier by just 19 votes.

Andrea Oakes won re-election.

You can find the full breakdown of results, and all local election results, here.

While party affiliation doesn't play as much of a role in these May local elections (Claffey said he ran as an independent and isn't beholden to any party), the new group of city council members will bring new ideas.

"I think it's a more conservative group that's coming on board," Claffey said. Robertson echoed that belief, telling WHSV on Wednesday that with the four of them elected together, there is now a conservative majority on council (Virginia's system for local elections does not list the candidates by party, regardless of how they choose to campaign).

"We're all of a kind of common sense conservative approach to government, and trying to make government more efficient," Robertson said.

Robertson, Claffey and Darby all said they had people come up to them and encourage them to run prior to the election, and all three are excited about being on city council.

"There's a certain amount of elation, but at the same time, it's a realization that there's a responsibility," Claffey said. "There's 2,200 people that said we want you to do this job."

Darby said there were a lot of people coming to her saying they didn't feel like they had a voice, and Darby hopes to be a voice for Staunton residents.

"The biggest goal is just to listen to our citizens and be a voice for them," Darby said.

It was also important to Claffey that people felt represented by who was on city council.

"I was tired of seeing the 6 to 1 votes and not even having an opportunity to discuss matters, and leaving a lot of citizens feeling like they weren't being heard," Claffey said.

Now that the election is over, the newest city council members and Oakes agreed that helping Staunton recover after the pandemic is a priority.

"I think we need to work hard to support our small businesses and to help boost our economy as we move forward in coming out of this pandemic," Darby said.

Robertson added they want to make sure government is efficient, to help save money. Oakes also wants to see economic stability.

"I would really like to see the city of Staunton become economically more stable," Oakes said. "As a result of the COVID-19, we really need to recover from the economic downturn that it's caused."

All four city council members said they would work with the current council members to improve the city.

"I can promise you that I will do to the best of my ability that I will try to serve those that voted for me, and those that didn't, and hopefully be the best councilman that I can be," Robertson said. "And I know that's true with the other three that were elected with me. They really do have the heart of the people, and the best of the city in mind."