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2016 Virginia Beach Elections: Candidates for Virginia Beach mayor respond to questions

Ed. note — The Independent News asked candidates for mayor of Virginia Beach to answer questions about issues in the city and, specifically, the city’s southern communities. This appeared in print on Friday, Oct. 28. Responses to question have not been edited. The following responses appear in alphabetical order by author’s last name.


George Furman, III

Neighborhood: Campus East Community

Age on Nov. 8: 59

Occupation: DOD Worker

Political party affiliation, if any: Democratic Party

(301) 273-5376  gfurman3e@gmail.com ♦ On Facebook

What are your specific qualifications for this office? I am a concerned citizen of Virginia Beach with an Army background in Supply and Accountability. I have a can do attitude and my strong point is my problem-solving ability.

What, to you, is the most important issue facing the city and how will you address it if elected? The most important issue facing the city is the gross misspending of taxpayer’s money. I will redirect the taxpayer’s money back to the purpose it was intended, schools, infrastructure, city worker’s, and the police force.

Virginia Beach is a city that can no longer rely on new development as it once did. How should the city promote future redevelopment? Where should redevelopment or development efforts be focused? The first thing that needs to be done is to repair the damage done by the new development that is already in place, such  as the sewage, drainage, and to maintain ground integrity by planting trees, shrubbery, and more area beautification.  

At this present time I have no opinion on the redevelopment in other areas. 

How can the city better promote industries that capitalize upon our veteran population? Bring in businesses that are known for hiring veterans, such as Boeing and Bristol Myer Squibb to name a few.

Do you support the agricultural reserve program meant to ensure farmland can remain productive in rural areas of Virginia Beach? Please explain why. Yes, I support the agricultural reserve program. Agriculture is the third largest industry of Virginia Beach. 

Should the city maintain its “green line”? Please explain your position. Yes, I support the green line. It was put in place to protect farmland and green land from development in Virginia Beach.

Should the city extend Nimmo Parkway to Sandbridge? Please explain. The question is not should they extend  Nimmo Parkway to Sandbridge, but, why haven’t the City done it yet?

Do you support the extension of light rain from Newtown Station to Town Center? Please explain. No, I do not support light rail because it is a waste of taxpayer’s money.


Richard ‘RK’ Kowalewitch

Neighborhood: At Large

Age on Nov. 8: 56

Occupation: Home Builder

Political party affiliation, if any: Conservative

rkformayor.com ♦ (757) 831-6143  rkformayorvb@gmail.com ♦ On Facebook, facebook.com/rkformayorvb; on Twitter, twitter.com/rkformayorvb

What are your specific qualifications for this office? I owned a small business for over 22 years. I have a great understanding of retail and construction. I have the ultimate respect for the Constitution and the Free Enterprise System. The FES is the largest provider of jobs in our country. I have a deep connection with the small business owners in the community and understand their needs.

What, to you, is the most important issue facing the city and how will you address it if elected? If corruption doesn’t matter, then no election will ever matter. The Public Corruption is a huge issue. As Mayor I will propose term limits, an Ethics Committee, Strict Laws that enforce conflicts of interest and I will also implement Ward/District Elections. 

Virginia Beach is a city that can no longer rely on new development as it once did. How should the city promote future redevelopment? Where should redevelopment or development efforts be focused? The City should always maintain an even playing field. The Government should not be choosing winners and losers. I will create an atmosphere that will allow small businesses to grow. We should focus on taking advantage of the great industrial park areas throughout the city to entice large corporations to house their businesses here. The oceanfront and tourism is necessary, yet we cannot, and must not forget about the other vital areas of the city.

How can the city better promote industries that capitalize upon our veteran population? Use the skill set that the Veterans bring to our city and use the Free Enterprise System that will allow more individuals to open businesses providing jobs for the veterans to use those skills.

Do you support the agricultural reserve program meant to ensure farmland can remain productive in rural areas of Virginia Beach? Please explain why. I do support the Agriculture Reserve Program. It is important for the growth of the city to maintain these areas for generational growth as well.  I also feel that it is a program that must be reviewed periodically to ensure that the continual benefit to both the land owner and future city development is sustained. 

Should the city maintain its “green line”? Please explain your position. Yes. The city must do a better job of research and development before certain building projects are approved. A good example is the Asheville Community near Pungo. It was built on farmland – proper research was not conducted or was carelessly conducted for feasibility. Since its erection, the community has been “under water” on the last several occasions from bad storms. Expensive homes have been damaged badly. We must be more prudent and responsible when reviewing these cite plans. 

Should the city extend Nimmo Parkway to Sandbridge? Please explain. Absolutely.  Sand Bridge is a huge economic supplier and the roadway to that area is dangerous, too narrow, and runs through a residential area. The extension is necessary and will benefit more economic development and increase the safety of all. 

Do you support the extension of light rain from Newtown Station to Town Center? Please explain. No, I do not, but I DO believe the people of Virginia Beach have the right to respond in an up or down vote on the Light Rail. The City Council should abide by the decision made by the people. It appears that the Council has been pushing their agenda on the citizens despite the fact that the Study showed that the goals set for the Light Rail were not achievable.


William D. Sessoms, Jr. 

[Incumbent]

Neighborhood: North End

Age on Nov. 8: 62

Occupation: Retired banker/Mayor

Political party affiliation, if any: Republican

Key endorsements: VBEA-PACE; HRRA; Virginia Beach Professional Firefighters’ Association

SessomsforMayor.com  www.successessoms.com ♦ (757) 581-5624 ♦ tguagenti@gmail.com ♦ On Facebook, facebook.com/MayorSessoms; on Twitter, @VABeachMayor

What are your specific qualifications for this office? My qualifications include my 10 years as Vice Mayor and eight years as Mayor. 

My background in finance has been a huge asset for Virginia Beach. Virginia Beach is a financially sound city with a Triple-A bond rating from all rating agencies.

Virginia Beach also was voted the country’s best-managed city by 24/7 Wall St.; we have the safest city for our size; and our schools continually rank among the highest in the nation. I want to continue to lead the city I grew up in, the Greatest City in the World.

What, to you, is the most important issue facing the city and how will you address it if elected? The issues facing our city are multifold; we must stay financially sound; diversify our economy; maintain our military stronghold; invest in tourism; support agriculture; provide an excellent education for our students; and provide a safe city for our residents.

Virginia Beach is a city that can no longer rely on new development as it once did. How should the city promote future redevelopment? Where should redevelopment or development efforts be focused? This is where redevelopment along a proposed light rail is so important – for growth and new opportunities. I also support our Strategic Growth Areas: Burton Station, Centerville, Hilltop, Lynnhaven, Newtown, Pembroke, Resort and Rosemont.

How can the city better promote industries that capitalize upon our veteran population? I believe we must do better in helping our veterans. Our veterans leave the military and have wonderful skills that will allow them to become great employees as civilians, but we must expand upon educational opportunities to allow them to become gainfully employed quickly after exiting the military.

Do you support the agricultural reserve program meant to ensure farmland can remain productive in rural areas of Virginia Beach? Please explain why. I was on council when this was implemented, and since being Mayor, the City has preserved more than 1,200 acres in the program, for a total of just under 10,000 preserved acres; I’m proud of this program.

Should the city maintain its “green line”? Please explain your position. Yes. This question goes hand-in-hand with the previous one. We established the Agricultural Reserve Program to ensure that Virginia Beach’s southern half remains rural and doesn’t require the need for expensive infrastructure that comes along with growth.

Should the city extend Nimmo Parkway to Sandbridge? Please explain. Yes. Sandbridge Road is a dangerous byway that also is prone to flooding issues. We need to provide another route.

Do you support the extension of light rail from Newtown Station to Town Center? Please explain. Yes. We need to give our citizens transportation alternatives, and light rail does that, in addition to connecting our entire region if it is expanded in Norfolk and into Chesapeake.


A.M. “Don” Weeks

Neighborhood: Newlight

Age on Nov. 8: 59

Occupation: Affordable home builder-Real Estate Agent

Key endorsements: Karla (wife) and my twin 12 yr. old daughters have enthusiastically endorsed me.

donweeksformayor.com ♦ (757) 288-2000  donweeksformayor@gmail.com

What are your specific qualifications for this office? I am a lifelong resident of Virginia Beach and a small business owner. I graduated from Kempsville High School and ODU. I previously served on the VB City Council, am a past president of Habitat for Humanity SHR and a past president of Thrivent Financial-Norfolk Portsmouth Chapter. While on council, I served as a commissioner on the HRT Transit Board. I’m a common sense person and believe in spending tax dollars responsibly for needs not wants.

What, to you, is the most important issue facing the city and how will you address it if elected? Current leadership is focused on large scale, expensive development at the expense of meeting the needs of citizens. My vision involves a city that operates on the tenets of transparency, integrity and economy. I will work with the council, city staff and the citizens to provide solutions to the problems that have the most effect on improving our quality of life.

Virginia Beach is a city that can no longer rely on new development as it once did. How should the city promote future redevelopment? Where should redevelopment or development efforts be focused? City leaders should focus on areas that are blighted or underdeveloped as they present an opportunity for strategic redevelopment. An affordable housing component must be a key element to any redevelopment of this nature.  City leaders must be cautious regarding new development since we currently have significant unfunded infrastructure needs that must be addressed especially in light of the recent flooding.  Additionally, the Weldon Cooper Center at UVA predicts that population growth rates in VB will be stagnant over the next 20 years.  

Do you support the agricultural reserve program meant to ensure farmland can remain productive in rural areas of Virginia Beach? Please explain why. The ARP is a good tool to help us manage growth in the southern end of the city. However, it is only one tool which has some defects that must be addressed. As a city, we need to give property owners alternatives in addition to the ARP. If we don’t, we have taken away their constitutionally protected rights unjustly, which I could never support.

Should the city maintain its “green line”? Please explain your position. I support the green line in theory to preserve the unique nature of the southern part of our city. I do believe however, that a review of how it relates to the comprehensive plan and property rights is warranted especially given our downward population growth rates for our city. 

Should the city extend Nimmo Parkway to Sandbridge? Please explain. I believe the Nimmo Parkway extension is needed for a number of reasons. Sandbridge Road, as it exists today, is very unsafe and does not have the capacity to handle the traffic that engulfs it, especially in the summertime. Virginia Beach leaders have been stalling for over 15 years and both tourists and residents alike have been put at risk from a very dangerous roadway. The people who enjoy the beauty of Sandbridge deserve better.

Do you support the extension of light rail from Newtown Station to Town Center? Please explain. No, I do not support the Light Rail extension. As a city council member in 1999, I asked the city council to place a referendum on the November ballot, so we could get direction from the voters about whether we should proceed with Light Rail. That referendum was defeated 56 to 44 and had a ten year sunset clause. Since that time the mayor and majority of council members have pursued Light Rail at any cost. The Federal Transit Administration rates the project so low that they will not commit any federal dollars to support it. This project is not a critical need and I think the voters of VB recognize that.


© 2016 Pungo Publishing, Co. LLC

The Independent News

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