VIRGINIA BEACH — David Fowler, a sergeant in the Virginia Beach Sheriff’s Office who lives in Hillcrest Farms, announced this past week that he is running for City Council in the Princess Anne District.
His hat is in the ring a year after his wife, state Del. Kelly Fowler, D-Virginia Beach, toppled a Republican incumbent, Ron Villanueva, to represent the 21st House District.
David Fowler said his decision to run comes after he and his wife both became more active in community issues, especially local matters. “The local issues are the ones that most directly effect individuals,” he said during an interview.
Virginia Beach City Council races are nonpartisan affairs, and the Princess Anne District is shaping up as the home to a crowded contest. Five candidates have either announced campaigns or filed paperwork to seek office in the district, and among them is the incumbent City Councilmember Barbara Henley, a farmer who has represented communities in the southern part of the city for most of the past four decades.
Fowler grew up in the Indian Lakes area, where his parents still live, and he graduated from Salem High School in 1996. His parents are now constituents of his wife, he noted. He was born in Jacksonville, Fla., but, as the son of a Navy chief warrant officer, the family moved to Virginia Beach by the time Fowler was three.
When he was 12, Fowler began a relationship with the Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center, first as a volunteer, which reflected his interest in marine science. He said he earned a marine biology degree at the College of William & Mary, then worked as a marine biologist at the aquarium, where he also had worked during college.
He eventually joined the sheriff’s office, where he now serves in intake at the jail. “That’s also something I’ve been interested in, protecting those who can’t protect themselves,” he said.
He said he and his wife became active about a year ago locally, in part due to the result of the 2016 presidential election.
“For me, it was not as much about the Republican or Democrat thing but Trump himself,” David Fowler said.
“To me, he doesn’t represent the character of the United States,” Fowler said. “He wasn’t my reason for running for City Council, obviously.”
He said he wanted to run in the district he lives in. “Just the desire to give back to the community to make sure people’s voices are heard,” he said.
Fowler said he is both concerned about the flooding issues faced citywide and ensuring stormwater systems are adequate, and he said a plan should consider benefits throughout the city.
The issue is a priority, he said. Fowler mentioned during an interview and in a campaign announcement on social media that he tried to help friends in Princess Anne Plaza during Hurricane Matthew, feeling helpless when he could not reach them. They were out of their home for months.
Especially given his background, he said he will advocate for public safety personnel.
He also noted a recent proposal to end the agricultural reserve program, which purchases development rights to keep agricultural land productive as farmland. A budget proposal by City Manager Dave Hansen would end the program, shifting funds toward stormwater projects. [Ed. — A proposal that may save the program is under discussion during the ongoing city budget process.]
Ending the program doesn’t make sense to Fowler.
“You’re talking about ending this program to help prevent flooding, but, if you get more development down there, you’ll get more flooding,” he said.
He also said long-range planning for sea level rise is a priority.
Fowler said he is still learning the issues and hopes to speak with voters in both rural communities and suburban areas of the district.
“I want to be a true representative of what the people want to do,” he said.
Regarding the incumbent, Fowler noted that Henley first won office the year he was born.
“At some point, it’s just time for change, and you should get some fresh eyes in there,” he said. “I definitely respect all the years she has given to the city.”
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