COURTHOUSE — Barbara Henley, a Pungo farmer who has represented Virginia Beach’s southern communities for much of the past four decades, won reelection to the City Council in the Princess Anne District on Tuesday, Nov. 6.
Henley defeated challengers Tim Worst of Lago Mar and Dr. Karen Beardlee Kwasny of Ashville Park, as well as the Rev. Pieri Burton of Strawbridge, who remained on already-printed ballots though he officially withdrew.
Henley won 46.8 percent of the vote, according to unofficial returns from the state elections department before provisional ballots were counted. Worst, aligned with City Councilmember John Moss, placed second with 26.1 percent, and Kwasny, who represents the district on the Planning Commission and had strong backing in the Sandbridge realty industry, was third with 23.5 percent.
Burton, despite withdrawing due to family reasons and urging supporters to back Worst, gained about a half percent of votes cast. He sought the district seat unsuccessfully four years ago against Henley.
“I’m elated and humbled at the same time,” Henley said on Election Night, while gathered with family and supporter at Tapped Crafthouse in Red Mill Commons. “It’s overwhelming. The numbers are good, particularly with this really, really strange election.”
Henley performed well across the city, losing few precincts, according to initial returns. She said she thought Worst benefitted from his association with Moss and among some conservative voters. Henley also won Sandbridge, where Kwasny had been backed by a number of players in the rental industry and Henley has faced criticism about the city’s ongoing effort to regulate short-term rentals.
“Yes,” Henley noted, smiling, before adding that she would represent the entire community, though divisions remain in Sandbridge.
“I always have felt that I represent everybody, whether they supported me or not,” Henley said. “If I’m going to be the Princess Anne District representative, I’m going to be the Princess Anne District representative.”
Henley said this and other issues, particularly recurrent flooding in the district and citywide, need to be worked on together.
“I think we really need to put all of the personal and political aside now, and, okay, let’s just see where we are and come to an agreement,” Henley added.
Henley said one focus will be a project that will use forest land as a component of making the city more resilient from flooding. She also awaits the results of studies of flooding and sea level rise to develop approaches toward those issues, which have been pressing in the district due to wind-driven flooding events.
Worst was a political newcomer who made addressing flooding a central issue of his campaign after gaining some attention early on for verbally sparring with former Mayor Will Sessoms during a City Council meeting.
Worst said on Wednesday, Nov. 7, that he is thankful for support from volunteers and others both before and after the result was known. He also said he learned a lot about the city and communities while seeking office.
“I care about my neighborhood and the Princess Anne District more than I did before running,” he said.
He said he was happy for Henley, and he wished her the best. And he said he would stay involved at some level going forward, though the details may come later.
“I kind of enjoyed being at home tonight,” he said.
Kwasny on Wednesday, Nov. 7, said she and her supporters could take pride in the kind of campaign they ran despite the result.
“I ran because I truly believed I had something valuable to offer and there was work I passionately wanted to do,” Kwasny said. “I am disappointed for the work I won’t be able to do.”
Kwasny said she is grateful for and humbled by the support of family and friends, as well as people on her campaign team as well as supporters who came into the fold along the way.
Kwasny acknowledged she may end her time on the Planning Commission this year when her term ends, but she said she will continue her work until then. “I have two more months,” Kwasny said. “I will be there.”
“If it cannot be me, I am thankful it’s Barbara,” she added.
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