2019 Virginia Beach Elections: Questions for candidates for Virginia Beach Treasurer

[Rick Friday/The Independent News]

Ed. — The following are responses to questions posed by The Independent News to candidates for Virginia Beach Treasurer in the special election on Tuesday, Nov. 5. Answers to our questions in this series generally are not edited, aside from obvious punctuation issues, spacing and formatting, or for clarity. Our full voter guide is now on stands.


Residence: North Beach in the Lynnhaven District 

Age: 49

Occupation: Co-Owner, Croc’s 19th Street Bistro 

Military Service/Education Completed: None

Endorsements: Commissioner of the Revenue, Phil Kellam; US State Senator of Virginia, Tim Kaine; Pam and Ralph Northam 

Website: VoteLauraWoodHabr.com

Phone: (757) 639-6335

Campaign email: info@VoteLauraWoodHabr.com

Campaign social media: @LauraWoodHabr on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter 

What are your specific qualifications for this office? I am co-owner and manager of Croc’s restaurant which has been in business for over 20 years.  As an entrepreneur I know what it takes to run a successful operation that exceeds customer’s expectations while managing changing financial and personnel situations.

I have adapted our business model through market cycles and created opportunities to enhance the surrounding business community including the Old Beach Farmer’s Market and the Vibe District.

Perhaps the most telling factors in my specific qualifications for treasurer are, unlike the recently appointed treasurer, I am an entrepreneur and gained my financial and management experience in the private sector. Unlike the current treasurer, I am intent on transforming the closed culture of the treasurer’s office after nearly 42 years. My goal is measurable management of the billing and collection of taxes with accountable transparency of the investment of the public’s monies. No excuses, the buck will stop with me. 

Please describe your specific credentials in the areas of finance and/or revenue collection. As an successful private sector business owner, I have balanced the books, worked with accountants on reconciling receipts and ledgers and dealt with cash management, electronic payments and account payables. I have hired and trained an outstanding staff to assist me in each of these areas. While we have accomplished great things together, it was always my responsibility to develop our business strategy and manage our team for success. 

Unlike the current treasurer, abruptly appointed last January because of the incumbent treasurer’s sudden resignation after 41 years, my experience is in the private sector. Unlike the current treasurer, my ongoing professional decisions and success were not sustained through government subsidy but rather subject to market forces.

Please describe your management experience. With my private sector planning and management experience I will open and make accountable the closed culture and antiquated processes of the treasurer’s office. 

I am the only candidate with 20 plus years of experience successfully managing a private enterprise as an owner and operator

My leadership skills were necessary in establishing a culture of competence, accountability and advancement in my workplace.  I utilized those same skills when working with others to legally eliminate smoking in restaurants throughout Virginia, developing and launching the Old Beach Farmer’s Market, establishing the Vibe district and coordinating the interests of homeowners, business groups and elected officials to protect our coast from offshore oil and gas exploration.

No other candidate has the years of diverse and successful management experience that I do. I will manage your treasurer’s office with accountability and a promise to never forget the taxpayer pays our bills.

Is the constitutional office of treasurer needed in modern times when revenue could be collected by a municipal department? Why or why not? Yes. Taxpayers deserve the right to directly call on the public official responsible for taking their money, through taxes. In Virginia Beach, our treasurer is empowered to bill, collect and invest taxpayer monies. That is a responsibility that should be well managed, accountable and transparent. Currently, it is not and that is precisely why nothing is more fundamental in our democratic republic than the voters holding their government officials directly accountable. That is why we elect our treasurer.

The election for this office involves political parties. Does party involvement help voters select a competent treasurer? The constitutional office of treasurer is elected for the good reasons listed above. Billing, collecting and investing taxpayer monies are not partisan issues, they are management issues. 

However, the practical reality is political parties attract and motivate voters so it behooves a candidate for treasurer to be aligned with a political party if she wants voters to hear her issues and plans for action. 


Residence: Pungo

Age: 41

Occupation: Virginia Beach City Treasurer

Military Service/Education Completed: 2 Bachelor’s Degrees (Finance and Accounting)

Endorsements: Barry Knight, Bill DeSteph, Glenn Davis

Website: voteleighhendersonvb.com

Phone: (757) 621-2523

Email: voteleighhenderson@gmail.com

Social media: @voteleighhenderson on Facebook

What are your specific qualifications for this office? I have worked in the City Treasurer’s Office for 19 years, beginning as an entry level accountant. I worked my way up to Accounting and Investments Administrator where I managed the City’s investment portfolio. I was appointed as Chief Deputy almost 3 years ago by the former Treasurer, knowing that when he retired, I would become the next Treasurer.  I have been the Treasurer since January. I have knowledge and experience in every aspect of the office and have been a part of every technology project since 2000. I have overseen $2 billion a year in revenue and have managed an investment portfolio ranging between $500 million and $900 million. I have served on the Board of Trustees for the Virginia Investment Pool (VIP) since 2014.  VIP is an investment vehicle where local governments jointly invest to prudently achieve higher earnings on operating and reserve funds.

Please describe your specific credentials in the areas of finance and/or revenue collection. In 2000, I graduated from ODU with two bachelor degrees, one in Accounting and one in Finance. Over a period of 4 years I took the required classes to obtain my Master Governmental Deputy Treasurer designation from UVA’s Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service. Shortly after becoming Treasurer, I took additional classes to become a Master Governmental Treasurer. I am a Certified Treasury Professional, as designated by the Association for Financial Professionals. This education focuses on the specific aspects of the Treasurer’s position to include banking, cash management, investment management, governmental accounting, technology, internal controls, and collections.  For 19 years I have either done the job or have become knowledgeable in all aspects of the Treasurer’s Office operations.

Please describe your management experience. For over seven years, I was the Accounting and Investment Administrator with approximately 20 employees reporting to me. For two years, I was the Chief Deputy Treasurer responsible for approximately 75 employees and all operations of the office. With my work on all of the technology projects, I have managed and coordinated activities with multiple stakeholders, both within the City Treasurer’s Office and partnering departments/vendors.  I believe in leading by example. I believe in learning operations from the ground up. I believe in serving the citizens of Virginia Beach and have spent more than 19 years dedicating myself to this mission. As Treasurer, I try to impart this philosophy to my employees.

Is the constitutional office of treasurer needed in modern times when revenue could be collected by a municipal department? Why or why not? Eliminating the elected Treasurer has some very critical costs, such as losing the inherent system of checks and balances provided when you have separately elected tax assessment and tax collection officials. You can’t have the same checks and balances with an appointed finance director who handles all of those duties in one office. Also, citizens tend to favor having the Treasurer directly responsible and accountable to them. Additionally, under Virginia law, an elected Treasurer has more collection authority than an appointed finance director.

The election for this office involves political parties. Does party involvement help voters select a competent treasurer? Although I am running as a Republican, I strongly believe that the Virginia Beach Treasurer is elected to serve all of the citizens of our city. Partisan involvement in the nomination process helps nominate candidates with a shared vision for the leadership position. I also believe that the Constitutional Officers should be elected based on experience, qualifications, and educational background versus strictly on political affiliation, since this is a full time professional position. My experience, education, fiscal responsibility, and understanding of taxpayers’ needs allows me and my team of professionals to best serve our citizens.


The candidate did not respond.

© 2019 Pungo Publishing Co., LLC

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