By Shannon McGovern
After eight years as the South River district representative for the Rockbridge County Board of Supervisors, Carroll Comstock is retiring, to be succeeded by one of the three candidates vying for his seat.
No one can say who is ahead in this race, but on Nov. 8 South River district voters will choose Ronnie Campbell, Eric Sheffield or Gene Tilles to represent them.
All three candidates share a similar concern for making the county more open to new business and economic development.
Ronnie Campbell retired to Rockbridge County after serving as a state trooper for 25 years. He spent 10 years on the county school board.
Campbell, a Republican, said he would like to see changes made to rules that he says restrict the kinds of businesses that move to the county—and limit job creation.
He said the county has become a retirement community because young people who can’t find jobs leave the area. His children are among them.
This trend is one of the reasons the current board has considered the consolidation of the two middle schools, a plan Campbell has promised to oppose if elected.
“I’m afraid … it’s going to involve a tax increase, and I just can’t see increasing taxes in this recession we’re in,” he said.
Eric Sheffield is a former Peace Corps worker, who taught woodworking to high school students in Africa.
He met his wife in the Peace Corps, and they moved to the county to live on the farm that she grew up on. He also is a member of the county’s Public Service Authority.
Sheffield, who is running as an Independent, said he founded Hull’s Angels, a non-profit group that reopened Hull’s Drive-In after it closed for a year when former owner Sebert Hull died.
“There’s something about Rockbridge being a small community, and there is a real sense of community here that tends to make people want to get involved,” Sheffield said.
This is Sheffield’s second run at a spot on the board. He lost to Roy Fauber 12 years ago. This time around, Sheffield said Fauber supports his candidacy.
Sheffield says he wants to develop a detailed development plan for the county that would attract businesses to the area.
Gene Tilles owns a real estate company and he and his wife buy and sell antiques.
Tilles grew up in Baltimore. After high school he left Maryland to check out the music scene in Nashville, and played in several country-western bands.
While on tour in California, Tilles met his wife, Carol. She moved to Augusta County with him when he accepted a job offer in 1975 working on a farm raising Black Angus cattle.
Tilles, a registered Democrat running as an Independent, says residents are concerned about the development of farmland and loss of open spaces as a result of new zoning ordinances.
“I’d rather see something more concise and something that fits with the agricultural nature of Rockbridge County,” Tilles said, adding he doesn’t want to see strip malls and “helter-skelter” building.
He said the county should create incentives that will give businesses a reason to come to the county.