By Rachel Adams-Heard
Tiny Glasgow is the setting for the most competitive local election races in the Rockbridge area this year.
Five candidates are campaigning for three town council seats in a quadrennial election. And two more candidates are competing in a special election for a fourth seat left vacant by the resignation of John Hill.
Incumbents Roger Funkhouser, Mike Turner and Sonny Williams are up against challengers R. Guy Kindle and Tom McClanahan in the regular election. In the special election, Monica Dock and Lee Duke are vying for Hill’s former spot.
The Rockbridge Report spoke to all but one of the candidates. Sonny Williams could not be reached.
Candidates say the issues characterizing this election include the water project currently in the works, a future sewer project, attracting new businesses, and better communication – among council members and between council and Glasgow’s citizens.
“We need to have a responsive government, not an insulated government,” says Kindle, who expressed frustration after the council dropped a public comments segment at its meetings.
Special election candidate Duke agrees.
“There are things that the town government does that the town doesn’t know about,” he says, adding that he thinks several town ordinances need updating. “There’s no way to get input from the citizens into the council.”
But McClanahan says he believes there is a time and place for openness – and it’s not always necessary, he says.
“Personnel issues should be closed to the public,” says McClanahan. “There is a certain amount of privacy that has to be maintained.”
McClanahan says the water and sewer projects are going well. He suspects the water project will wrap up in the spring and the sewer project will start sometime next year.
Upgrades to the water system are costing the town about $3.3 million. Funding comes from a $449,000 grant from the Virginia Department of Health and a $2.8-million loan from the Virginia Resource Authority, which funds local government infrastructure improvements.
The estimated cost of the sewer project is about $1 million. That would be funded by a grant and loan from Rural Development, a division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
“It’s a massive undertaking,” says special election candidate Dock, who served on the council for four years but took a break this past year.
The goal for the project is to upgrade the current infrastructure to include meters for all the town’s 1,100 residents. Dock served on the council when the project began, and she says she wants to see it through.
Dock also hopes to bring more tourism to the area with new businesses and maybe even a restaurant.
“Now that Natural Bridge has been turned into a state attraction as well, we’re hoping to have more people who are just in the area,” she says. Natural Bridge’s owners and state officials announced earlier this year that the 1,500-acre area surrounding the landmark site will become a state park, but it will likely be a few years before that happens.
Funkhouser says he isn’t sure the town holds potential for new businesses.
“There’s not a lot of opportunity for business in Glasgow,” he says. “I don’t know if there’s a lot the town can do.”
He says tourism should be the big draw, especially after creating access to the James River. “That’s going to bring a lot more people to us.”
Turner agrees that additional tax revenue is essential to the town.
“It’s a lot of retired people living on fixed income.”
He wants a new bank in town, especially after a BB&T branch closed, leaving Glasgow without a bank.
But Turner’s priority would be the sewer project, he says. A $145,000 study is currently in the works to determine the needs of the town’s sewer system.
“It’s just a mess right now,” says Turner, adding that old plumbing is wasting water.
Glasgow has been a town since 1892. There are 575 registered voters.