Buena Vista mayor, other incumbents face challengers

By Caroline Leak

A forum for all nine candidates running for office in Buena Vista will be held at 6 p.m. at Parry McCluer Middle School.

Mayor Larry Tolley, candidate for mayor of Buena Vista.

Audience members will have the opportunity to submit written questions at the beginning, but the debate will mainly center on predetermined questions that the candidates have received in advance.

Mayor Larry Tolley is running for re-election and being challenged by Councilman Billy Fitzgerald.

Tolley says he is proud of the “streetscape” project that has been redoing sidewalks.

“We’ve been able to utilize every penny of that money and have been able to pick up more corners to fix,” Tolley said.

Buena Vista has paid off debts incurred as a result of the industrial park site and the athletic complex at Parry McCluer High School. But Tolley isn’t finished yet.

“We have some unfinished business, and I’d like to see it through,” he said, referring to the pending lawsuit of the Vista Links Golf Course.

Fitzgerald echoed Tolley’s concerns about the golf course, saying the matter needed to be put to bed.

Councilman Billy Fitzgerald, candidate for mayor of Buena Vista.

“It’s just foolish the way this is going on,” Fitzgerald said. “I think there needs to be drastic changes made so our city can move forward.”

Fitzgerald has been on the city council since 2015. He has two years left of his term as a councilman.

Three other seats on the city council are under contention. The two candidates on the ballot for these seats are incumbent Melvin Henson, running for re-election, and Daniel Staton. John Dyer is also an incumbent running for re-election in the third slot, but did not qualify for the ballot so is running as a write-in candidate. City Clerk Dawn Wheeler said she didn’t know why Dyer didn’t qualify.

Councilman Tim Petrie will not be seeking reelection.

In the commonwealth’s attorney race, Lexington-Rockbridge County Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Jared Moon is challenging incumbent Buena Vista Commonwealth’s Attorney Christopher Russell.

“I am accustomed to trying case after case after case, day in and day out,” Moon said. “Doing something over and over like that, you get good at it.”

Moon thinks this is the kind of experience that Buena Vista needs, noting that he thinks his experience has better prepared him than that of Russell.

Buena Vista Commonwealth’s Attorney Christopher Russell, candidate for commonwealth’s attorney of Buena Vista.

Russell has been the commonwealth’s attorney for Buena Vista since 2004. A few years after graduating from the University of Notre Dame Law School, he and his wife moved to Lexington where he started working at the Legal Aid Society.

Soon after, Russell became an assistant to the city’s commonwealth’s attorney. Three years later, Russell ran in the special election for Michael Irvine’s position as Buena Vista’s commonwealth’s attorney.

“I really liked the idea of the fact that, as a public service lawyer, you represent all the people. I feel like we’re held to a higher standard,” Russell said. The ideals of the justice system are what attracted him to pursue a career in public service.

The two candidates will be discussing sentencing guidelines and rehabilitation of convicts.

Lexington-Rockbridge County Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Jared Moon, candidate for commonwealth’s attorney of Buena Vista.

Both mentioned the strain of working with limited resources and creating a specialized drug docket in Rockbridge County.

Moon said he believed Buena Vista was too lenient with serious offenders and child predators. He would work on making sentencing stricter, if elected.

Russell said the judges have state sentencing guidelines that attempt to make sentencing consistent based on defendants’ ages, backgrounds, and if they have any prior convictions.

In the uncontested races, Randy Hamilton is running for sheriff of Buena Vista. MarVita Flint will be running for her current position, commissioner of revenue. Mary Lee is running for her current position as treasurer.