By Mary Alice Russell
Lexington voters reelected Mayor Frank Friedman, and Leslie Straughan and Marylin Alexander to city council. Charles Aligood ran unopposed for Michele Hentz’s council seat after she chose not to run again.
The Rockbridge Report asked the city leaders about pandemic and priorities for the upcoming term in office. What follows is an edited version of a Q&A with Friedman, Alexander, Straughan and Aligood.
Q: What should Lexington’s priorities be given the ongoing impact of the pandemic?
Friedman: Lexington, and our entire community, needs to
remain ever aware and take steps to avoid contracting and sharing COVID-19. Wear a mask, keep your distance and wash and keep your hands to yourself. Just like we learned in elementary school.
Alexander: When planning events, we should keep the CDC COVID-19 precautions in mind to ensure safety for all. There are concerns about job losses and businesses or agencies finding it necessary to cut back services, hours and staff. Anytime we receive funding and find other opportunities to help improve their outlook we should continue to be at the forefront to lend a hand.
Straughan: Lexington’s priorities during the pandemic should be continuing to provide city services to our community; working with our businesses, schools and non-profits to help them adapt to the current environment; providing clear and open communication; preventive measures being taken, and how by working together we can limit the spread of COVID-19.
Aligood: The economy is hurting due to the pandemic, said Aligood, who emphasized that the city’s top priority should be supporting local businesses and schools.
As a returning or new city leader what are your goals for this term?
Friedman: My goal is to work with council to speak with one voice to give clear guidance, policy and support to our city employees. This effort is critical to serve our citizens, plan for the future and be good stewards of our time leading our community.
Alexander: Her goals include a new recycling program, improving Jordan’s Point and to continue encouraging diversity in civic engagement, workplace diversity and work for social justice.
More citizens of color and young people are taking their seats at the table, especially in the exploration of economic empowerment in the hope of becoming local entrepreneurs. I am extremely excited about working with groups to find ways to continue educating the public about the history of black citizens in Lexington.
Straughan: As a returning council member, my goals are to continue to upgrade the city’s infrastructure, support our local economy and enhance the livability of Lexington. We need to prioritize upgrading our outdated water and sewer lines, repair and repave our roads, and work with Rockbridge Area Network Authority and individual service providers to make broadband available throughout the city.
To support our local economy, city council needs to work on broadening the tax base by developing underused city properties for more housing and commercial activities. In regards to livability, the community needs to continue to have open and safe discussions on race so that we can identify and address systemic problems.
Aligood: I would like to see city business discussed more openly during council meetings than it appears to be at this time.
What’s your favorite thing to do in Lexington?
Friedman: My favorite thing to do in Lexington is to greet and engage visitors. Also, for fun, I really enjoy wandering around our beautiful community and admiring the pride of friends and neighbors with their homes and businesses. That includes eating and shopping.
Alexander: My favorite things to do in Lexington are shopping and eating out.
Straughan: My favorite thing to do in Lexington is walk through the town. It amazes me that in a 2.5-square mile town, you can find so many interesting things to see and explore, including nature trails at Brushy Hills and the Chessie Trail.
Walking through downtown is not only fun to window shop and people watch, but I am amazed that after 20 years I still find new alleys and second floor entries tucked away that I’ve never noticed. Also, the McThenia family recently developed the public Uncas Trail on their conservation easement. It is a short half mile hike that ends at a pretty shore of the Maury River. It is a great fishing, swimming, or picnicking spot.
Aligood: I am very much an outdoors person. I enjoy walking and hiking in the woods with my wife. I find it very relaxing and I leave my phone at home.
If you want to learn more about Lexington city council and the mayor, you can watch their meetings via the city’s Facebook page. Meetings are held on the first and third Thursday of each month.