What Have I Done for You Lately?

In an interview last week for this article, Roanoke Times Supervisor Coverage – 11/1/2015, the reporter referred to my performance in October 22, 2015’s League of Women Voters Forum as assertive (LWV – Supervisor Candidate Forum 2015).  I have received several compliments on my performance at the debate, with people specifically mentioning my strong stance on education (found at 48:38), my extensive background of community service (at around 24:24), and my closing statement (at 1:11:39) as being stand out moments.  While I know the reporter was not making any inferences in his choice of adjectives, it did cause me to question myself.  Had I mistakenly acted assertive when my intention was to be confident?  So, I told the reporter that yes, I was assertive because I am confident in my qualifications and abilities to be a vocal and passionate advocate for District G and all of Montgomery County.  And really, is it a bad thing to be assertive in the first place?  I think not!

But it does beg the question, why am I so confident that I am the right choice for the Montgomery County Board of Supervisors?  It’s a story best told when looking reflectively at the work I have already done in our community.  I can point to programs, educational opportunities, community service organizations, and neighborhoods that I have impacted while serving as a volunteer leader within various community based groups and task forces.

I currently sit on the Boards of Directors for both the New River Valley Apartment Council (NRVAC) and the Virginia Apartment Management Association (VAMA).  What do these groups do?  The NRVAC is a local affiliate chapter of VAMA, we exist to provide educational services, networking opportunities, and lobbying assistance to industry members.  VAMA is our parent organization and fulfills many of the same purposes, but on a larger scale.  What does that mean in laymans terms?  It means that I have had a hand in coordinating education for Blacksburg, Christiansburg, and Radford property managers and industry professionals in topics such as mold remediation, bed bugs, emergency first aid, customer service and sales, gang identification, international resident documentation, crisis intervention and safety, legislative updates, and twice annual fair housing training to name only a few of the programs I have directly been involved with coordinating.  Why is this important?  Because I want to make sure that the people practicing in my industry have the best, most advanced training and broadest knowledge base possible so that we can provide an exceptional level of service to our residents.  Certain parts of Montgomery County are overwhelmingly populated by folks in rental housing, I work very hard to make sure that property managers, leasing consultants, and maintenance professionals have the training necessary to properly care for the people that chose to make their home in a rental unit.

What to do before help arrives. Emergency first aid training with the NRVAC!
What to do before help arrives. Emergency first aid training with the NRVAC.

I am also the President of Sustainable Blacksburg and one of the two community volunteers responsible for coordinating the Town of Blacksburg’s recycling program for batteries, CFL bulbs, and printer cartridges.  Yes, you read that correctly.  Myself and one other person are the team that takes care of all of Blacksburg’s battery recycling!  I have been involved in a leadership role in this effort since its inception and am extremely proud to note that we have diverted TONS of hazardous materials from our community’s waste stream into recycling facilities where they can be properly handled, recycled, and disposed of.  In October 2015 alone, we recycled over 800lbs of batteries! My role with Sustainable Blacksburg also extends to community education events, coordination of the annual Sustainability Week celebrated each year in September in Blacksburg, Green Drinks (a happy hour, networking event), and acting in an advisory capacity on issues that impact our environment as we face them in our community.

Saturday Sorting!
Saturday battery sorting – each bin is FULL to the top with recycled batteries!

One of my most enjoyable and service-based extracurriculars is my membership in the Mount Tabor Ruritan Club.  Many know of our club because they attend our summer fish frys or look forward to purchasing our apple butter in the fall, these are our two annual fundraisers and the tools through which we allocate funds to organizations throughout our community.  Mount Tabor Ruritan Club supports Valley Interfaith Childcare Center, provides books for the library, allocates resources to organizations like To Our House, Blacksburg Rescue Squad, Relay for Life, Interfaith Food Pantry, Womens Resource Center, and provides college scholarships to area high school students.  This is just a small sampling of the good work our club does in our community and I am proud to be a member!

Summer Fish Fry!
Summer Fish Fry!

It’s hard to choose a favorite from my list of volunteer roles, but I am quite partial to the work I have been a part of on the Town of Blacksburg’s Housing and Community Development Advisory Board.  I joined this board in 2012 and am now acting as the Vice-Chair.  Just last Friday, I had the incredible honor to participate in a house dedication on Giles Road in Blacksburg for a family in our community that was in desperate need of help.   This article in the Roanoke Times was the first story about the family – Part One of the Noonan’s Story and a follow-up article was posted after the house was completed – Part Two of the Noonan’s Story.  Ms. Noonan spoke at the dedication ceremony and expressed her gratitude to the many people in our community that helped out, I cried tears of joy as she spoke and even now get a little misty eyed as I re-tell the story!  My work on this board created the funding stream that allocated the resources necessary to bring this project to fruition.  We also played a role in bringing Blacksburg’s newest Habitat for Humanity homes (Nellies Cave Road – Habitat Houses), the Grissom Lane affordable, net-zero, senior housing project (Grissom Lane Project), and served in an advisory capacity on the Fieldstone project scheduled to be built on Givens Lane on a portion of the land currently occupied by Blacksburg Estates.  Other great grant programs administered by this board include the Community Development Block Grants used for, among other things, façade improvements for Downtown Blacksburg locations like Boudreaux’s, Social House, Cabo Fish Taco, and the new Capone’s location, and the allocation of funding for a neighborhood stabilization program for the Bennett Hill/Progress neighborhood.

So yes, I am assertive and I am confident.  I am confident that my long and extensive record of service and results in our community shows my commitment to my neighbors, friends, and fellow residents of Blacksburg and Montgomery County.  In 2013, many of you will remember that I ran for a seat on Blacksburg’s Town Council and lost by a small margin.  If you had asked me how I felt about my loss in 2013, I would have told you that I was devastated.  Reflecting back on it, I can say assertively and with complete confidence that I am much more well prepared to serve as your elected representative on the Board of Supervisors now because of my continued involvement in our community after my loss in 2013.  I knew then that I wanted to serve my community in a more influential role, I know now that I am more qualified to serve because I have dedicated my time and energies to the community in the time since.  This has diversified my knowledge base and allowed me to develop into a multi-faceted, dynamic leader.

I look forward to serving you with humility, dignity, and in your best interests when elected to be your Supervisor for District G on the Montgomery County Board of Supervisors.  Please vote tomorrow, November 3, 2015, and make sure your friends, family, and neighbors vote as well!

Telling the Truth in Politics – Yes, it Matters!

In an October 24, 2015 letter to the editor, my opponent in the race for the open Board of Supervisors seat in District G claimed that he has not sought any endorsements from any political party, group, or organization and gave examples of his community service as the reasons why our District’s voters should vote for him in the November 3, 2015 election.

It would be a fair statement to say that my opponent has not received any endorsements from any political party, group, or organization, but to say that he has not sought any of the above is not accurate.  In fact, my opponent completed the candidate questionnaire and interview process with the Montgomery County Education Association and completed the candidate questionnaire from Citizens First.  These were the processes used by each organization to determine which candidate deserved their endorsement.  My opponent did not receive either endorsement.  I received both.  In his first unsuccessful attempt at this seat in 2011, my opponent sought and received the endorsement of the Montgomery County Republican Party.  For his second attempt at this seat, he did not receive the endorsement of the GOP.

In addition to my endorsements from the Montgomery County Education Association and Citizens First, I am also endorsed by every member of Blacksburg’s Town Council and Mayor Rordam, and I am running with the endorsement and support of the Montgomery County Democratic Party.  I am extremely proud of each of these endorsements, they reflect the values I will promote when elected and I consider it a great honor to have the support and trust of each of these fine organizations and people.

My opponent also touted his history of community service as another reason that voters should entrust him with the responsibility of serving on the Board of Supervisors.  While I commend him for his legacy of community engagement in the DC Metro area, I’m left wondering where his record of service to our community is?  By contrast, I am on the Board of Directors of the New River Valley Apartment Council, the President of Sustainable Blacksburg, the Vice-Chair of the Town of Blacksburg’s Housing and Community Development Advisory Board, a member of the Town’s Climate Action Plan Working Group, and a member of the Mount Tabor Ruritan Club.  My volunteer work has been in service to the people and businesses in our community, not a distant locale.

Professionally, I am the property manager of Stonegate and Carlton Scott Apartments in Blacksburg and my partner owns Sci-Tech Carpet Cleaning in Christiansburg.  We have three children; a fifth grader, sixth grader, and high school senior.  My campaign priorities include advocating on behalf of public education, environmental preservation, and citizen engagement.  I look forward to serving the residents of District G and all of Montgomery County and I am asking for your vote on November 3, 2015.

MCDC Fall Dinner

Did Blacksburg and Montgomery County Give $10 Million to a Developer?

On October 10, 2015, a letter to the editor from my opponent in the race for Montgomery County Board of Supervisors, District G was published in the News Messenger accusing the town of discrimination in its enforcement of campaign sign rules in retaliation for his opposition to a development on Givens Lane.  While I firmly believe that the staff of the Town of Blacksburg has neither the time nor is petty enough to specifically target any one candidate in an election cycle that features dozens of candidates for Blacksburg voters to choose from, my objection centers largely on the misleading and factually inaccurate information presented about this housing development and in support of his claims of discrimination.

Blacksburg residents are especially tuned in to development proposals as they are submitted to the Town for analysis and voting by Town Council.  The property located at 301 and 401 Givens Lane is no exception.  In fact, it has been watched even more closely by members of the community due to its current use (a mobile home park, Blacksburg Estates) and the sensitive issues surrounding protection of low income housing in a community that already struggles with housing affordability.  Many will remember a development proposal that gained quite a bit of media and citizen attention in 2013 when the land owners proposed a development that would completely remove all of the low income housing on the tract and replace it with single family homes and townhomes.  Fortunately, and because of the efforts of many folks in our community, we were able to defeat this proposal.  But the park remained in a tenuous state.  It was clear that the owners of the park wanted to sell the land and were interested in working with developers.

In 2014, another developer emerged with an interest in the parcel located at 401 Givens Lane.  This developer was proposing a mixed-use development that incorporated senior housing as well as multi-family apartment buildings.  Most notably, this developer was planning to create a community that was deed-restricted, low-income housing and was eager to work out a solution that allowed development of the land and preserved the low-income housing that already existed at that site.  I am the current Vice-Chair of the Town of Blacksburg’s Housing and Community Development Advisory Board and we were fortunate to have the opportunity to review this proposal and provide input on the development.  Eventually, the development was voted on by Town Council and was approved with a very specific list of provisions for the residents currently living on the 401 side of the park.  Many people worked on their behalf and in the promotion of their best interests to develop a comprehensive list of guidelines that the land owner must meet in order to move forward with the developer’s proposal.  These guidelines specifically addressed the transfer of many families within the park from one side of the property to the other and were strict, binding, and ensured that everyone be, at the very least, made whole if they were to move within the park.  Additionally, all credits and incentives were contingent upon the land owner following these guidelines to the letter – nothing would be awarded if any resident of the park was not properly cared for during the transition.

My opponent claimed that the developer was given over $10 million in public money to build this housing project, creating a situation where public funds paid 61% of the total $18 million development cost.  This is, in no uncertain terms, a lie.  The Town of Blacksburg granted use of an existing stormwater management facility, waiver of building permit and water and sewer connection fees, and 15 years of tax abatements on the improved value of the land and buildings in their incentive package.  Montgomery County stepped in and created an incentive package that grants, over a nine year period, tax abatements that incrementally increase the amount of tax due from the parcel over its first nine years of operation.  This package is also only on the improved value of the land and buildings.  In both cases, the developer will pay the tax assessed value of the land, in full, as it is in its current state for the duration of ownership.  At no point was the developer handed a check for $10 million and told to use it for private profit – in fact, these incentive packages were what allowed the developer to receive the funding necessary from the Virginia Housing and Development Authority to move forward and bring this much needed low income housing project to fruition.  I fully stand by my activism on behalf of the residents of the park and know that I championed an effort that brought stability, awareness, and a voice to people in our community that felt defeated.  I won’t stand idly by and watch my opponent twist the facts for his own political gain.

I am extremely proud of my advocacy on behalf of the residents of Blacksburg Estates.  Through my work, the people I met in that community can now be counted among my friends and biggest cheerleaders as I seek election to represent them and all citizens in District G on the Montgomery County Board of Supervisors.

IMG_1743

Superintendent Search Process and a Discussion About Leadership

Last night, I had the pleasure of attending a public input forum at Blacksburg High School where a representative of the firm conducting the search for our next Superintendent held a guided discussion. The purpose of the forum was to allow all attendees to submit their input on the characteristics they desire in this community leader, the challenges this person will face, and the programs, initiatives, and community ideals they would like the new Superintendent to embrace and continue. This forum was held concurrently with one at Christiansburg High School, so I was not able to attend both. The information gathered from these forums will be presented to the School Board at their September 1, 2015 public meeting.

My comments and recommendations highlighted my desire for open, transparent, and publicly available communication about issues to include budgeting and future planning, that this person cultivates an environment of open communication between all staff members and the Superintendent, School Board, and Board of Supervisors without fear of retribution, and that this person understands and embraces the four unique strands in our school system without feeling that they need to be homogenized. Also discussed were creative fundraising, maintaining inclusive classrooms, a continued celebration of diversity, and reinvigorated interest in national ranking for our high schools among many other topics. In order to be the most effective Supervisor for the citizens in District G, I think it’s critical that I take part in the Superintendent search process and am happy to discuss thoughts and ideas with any interested citizens. Please reach out!

One concept that I was particularly interested to hear from a citizen was that we want this person to embrace the concept of “servant leadership” – meaning, we do not want to be the start or pinnacle of someone’s career legacy.  Rather, we want them to serve the needs of our community.  Robert Greenleaf, in an essay titled The Servant as Leader described servant leadership as, “The servant-leader is servant first… It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead. That person is sharply different from one who is leader first…The difference manifests itself in the care taken by the servant first to make sure that other people’s highest priority needs are being served. The best test, and the most difficult to administer, is this: Do those served grow as persons? Do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants?”  Not only does this sum up the ideal of servant leadership, but it is also reflective of how I epitomize our next Superintendent and, further, how I want to lead when elected to the Board of Supervisors.

Another public input forum is scheduled for this Wednesday, August 19, 2015, at Auburn High School at 7:00. If you were unable to attend either of the first two forums, please plan to attend this one.

I will note that the Blacksburg High School forum was well attended by elected representatives of both the School Board and the Board of Supervisors and candidates who are running for election to both bodies, but there was only a small amount of public participation outside of these folks. It was reiterated to us multiple times throughout the night that the input received through the meetings AND through the attached survey will be the criteria used to search for a candidate. Please take a few minutes and complete the survey to make sure that your voice is heard.

Montgomery County Schools – Survey Link

A Brief Introduction…

Hello friends, supporters, and curious Montgomery County residents!  Thank you so much for finding your way to my blog and please feel free to reach out to me at any time with any questions, issues, comments, or concerns.

First, I’d like to introduce myself and tell you a little bit about who I am, what I do, and why I am ideally suited to serve the residents of District G on the Montgomery County Board of Supervisors.  I live in the Woodbine neighborhood of Blacksburg with my fiance, Robert McCutcheon, and our three children, Shannen, Price, and Cady.  Our children attend Christiansburg High School, Blacksburg Middle School, and Gilbert Linkous Elementary School.

I manage Stonegate and Carlton Scott Apartments in Blacksburg and Robert is the owner/operator of Sci-Tech Carpet Cleaning.  Sci-Tech is based in Christiansburg and provides service throughout the New River and Roanoke Valleys.

In addition to the kids and work, I also sit on the Boards of the New River Valley Apartment Council and the Virginia Apartment Management Association and I am the President of Sustainable Blacksburg.  I am the Vice-Chair of the Town of Blacksburg’s Housing and Community Development Advisory Board, a member of the Town’s Climate Action Plan Working Group, and a stakeholder in the Town’s pursuit of the Georgetown University Energy Prize (GUEP).  I’m also a proud member of the Mount Tabor Ruritan Club and enthusiastic volunteer at our summer Fish Frys!

In 2014, I was honored to receive a scholarship to attend the Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce’s Leadership NRV program and I completed the Blacksburg Citizens Institute.

In my spare time I like to read, spend time with friends and family, listen to live music, and spend time camping, hiking, or playing outdoors.

The combination of my family, business, and volunteer pursuits uniquely position me to not only understand challenges faced by Montgomery County residents, but also often be able to relate those challenges to my own life experiences.  I’ve spent the past 12 years working in property management in our community, and almost as many years volunteering.  When elected, my decisions will take into consideration three key factors: will this maintain and improve the livability of Montgomery County, will this protect our environment and promote sustainability for the future, and does this enhance and preserve our community’s character.

As I said before, please reach out to me if you would like to ask questions or want to meet for coffee or to share your thoughts.  I truly do want to be representative of the citizens that elect me and I cannot do that without your help and input!

April DeMotts Sticker