Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Endorsements

October 19, 2012

Endorsement: Don Harris, mayoral race, Bluefield, Va.

Voters in Virginia’s Tallest Town will have to choose among three candidates Nov. 6 in the race for mayor of Bluefield, Va.

Incumbent Mayor Don Harris is being challenged by current council member Roy Lee Riffe and C.E. “Chuck” Presley Jr. in the mayoral race. Two of the men were recently interviewed by the Daily Telegraph’s editorial board. Presley did not attend the editorial board session and has not provided the newspaper with information concerning his candidacy.

While three men are vying for the title of mayor, there is no competition Nov. 6 in the town council race where incumbents Donald Scott Linkous and Anglis Trigg Jr. are running unopposed for re-election.

After careful consideration and debate, we endorse Harris for re-election in the mayoral race.

When you compare the two Bluefields — the city of Bluefield and the town of Bluefield, Va. — there is no question as to where all of the growth has occurred, and is occurring. And that’s not intended to be unfair to the city of Bluefield. Things are slowly starting to improve in Bluefield. But, for years, the epicenter of growth has been Bluefield, Va.

It started years ago with Walmart and Sam’s Club, then two new shopping centers that led to additional spin-off growth. And that growth continues to this very day with new additions such as Taco Bell, Burke’s Outlet and Med Response. Harris, a long-time downtown merchant and veteran member of town council and the mayoral job, has been a guiding force in that growth over the years.

It is true that Bluefield, Va. — just like the rest of the nation — hit a stumbling block in 2008 with the onset of the financial storm known as the Great Recession. Stores were closed, and promising new developments — including the Leatherwood property — were stalled. But through it all Virginia’s Tallest Town has endured. And it is still growing.

Harris — and an aggressive town council and town administration — is to be credited for a lot of that success. Yes, there are still empty storefronts in Bluefield, Va. And yes, the growth in recent years has been a lot slower than we would prefer. But the town is still moving in the right direction. We see no reason  to change leadership at such a critical juncture.

Riffe was appointed last month to a two-year term on the town council to fill a vacancy created by the departure of Todd Day, who is now the new town manager of Tazewell. Riffe appears to have the best interest of the town in mind and good ideas on how to grow Bluefield, Va. We believe he will be an exceptional addition to the town council.

However, we would urge voters to stay the course, and to stick with the winning team that is currently in place in Bluefield, Va., under the leadership of Mayor Don Harris when they head to the polls on Nov. 6 in Tazewell County.

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