Democrat Cathy Madden Smith and Republican Mike Sturgill are each seeking to represent the Chilhowie district on the Smyth County Board of Supervisors.
A special election is set for Tuesday, July 14, to fill the seat vacated by the resignation of Curtis Rhea.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Smyth County Democratic Committee used a different caucus process to locate and nominate a candidate. The online caucus occurred on May 12.
Chilhowie district citizens who wish to vote in this special election are urged to consider absentee ballots if concerned for their safety in voting in person due to the virus. Requests for an absentee ballot must be made to the Smyth County Registrar by 5 p.m. on July 7. If you are not registered to vote in this special election, you may register through June 30.
Polls will be open from 6 a.m. until 7 p.m. at the Chilhowie Town Hall and at the old Riverside School.
Candidates were asked questions regarding their goals if elected.
Why are you seeking this seat on the board of supervisors?
I am running for the position of Board of Supervisors to represent the people of the Chilhowie District and be an integral part of the decision-making process for the citizens of Smyth County. Smyth County is a great place to live, with exceptional communities, county agencies, schools, and offices. I want to work with present Board of Supervisors members to plan, guide, and create a vision for our county in both economic and county planning as we move forward in the 21st century. We must keep up with technological advancements and trends in county government to draw more business and industry to our county. I believe Smyth County has an abundance of potential and I want to work with other board members to provide leadership in helping Smyth County grow. As a school principal for many years, I learned that in working with people, we could always come up with a solution to any problem or concern. I want to represent and work with the people of the Chilhowie District and the citizens of Smyth County to make our home the best it can possibly be, and to support its remarkable people.
What issues do you hope to help your constituents and county residents with?
I hope to help the Chilhowie community and the citizens of Smyth County with starting back the economy after COVID-19 closures and restarting small businesses, recruiting more business and industry to our area, improving and sustaining our existing partnerships and resources within our county, making Smyth County a better place to live, and being invested in decision making that will improve the daily lives of Smyth County citizens. I hope to be able to create opportunities and incentives for our children to remain after college and career and technical schools to have employment in our county. I will continue to foster the sense of community and family values in our county.
I am a graduate of Chilhowie High School, with a Bachelor’s Degree in physics from Carson-Newman College, and a Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership from Radford University. I started my career as a high school physics/mathematics teacher for 14 years and transitioned to school principal at Chilhowie Elementary, Middle, and High School for 16 years. I was a member of the Virginia High School League Executive Committee, Southern Association of College and Schools and Advance-Ed state board and chairman, served as district, conference, and region chairman for the Hogoheegee District, Mountain West Conference, and Region C. While in college, I played on National Championship football teams in 1983 and 1984 and was fortunate to return to Chilhowie High School to be head football coach for eight years.
I currently serve as the Smyth County Schools Division Director of Testing and Supervisor of Instruction. This is my first experience at running for a political office, but I have worked with the Board of Supervisors for years in my educational roles.
I just celebrated my 30th wedding anniversary with my wonderful wife Kim Waddle Sturgill and we have two sons, Rhett and Reid. I have lived in the Chilhowie community almost all of my life and hope contribute to its future success.
Cathy Madden Smith
Why are you seeking this seat of the board of supervisors?
I am seeking the seat on the board of supervisors in order to serve the citizens of the county. I was raised to always give back to your community, to help people improve their lives and community. The 20 years I have lived here has been good. It offered me a great place in which to raise my three sons as a single parent so now, I want to give back using my skills I have learned through the years.
What issues do you hope to help your constituents and county residents with?
Since the shutdown in March, a number of inequities have been highlighted, one in particular is the availability of broadband. It has been great that the school system was able to furnish every student with a device, however if there is no broadband in their community then what good is the device? This is also the case with a number of educators in the county. That is one issue I hope to tackle. I have already been in contact with a legislator regarding this issue.
Another issue that seriously needs to be addressed is economic development. Through the years, we have lost so many factories and now since many businesses have had to close due to the pandemic, the citizens and business owners have suffered. I know some businesses may not be able to reopen which is a travesty. One way that all of us can help in the meantime is to shop local. From my Facebook page, “More money stays in your community when you shop local. $68 for every $100 stays in the community when spent at a local business. When spending the same at a non-local business like a national chain, only $43 stays in your community.” Our industries, school system, other large private or public businesses should shop local first for their needs before going outside of the county. Can you imagine how this would help our county? We would have reduced unemployment as well as adding revenue back into the county, in turn the county would be able to provide more or expand services.
An investment in the county Fire & Emergency Medical Services is needed, with all localities coming together to better serve the citizens. We are fortunate in Chilhowie to have an award winning Fire/EMS which has continued to educate its employees and volunteers. Chilhowie has the only dual certified staff in the county. It would benefit citizens in the county if all Fire/EMS staff people had the dual certification. When localities make the investment in these types of services (people), getting volunteers, part time employees as well as full time would alleviate the problem therefore all stations could be staffed 24/7.
Whatever the issues are with pulling all of the Fire/EMS agencies together, there needs to be compromise, thinking outside the box and listening to the experts. With the pandemic, a stressful burden has been placed on all of the Fire/EMS personnel. Perhaps some of the C.A.R.E.S act money could be used to supplement these services due to the staffing issues caused by the pandemic.
Transparency, accountability and no conflict of interest is what the citizens want in their local government. I have heard from quite a number of people who have expressed concerns regarding these issues. I have asked them, ‘do you want to resort back to the same old thing or do you want to see the county move forward?’ Of course, they said they wanted positive change and to see our county move forward. This is just one of the reasons I am running for the board of supervisors. I strongly believe in having these within any organization.
In 2000 my family moved to Chilhowie, where I continued my teaching career at Chilhowie High and Middle schools until 2015. I have no conflict of interest since I am no longer a Smyth County Public Schools employee but as a resident of Chilhowie, my heart will always be here. It is where I raised my sons and have enjoyed living here although they moved on after college. I have been a classroom teacher at Glade Spring Middle School in Washington County for the past five years and hope to retire after this school year.
I have served on the Chilhowie Town Council, and still serve on several committees for the town, and am an active member of the Virginia Education Association. In fact, I served as treasurer, co-president as well as president of the Smyth County Education Association always speaking up for the educators in the county and across the state. Currently, I am the VEA District A (Southwest Virginia) president. With these positions, I have gained experience in lobbying statewide, negotiating, organizing, political action, developing budgets, an understanding of state and local funding, grants, and much more that would be valuable in serving as your representative on the board of supervisors. I have also developed professional relationships with legislators and other key people in Southwest Virginia as well as across the state.