NEWPORT NEWS, Va. — Soon, there will be a new mayor in Newport News.
After three terms, Dr. McKinley Price is stepping away.
In the running for his seat are three city council members, Saundra Cherry, Tina Vick, and David Jenkins, along with Marine Corps veteran and businessman, Phillip Jones.
“I believe I am in a prime position to capitalize on not only a military background but also a pro-business mindset," said Jones.
After 10 years of service and graduating from business school, Jones said he helped mayors across the country financially recover from COVID-19.
When asked about the key issues in his hometown, Jones listed public schools, public safety and the economy, in that order.
“We have to make sure that 100% of our schools are accredited because at the end of the day, our kids are our future and we have to invest in them full stop," he said.
When it comes to public safety, Jones supports fully funding mental health programs, ensuring a witness protection program and pipeline for people who get out of prison.
All of the candidates mentioned support for public schools and their infrastructure, including Vick, who has served on city council for more than a decade.
"We still are not fully accredited here in Newport News, and so to add that support from not just me as the mayor but our council as well," she said.
Vick said Newport News is still dealing with recovery efforts from COVID-19, particularly supporting small businesses.
When it comes to public safety, Vick said she’s encouraged by the work of the current police chief, but there’s more the city can do.
“For me, it's working with police," said Vick. "But also creating a different infrastructure that’s going to help people improve their lives and empower their lives and hopefully say no to crime.”
Vick suggested launching a mayoral roundtable on parenting and said she wants to see more investment to bring vibrancy to the city's waterways.
“That’s when we will have people enjoying the city, but not only that, it will help us with revenue," said Vick.
Cherry, the city's current vice mayor, cited public safety, stronger schools and economic development, as key issues. She is one of the candidates who believe it will take a community effort.
“But it's about partnerships. Public-private partnerships," she said. "And we've done well, but we can do even greater.”
Cherry emphasized the importance of engaging young people in the city, and she stressed commitment to the community. Cherry, like others, cited public safety as a major issue as it is in communities across the country.
Cherry, Jenkins and Vick all applauded efforts in the city to address public safety, particularly within the Newport News Police Department and Chief Steve Drew.
"People are coming to our city to see what we are doing,” said Cherry, who also supports more mental health resources, building new schools and economic and business development.
“How do we work with these small businesses and make sure that they are successful?" she said.
Jenkins, a veteran who was elected four years ago, said community members encouraged him to run for mayor. Jenkins said he’s advocated for supporting grassroots organizations in the city and thinks small businesses need more support.
“We planted two seeds. But I want to be around to make sure we are on track for these programs, but also to create new programs that I see working around the country," said Jenkins, who mentioned efforts to expand mental health resources at Riverside Regional Medical Center.
Both Cherry and Vick said voters should go with people with experience in the community and on city council.
“We want to look at those who have had experience, who have been in the fight and in the community doing the work,” said Cherry.
“We want someone at the table who is experienced and is well respected,” said Vick.
“Age is no guarantee of wisdom," responded Jones, who is the youngest of the candidates and the only one not currently on city council. "History tells us that the youngest mayor of Newport News was 31, and he was seen as one of the most innovative mayors of his time.”
The candidates have participated in a number of forums, including an Oct. 6 forum moderated by 13News Now Janet Roach. You can watch that by clicking here.