NORFOLK, Va. — The battle for a Norfolk City Council seat heated up Thursday night.
Incumbent Tommy Smigiel, Jr. and challenger Shurl Montgomery hope to represent the seat for Ward 5, a section of the city that includes neighborhoods like East Ocean View, Bayview, Crossroads and Third Presbyterian.
Smigiel touted his 12 years of service on the dais. He said what he believes is at stake if voters choose not to re-elect him.
"You're losing all of that seniority, you're losing all of that knowledge and all of that ability to fight for this side of the city," he said.
Smigiel's opponent in this race is Vietnam veteran and former Assistant City Manager Shurl Montgomery. He described a life dedicated to public service.
He identified a top priority if elected to city council.
"Unless we get crime under control in this city, these other platforms don't mean a whole lot," he said.
When pressed by audience members about his plan, Montgomery offered the following response.
"Put more money into a compensation plan. Pay employees, everybody more money to get them in here to work for this city," he said.
Smigiel, who is also principal of Granby High School, partly highlighted his work to make a pay raise for Norfolk first responders possible in the most recent budget.
"It was me, if you talk to any other council members, they will tell that I'm the one who pushed that through to make that happen," the incumbent said.
Citywide, one of the most-discussed topics is what's happening in the downtown area. A recent crackdown has closed several nightclubs for what leaders called out as violations of certificates and conditional use permits.
13News Now asked both Ward 5 candidates for Norfolk City Council about their stances on the issue.
"I would have been concerned about closing down that business. I don't believe I would have voted for that," said Montgomery. "I believe that there's other appropriate that could have been taken to get those businesses operating properly. Take those licenses away for a week."
"They knew that this was coming. When you break the law, you are being held accountable. That is what has happened," said Smigiel. "Every single one of the votes I have made is because, at the end of the day, those nightclubs have broken the law or they have violated the CUP process. That's why the CUPs are there."
The pair touched on other key issues, such as short-term rentals, Bay Oaks Park and recovering in a post-pandemic world.
Norfolk City Council seats for two other wards are also contested this year.
Vice Mayor Martin Thomas, Jr. vies for another term, against challenger Pádraig-Eóin Dalrymple in Ward 1.
Over in Ward 4, longtime Councilman Paul Riddick is not seeking another term. Erik Barrett, Phillip Hawkins and John Paige look to fill the vacated seat.