I admit that for the first years of his term as Roanoke’s mayor, Sherman Lea was underwhelming. He is not a good speaker and his various positions were strongest when they focused on sports.
But his most recent term has shown about as much growth-in-office of any politician I can recall. He is serious, visionary, and determined. He has shown courage in the face of second amendment threats and has led one of the best city councils in my memory (which goes back to 1971 when I moved here). And don’t fool yourself that anybody else is the leader of this council. He’s it.
He is being challenged by former mayor (several times elected, a couple of times defeated) David Bowers, who has always counted on Roanoke’s black/brown vote to win. Lea, of course, is black and is wildly popular among that group. He has also earned the respect of Roanoke’s other voting groups and I think he will win.
The problem here is that Bowers should not be underestimated. The Republican ticket in Roanoke has adopted the long-time Democrat (look at the yard sign groupings) and even though that is not a large voting block, it could be combined with others to give him a sizeable vote.
David, who speaks fluently and represented Roanoke well in official gatherings, is a polarizing figure who’d rather fight with bordering localities than work together. His time has come and gone and he is offering nothing new for us to consider.
The rest of the council–save for incumbent Trish White-Boyd–is less than impressive. In fact, I won’t endorse anybody on the slate other than Lea and Trish, a good friend whom I have supported from the very beginning. Trish was selected to fill the unfinished term of John Garland, who was forced out due to bureaucratic bullshit (he was a heck of a councilman), but she has performed admirably and my guess is that she will lead the ticket.
Council recently selected Dominican Republic native Vivian Sanchez-Jones to fill the unexpired term of Djuna Osborne, one of my favorites. Djuna left to take care of her young family during this challenging time and I think all of us understand that kind of pressure and commitment and wish her well. I hope she comes back because she is an exemplary public servant.
Ms. Sanchez-Jones, judging from her impressive resume, brings experience, vision and leadership to the position. She will be solid.
So, there it is: For mayor Lea, for council White-Boyd and nobody else. You’re on your own after those two.