Four candidates are running for three open seats on West Point’s Town Council. The three candidates with the highest number of votes will be elected.
Incumbent Tina S. Gulley is running for re-election, along with three well-known newcomers: James “Jamie” Pruett, John Ragsdale and C.J. “Joe” Sanders Jr.
Here’s what each candidate wants to see happen in town and why they think they’d be a good fit for council.
Tina S. Gulley
The South Carolina native has been on Town Council since 1994 and said she will continue to run to help preserve the town she loves.
Gulley moved to West Point with her husband Desi 42 years ago and raised her now-grown children, two sons and one daughter, in town.
A lifelong educator, Gulley has been a preschool special education teacher and an elementary physical education teacher. She was a PE teacher for 16 years at West Point Elementary and coached several sports teams at the town’s schools.
Gulley said she first ran for council because she wanted to give a different perspective as a woman, mother and teacher.
“I’m volunteering on behalf of something I believe in, which is the town, and that’s why I continue to do it,” Gulley said. “If you really love something, whether it be a place or a cause, you have to get involved.”
Gulley said she believes two of the largest accomplishments during her time on council have been establishing the West Point Police Department in 1998 and building the middle school in 1999.
If re-elected, Gulley said she would work to bring more business to town and look at bringing a Marina in town, an idea that was dropped during the recession.
“You have to do what’s best for the town, not just what the people screaming the loudest want,” Gulley said.
James “Jamie” Pruett
Current chairman of the town’s Planning Commission and co-owner of Bay Design Group, an engineering and land surveying firm in Urbanna, Pruett has lived in West Point for 17 years.
Originally from Kilmarnock, he served five years in the Army as a technical engineering specialist. He lives in town with his wife, Andrea, and his 13-year-old son, Tristan.
Pruett has been on the Planning Commission for seven years and has been chairman for the past two years. Pruett said his role on the Planning Commission fueled his interest in running for Town Council.
“We give our recommendation to Town Council and after that it’s pretty much out of our hands,” Pruett said. “I’d like to be part of the whole decision-making process.”
Pruett said his occupation as a land surveyor could provide council with expertise with .
“Land use and limited space is an issue for our small town,” Pruett said. “I love this town and I would love to try to address those issues and bring more businesses in town.”
Owner of Sandston Dry Cleaners and former School Board member John Ragsdale has lived in West Point for 15 years.
Ragsdale, originally from Varina in Henrico County, moved to town with his wife Denise to raise their two sons and one daughter, ages 24, 22 and 16, respectively.
Ragsdale was on the West Point School Board from 2007-2016 and said his experience on the board is one of the reasons he decided to run for council.
“If you care about your community, get involved, take public office, that’s what I’m trying to do,” Ragsdale said. “I truly enjoyed my time on the School Board. It was a learning experience and I loved being involved in the community.”
Ragsdale said he has enjoyed seeing new businesses pop up downtown and, if elected, he would look into incentives and ways to attract more.
“I would also be a good steward of the taxpayer’s dollars,” Ragsdale said. “If it is going to benefit everyone, great, if not, I’m not going to spend them unless it’s necessary and beneficial.”
Ragsdale said he would also be very accessible if elected to council.
“You have to answer people’s questions, get back in touch and help out your community,” Ragsdale said. “If I say I’m going to do my best, you’ll find I’ll stick to it. I wouldn’t miss meetings and I’m finally at a point in my life where I can do this for my community.”
C.J. “Joe” Sanders Jr.
West Point native and owner of J. Sanders Construction Inc. wants to dust off his seat as a councilman after he gave it up 26 years ago.
Sanders was a councilman for four years starting in 1992.
Sanders resides in West Point and raised his three grown children there. He now enjoys his time as a grandpa to 10 grandchildren.
He is a member of the West Point Chamber of Commerce and board member of the Middle Peninsula Regional Airport Authority; he said those connections led him to his election bid.
“I’ve really enjoyed my time with the chamber,” Sanders said. “We’ve done some positive things, but there is only so much we can do and I want to do more.”
Sanders said he pushed for the new West Point signs welcoming drivers into town and is working with the chamber for new direction signs.
“I want to dive deeper and improve things for the community,” Sanders said. “Improve property values and the quality of life in general.”
Sanders also said he’d like to work more closely with the WestRock paper mill.
“They do a lot and give a lot to the community,” he said. “But I think we need to address some litter on the streets and traffic from log trucks on Route 30. I want to make West Point a destination and reduce these things.”
Sanders holds recreational and commercial pilot licenses and does a lot of traveling with his own small plane to his beach house in Myrtle Beach.
“I think I could bring my expertise as a construction manager and traveler. I’ve been to a lot of different towns and would love to implement things I’ve seen.”
Election Day is Nov. 6, and the town’s polling place is at the West Point High School Robinson-Olsson auditorium. Three of the seven council seats are up for election and four candidates are running. Members serve unpaid terms of four years.
Luck can be reached at 757-291-2038, firstname.lastname@example.org or @ashleyrluck on Twitter.