Minutes of the General Meeting of September 9, 2020

Call to Order

The meeting was called to order by chairperson Sharon Eaton at 6:36.

Routine Reports

Minutes

The minutes from the general meeting of August were accepted

Treasurers Report

Catherine Anson presented the treasurer’s report which will be filed separetly. Ms. Anson said that money which had been set aside for yard signs was not spent because the state committee provided the signs

Membership

Robert Barclay said the following memberships are to be voted on next month

  • Robert E. Stephens
  • Shameka Council
  • Mary C. King
  • Vonnie Barnes
  • Kristen Outlaw Hartman
  • Dorothy Gamble

Business

Candidate Endorsements

The Suffolk Democratic Committee endorsed the following city candidates:

  • Mayor: Vanessa L. "Van" Harris
  • City Council Nansemond Borough:Lue R. Ward Jr.
  • City Council Whaleyville Borough:Curtis R. Milteer Sr.
  • City School Board Nansemond Borough:Judith Brooks-Buck
  • City School Board Sleepy Hole Borough:David P. Mitnick

The Suffolk Democratic Committee had invited local candidates to speak at the previous and current meetings. The following candidates spoke at the current meeting: Lue Ward, Vanessa Harris, and LeOtis Williams (note: Judith Brooks-Buck, David Mitnick, and Curtis Milteer spoke at the August meeting)

Lue Ward

Councilman Ward briefly introduced himself and thanked the committee for allowing him to speak. In response to a request by Robin Holton, Councilman Ward spoke of his involvement in Suffolk, recounting is work on his Suffolk newspapers and television shows. He said he had been president of NAACP.

Councilman Ward spoke about his experience in redistricting, saying he had fought for a councilman and school board member who had been drawn out of their districts, and that he would continue his focus on redistricting. Councilman Ward said redistricting is more powerful tool than most people realize.

Vanessa Harris

Vanessa Harris described herself as long time activist, saying her grandmother taught her about representing her community when she was a child. Ms. Harris noted her degrees in public education and mortuary science. She said she uses her knowledge to help students in Suffolk.

Ms. Harris said said she would like to see the department of economic development work with the department of planning, to develop plans for proper land use. She also said she wanted to see the department of education fully funded, saying we need to pay teachers to keep them around. She also said we should pay more attention to helping students with IEPs. Ms. Harris said we need activities so kids have a places to go after school. Ms. Harris also spoke about increasing housing opportunities. She said she would fight for everything she spoke about.

In respone to questions, Ms. Harris said she would find time to have neighborhood meetings and to communicate with the general assembly about the needs of the city.

LeOtis Williams

LeOtis Williams introduced himself, saying he had been in business for over 35 years, and said he has provided employment for over five hundred people in Suffolk. He said he is known as "Turkey Man", in references to his Thanksgiving drives which provides meals for over 35000 families. He said he is a 4th Congressional district delegate, member of the Salvation Army advisory board, had been the vice chair of the Suffolk Housing and Community Development advisory board. He said he has hosted events for local leaders and provides the meeting space for the Suffolk Democratic Committee. He said he will work to bring grocery stores into neighborhoods in needs. He also spoke about increasing lighting in neighborhoods including Saratoga, expanding water and sewage connections, paving, and closing ditches. He also mentioned decreasing the technology gap.

In response to questions, Mr. Williams said he would fight for broadband in areas that need it. He said that money is available from the state and federal programs, and that he has connections needed to get some of that funding to Suffolk

Post Presentation Discussions

Sharon Eaton asked all candidates to leave the meeting.

Mr. McGuire said Vanessa Harris is the only mayoral candidate is a committee member and is also the only mayoral candidate who signed the pledge to support Democrats and accepted our invitation to speak.

Mr. McGuire said he reached out to borough members for their endorsement opinions, and received the following responses

  • Nansemond Borough unanimously supported Lue Ward for council and Judith Brooks-Buck for school board
  • Sleepy Hole split on David Mitnick with equal supporting and not-supporting, and some undecided
  • Whaleyville was split between Curtis Milteer and LeOtis Williams.

Mr. McGuire motioned to endorse Councilman Ward and Judith Brooks-Buck. The motion passed.

Mr. McGuire motioned to endorse Vanessa Harris for Mayor. After some discussion D.J. called a roll and the motion passed fourteen to four

Mr. McGuire motioned to endorse David Mitnick. The motion passed with one nay and one abstention.

D.J. McGuire initially motioned not to endorse for Whalyville. Clinton Jenkins motioned to endorse Curtis Milteer. Mr. McGuire accepted Mr. Jenkins’s motion as a friendly amendment. After discussion, the motion to endorse Curtis Milteer passed fifteen to three

Discussion about the endorsement for Whaleyville included several members who expressed concern about a potential conflict of interest because LeOtis Williams provides a discount for the committee’s use of his meeting space. Mr. Jenkins suggested that endorsing Curtis Milteer was the best way to avoid splitting the vote and causing Mike Britt to win the election. Marion Flood said she supports Milteer on his merits despote others who are concerned about his age.

Precinct and Borough Chair Vacancy

D.J. McGuire said he would be stepping down as 4th Vice Chair, which is also Precint and Borough Chair but will continue acting as interim until a replacement is made. Robert Barclay said the membership would present candidates to fill the vacancy at the following meeting.

Adjournment

The meeting was adjourned at 8:13

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