Newport News City Council, Central District, Seat B: Candidates spotlight

·4 min read

Cleon Long

Age: 40

Occupation: Engineer with Huntington Ingalls

Previous office held: None listed

Education: Georgia Institute of Technology, bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering, 2004; Morehouse College, bachelor’s degree in general science, 2004

What experience do you have that makes you qualified to serve on the City Council?

My experience includes serving on the Newport News Commission on Youth and Newport News Planning Commission. Currently, I serve on the Newport News Board of Zoning Appeals, Board of Trustees with the Virginia Living Museum, Board of Directors for Boys and Girls Club of Virginia Peninsula, and Board of Directors Smart Beginnings Virginia Peninsula.

If elected, what would be your top priority and how would you get it done?

Gun Violence Prevention — Ensuring all our youth have a pathway to a career is a proven strategy for preventing gun violence. I want to restart the Summer Training Enrichment Program (STEP) as a public/private partnership offering summer internships for at-risk students and a pre-employment program for graduating seniors that are not going to college or the military.

Education — High-quality education is essential for our children in our public school system. I plan to invest in public school education to ensure our school system can attract and retain top-notch teachers. Also, provide investments into mental health professionals to address the needs of children that have or are experiencing trauma that is preventing the student from learning.

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Rob Coleman

Age: 51

Occupation: Chief Operating Officer, Boys & Girls Clubs of the Virginia Peninsula

Previous office held: Newport News City Council, 2012-2016, North District

Education: Warwick High School, 1989; National Criminal Justice Command College at University of Virginia, certificate in criminal justice, 2017

What experience do you have that makes you qualified to serve on the City Council?

For 25 years, I served Newport News as a decorated law enforcement officer with the Newport News Sheriff’s Office, and now as the Chief Operating Officer with the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Virginia Peninsula. I am a proud lifelong resident of Newport News, and my experience as a trusted community partner, former council member, public safety professional, and youth development advocate has uniquely prepared me to be the best choice for the Central District of Newport News.

If elected, what would be your top priority and how would you get it done?

To address serious community challenges such as public safety, school funding, economic development, and the environment, you must have a focused team of committed leaders. If elected to the Newport News City Council my top priority would be to immediately start the team/relationship building process with the newly elected and current members of council. Establishing relationships of trust and respect with my fellow council members is going to be critical to our success. It is important to remember that even though we will not agree on every issue or project, we must always treat each other, and everyone that comes before us, with dignity and respect. During my career I have participated in several team building exercises that were successful, and I would be honored to be part of the team that brings our council and city together.

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Stephen Ferguson

Age: 49

Occupation: retired firefighter/paramedic and business owner

Previous office held: None listed

Education: attended Christopher Newport University, no graduation date listed.

What experience do you have that makes you qualified to serve on the City Council?

I believe that I am the best candidate for the job. I care deeply about this city and the people that call Newport News home. We need to change the way the government is heading. With conservative leadership to enhance the lives of our citizens and our business community. I believe in Big Citizen, little government. I have been in public service to the communities of which I have lived nearly my entire life. As a business owner I understand the principles of giving opportunities for our folks to be better tomorrow than we are today.

If elected, what would be your top priority and how would you get it done?

We have to lower taxes in Newport News, we have to highest taxes in the region and that alone discourages people and businesses from moving to our city. We have to enhance the safety of our population and schools. Lastly, we have to change the way the city interacts with the business community. (We should establish) public private partnerships to encourage entrepreneurship. This would open up opportunities, business incubators, capital, and other resources.

(We should work on) bringing the trades back to schools, we are not all built for college and to equip our youth with marketable trades that will have a near immediate impact to the community. Automotive, HVAC, welding, commercial driving and more. All of which will drive current and future business. We have to stream line the planning, zoning and permitting processes to equip the business owners to start, relocate and expand in Newport News.