Newport News mayor’s race: Candidates spotlight

·8 min read

David H. “Dave” Jenkins

Age: 62

Occupation: Retired

Previous office held: Newport News City Council, 2018-present

Education: College of William and Mary, bachelor’s degree in religion, 1982

What experience do you have that makes you qualified to serve as mayor?

As a child I grew up with stories of Newport News politics around the dinner table, as my dad worked in the City Treasurer’s Office. I studied government and economics in college. After graduation, I served as an Army officer for eight and a half years. During that time I was a commanding officer twice and was responsible for budget and policy decisions effecting the lives of over 500 people.

After leaving the military I worked in affordable housing for sixteen years. This meant that I worked with a wide range of people planning the construction of their new homes. I also worked extensively with federal, state and local governments. Since returning to Newport News about nine years ago, I have been involved in the community, and as a council member I have championed a number of successful ideas for our city.

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

My top priority would be fighting gun violence and crime in our city. Last year the City of Newport News saw gun violence soar to a level we have not seen since 2016. To fix this problem we will have several approaches. I advocated for a city grant program to help grassroots organizations fighting gun violence, and this month the initial awards were made.

I am also excited about the expansion of mental health resources the city has made available to local hospitals. I supported the deployment of the Shot Spotter program in the South District and the future expansion of the program in North Newport News. In the long term I feel the new Pre-K education center will help young people learn to resolve problems without gun violence or crime. I support the Newport News Police Department’s efforts to build strong community bonds and their program of community policing.


Phillip Jones

Age: 33

Occupation: Management Consultant

Previous office held: Newport News Planning Commission

Education: United States Naval Academy, bachelor’s degree in history, 2012; Harvard University, master’s degree in public policy, 2021; Harvard University, master’s degree in business administration, 2021.

What experience do you have that makes you qualified to serve as mayor?

I’m running for Mayor because our city stands at a crossroads. We must be unified in our efforts to ensure that our schools are fully accredited, our economy supports small businesses, and our citizens feel secure. I have spent my entire career bringing people together to accomplish challenging missions. As a Marine, I have stood shoulder to shoulder with people from all walks of life, races, and creeds to achieve the task. I’ll bring that mentality to City Hall.

After serving in the Marine Corps, I graduated from Harvard Business School. When I returned home, I began working with a management consulting firm to help businesses financially rebound from the pandemic and assist cities in developing innovative solutions to problems they face. I’m committed to seeing Newport News reach its full potential, and I believe our city needs a fresh perspective to move boldly into the future.

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

My top priority is our children. I remain focused on fully funding our schools to ensure our children are well equipped to enter this rapidly changing world. Education gave me everything; I want the same for our children. We must invest in them.

Residents should also live with the assurance that their safety and welfare are as much a priority to me as it is to them. As Mayor, I will seek to dedicate funds to implement measures to keep our community safe, such as supporting violence interrupter and mental health programming, in response to violence in our city. To reach these goals, we must fund the necessary education and public safety investments; we need to ensure that Newport News remains at the forefront of new technologies. As our economy diversifies, we must leverage the talent at CNU and Jefferson Labs to promote technology transfer and develop new commercial activities.


Saundra Nelson Cherry

Age: 67

Occupation: retired

Previous office held: Newport News City Council, Seat B South District, 2014 to present

Education: Fayetteville Technical Institute (now Community College), associate’s degree in dental hygiene, 1981; Virginia Commonwealth University, bachelor’s degree in occupational education, 1986; University of Maryland, Baltimore, master’s degree in dental hygiene, 1990; Virginia Union University, master’s degree in divinity, 1999; Riverside Regional Medical Center, clinical pastoral education, 2001; Regent University, doctorate degree of ministry in clinical pastoral education, 2003.

What experience do you have that makes you qualified to serve as mayor?

I have served City Council representing the South District Seat B since 2014. I was unanimously voted 6-0 to serve as Vice-Mayor in 2020 by my city council colleagues. Prior to City Council, when I returned home in 1990, I started a monthly meeting called the Clarion Call to listen to the concerns and issues of residents and worked together with them to get involved in making our community better by focusing on the assets that we had in our city and how we could use these assets to make a difference for everyone.

As an elected official, I have been civically engaged throughout the city and given support for events, programs, and activities in the three districts. I have worked to listen to concerns, suggestions and ideas that residents have shared regardless of which district they may live. I truly believe that we are one city and I see myself as a city representative, not a one district representative.

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

Priority 1: Conscious Connections. (I would work) to support greater access for mental health services for residents offered through the CARE unit, H-NNCSB and local health systems, and provide public safety support to NNPD, NNFD, stakeholders, agencies and organizations working on community safe initiatives.

Priority 2: Courageous Collaborations. (I would work) to support the Newport News School System in their initiatives for full accreditation for all schools, and seek greater economic development initiatives for small business growth through business mentorship, while supporting the footprint of large scale businesses in the city.

Priority 3: Achievable Actions. (I would work) to build better relationships with residents that will allow them to Get Up! Get Out! Get Involved! Get Engaged! and Be Informed of city initiatives by being present in the community to hear the voice of the residents through collaborative partnerships with city government, grass root organizations, special interest groups and Neighborhood Watch Groups through monthly “Your Voice Matters” Town Hall Meetings


Tina L. Vick

Age: 60

Occupation: Real Estate Broker

Previous office held: Newport News City Council, 14 years, including four as Vice Mayor

Education: Virginia Commonwealth University, bachelor’s degree in mass communications, 1984; Alpha College of Real Estate, Virginia licensed real estate agent, 2001; Alpha College of Real Estate, Virginia licensed real estate broker, 2007

What experience do you have that makes you qualified to serve as mayor?

The experience that I have that makes me qualified to serve as the next mayor for our great city of Newport News includes serving as the city councilwoman from 2008 until present. I worked effectively with council members and the community and in 2016 and 2018, my city council colleagues voted for me to serve as the vice mayor.

My years of experience on the city council, as well as my role as the vice mayor for four years, qualifies me to serve as the next mayor. As the vice mayor, my specific role was to attend events, meetings and conduct the council meetings in the absence of the mayor. I was very successful at completing my obligations as the vice mayor. My years of working in leadership roles in the workplace and on various boards add to my qualification.

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

If elected as mayor, my top priority is to continue the recovery efforts from the COVID-19 pandemic. The recovery includes rebuilding our local economy, particularly assisting small businesses and supporting our schools and teachers with their needs. Part of the plan includes rebuilding and redefining our workforce and alleviating the housing needs, the mental health needs and the crime that has exacerbated since the pandemic. I would solve these issues by continuing the work of our recovery that I have been a part of with this current administration. As mayor, I will take the lead in working with our state and federal officials, our neighboring cities and our citizens to recover from these unprecedented times of the COVID-19. Since I already have a seat at the table, I am familiar with what is being done and can implement more.