Bill Bestpitch, 66, is seeking a fourth term on Roanoke City Council. He has been elected for three terms in the past, in the years 2000, 2010 and 2014. Bestpitch wants to continue to bring forth change to the City of Roanoke. Bestpitch holds a Master of Social Work and retired from the field after years of serving the community in various non-profit organizations. His work has aided in returning children to their families and resolving needs in the home in order to keep the family unit intact. Bestpitch moved from Richmond 28 years ago in hopes for a better life and says he has found just that here in Roanoke. He says the city is moving in the right direction and wants to keep momentum going into the future. His focus is on long-term financial security for the city and he says it is important to be mindful of balancing the budget while not over taxing and overcharging city residents. Bestpitch also will continue to focus on the development of the innovation corridor downtown and support educational opportunities including the Research Institute partnership with Virginia Tech, Jefferson College and Radford University. This project is anticipated to bring about 3,500 undergraduates within the next few years and will serve as a huge driver for the city for years to come. Bestpitch says he will remain committed to listening to business owners and citizens, the folks who make up the City of Roanoke. He will continue to develop partnerships to maintain the forward progress taking place in Roanoke.
Joe Cobb, 55, has many years of experience pastoring in ministry, the arts and serving the homeless. A former clergy member, Cobb currently works as the outreach coordinator at Roanoke’s Highland Park Elementary School. Cobb has fashioned his life around social justice. His mission is to advocate for all, to provide a voice for equality, regardless of race, sexual or gender orientation as well as age. His experience in social justice and drive for equality are the main reasons he decided to seek a seat on Roanoke City Council. Cobb says he also is running for council because of his love for the city. “Roanoke welcomed me when I was a stranger, gave me a home and opportunity to thrive,” he says. If elected he intends to work hard to see that everyone has the same chance through business, education, job training and better health opportunities. He also wants to see improved access to the arts and culture. A remodel of the city is in order with inclusion of diversity with focus on development of the social infrastructure, Cobb says. He also sees the potential Roanoke has through its people and the many gifts, talents and shared ideas they possess that can be brought together to address the challenges. He intends to bridge the gap between the people of the city and council to make the issues of the people heard. He says he wants the people to know “I am accessible to them, and I will work with respect and advocate for what they want to see done. I will work to overcome injustice and find creative solutions to issues that are dear to citizens of Roanoke,” says Cobb. Cobb loves Roanoke, and because of this love he wants to make it a better place. He says his years of experience serving the city in various roles and his feverous drive for equality and social justice are strong attributes.
Shawn Hunter, 49, is president of Peacemakers, a local community organization striving to end violence in the City of Roanoke. He has served the homeless, ex-offenders and disenfranchised for over 11 years helping them to find homes and employment. He even pushed for the “Ban the Box” law in Roanoke in 2016, eliminating the questioning of whether a person had been convicted of a crime before even being interviewed. This would end up giving more ex-offenders a better chance at gaining employment necessary to re-enter society. Hunter decided to run for council because those are the people he wants to represent and those currently seated on council, in his opinion, just do not look like the disenfranchised he is so passionate about. “The focus of the council now has been on rebuilding Downtown Roanoke while the neighborhoods are falling deeper and deeper into poverty, crime and violence” he says. “There has to be a change!” He says it is time for fresh people with fresh ideas on council and thinks he is one of those people with plans of action in hand and ready to go. With over 17 murders alone last year in Roanoke, his number one issue is to stop the gun violence in the city and he has devised a 21st century action plan. He also has a plan to develop public transportation to create more jobs and help those without a mode of transportation to maintain employment outside of the city’s public transport schedule. Hunter has a great desire to create opportunities for everyone. He says he’s passionate about the fact that everyone should be able to exhibit their gifts, get a decent paying job and have the opportunity to live well in a safe place. “I am a non-traditional man and I can relate to anyone,” he says. “ If I’m elected and cannot make an impact within the first two years of my term I will humbly bow my head and resign.”
Djuna Osborne, 42, a licensed social worker is running for City Council after last year’s race for Delegate. She says running for Delegate prepared her for the City Council race. Osborne has been a social worker for more than 12 years working with disadvantaged youth and adults in a variety of settings. She became a social worker, she says, because she is passionate about people who are marginalized. As a licensed social worker, Osborne has the opportunity to work in different arenas, not just with families but also, legal and judicial systems, and doctors on behalf of her clients. Her passion, academic training and well-rounded professional experience, make her a great candidate for office, and will provide a platform for her to advocate on a larger scale, she says. She cares for the people of Roanoke and has a passion to serve them while establishing direct contact with them. One of her key issues is the access to care due to transportation. Therefore, she says, the public transportation system needs to be strengthened so people will have access to better health care as well as access to jobs outside of the current bus service hours.
“People need to feel safe, secure – secure economically. If people can get to work to provide for themselves, both crime and gun violence alone would be reduced,” Osborne says. She also desires to bridge the gap between the northwest and southwest areas of the city to promote equalization and thinks neighborhoods would be strengthened through those connections. She says transportation is the answer to bridging that gap. With her ability to problem solve Osborne will bring to the council a more wholistic planning experience. She ultimately desires to serve with care by listening and making herself accessible to the people, even if she cannot solve all of their problems, just to let them know that they matter in important to her. “I believe that everyone deserves dignity, access and opportunity,” she notes. And using her problem-solving skills she intends to make those strategies tangible to help create values and opportunities for the people of the city.
Grover Price, 37, director of Roanoke Role Modelz, is running for a seat on City Council to bring forth change. He founded Roanoke Role Modelz in 2013 and two years later, he founded the Hope Center, now located on 11th Street. Within these two programs he and his team mentor youth through scouting programs, Big Brothers/Sisters, sports and other activities as well as feed the homeless, give away clothes and food and hold various outreach community events. The best part about it all, Price says, is that none of what they do is government funded, but rather community funded. Price is dedicated, so much so that the community reaches out to him on a daily basis related to issues pursuing change. For this reason, Price decided to run for office. “I want to have the power and ability to not just be a voice for the community but also to be able to create the change that the people want to see.” He says there has never been anyone like him to run for council, someone who has seen the things he has seen and knows the things he knows about the community, because he actually lives the life. By running for council, he hopes to bring balance to the city, building one thing then moving on to the next. The sole focus the past few years has been on building up the downtown and the greenways, and now he hopes to see them accessible to everyone. His intends to invest in the youth, especially in the inner city. He would like to see a community center for all youth no matter what their financial status or class. In addition, he would like to incorporate summer jobs for them to teach them how to earn at a young age and to keep them off the streets. Price says that he isn’t looking for a power trip in running for council but wants to represent those not represented. He says he will never turn a blind-eye to the struggle. “I am not a politician,” he says. “I am a common man running for the common people.”
Robert Jeffrey Jr., 48, grew up in Roanoke. Along the way, he says, “I encountered a lot of great people whom I admired and showed me how to serve our community. There were teachers, community leaders, parents, who really took the time to show people that this city is a fantastic place to grow up, raise and protect our children, and show the beauty of our future.”
“I see some of those great things happening, but there are areas of our community that are not seeing the vision and fruits the great City of Roanoke has to offer. The youth are the future, yet we as a city are not truly investing in our kids,” says Jeffrey. “Vocational programs need to be re-implemented in the schools. Our young adults have the option to go to college or to the military. There are those who want to go to work…that’s an option that we also should prepare our children to do – to enter the workforce. We as a community need to prepare our children to make sure they can be qualified employees in our Roanoke economy,” Jeffrey says.
“I also believe that our children should be safe and healthy in our community. Schools need to be a haven for our children, but I do not feel we need to turn it into a prison. As a businessperson, I would like to make sure we assist our small businesses in our community with avenues of additional training and access to resources, he adds. “Currently, the Roanoke Economic Development office is understaffed and needs an additional specialist to support the needs of businesses they currently are unable to reach because of their workload.
“I want folks to know I’m a very passionate person about the work I do and how I do it. I’m very committed to serving the community of Roanoke on City Council, and I promise I will fight for our community and its citizens.”