by Gene Marrano
As a former big time basketball official for the Atlantic Coast Conference, Joe “Butch” Church is not one to shy away from the big stage and bright lights. The Catawba district supervisor and current chairman for the Roanoke County Board of Supervisors, Church is ready to take on the fight again and will run for a fourth term this November.
Church will face opposition; the county Republicans nominated David Drake, an engineer, to run against him, and Carter Turner is expected to run as a Democrat or as an independent. Church first ran as a Republican but turned Independent seven years ago, believing that the supervisor position should be a non-partisan one. He’s proud of efforts like the fight to keep a proposed asphalt plant off U.S. 11 in Glenvar and the funding of a new library in Glenvar, slated to break ground this fall.
“We really don’t deal with the national issues, “like the first or second amendment or pro life, pro choice,” Church explains. “We deal with land use and real estate taxes, rezonings [and the like] … everyday life.” Church estimates that it took several years during his first term before he felt truly comfortable with how local government works.
Church claims he has friends on both sides of the political aisle, and he bemoans the lack of progress on issues like the debt ceiling in Washington, attributing much of the paralysis there to the fact that congressional lawmakers “have a letter beside their name.” Church represents about 18,000 residents in Catawba, which also includes the Glenvar and Northside school systems.
The district has urban, suburban and rural districts, including the scenic 311 corridor and the Appalachian Trail. “How much bigger a group of bosses can I ask for?” he said of being an independent beholden to no party, “I think it’s true representation on this level. I really do believe that.” Church points out that the property tax rate in Roanoke County has gone down, courtesy of decreases he has supported several times with his vote.
Charlotte Moore, running for reelection in the Cave Spring district this November, will also campaign as an Independent after first gaining office as a Democrat, upsetting Republican Rodney McNeil in the GOP-leaning southwest county district. George Assaid, an architect, will be her Republican opponent this time around.
The chairman for the Board of Supervisors for the past two years, Church said he will keep doing his job the best way he can, always working hard, “not just in an election year.” The toughest economic conditions in Roanoke County over the past 15 years have made budgets difficult, but he is proud that money was allocated to build a brand new school, Mason’s Cove Elementary, which opens next month in his district.
The Glenvar library will be finished in one year and “is fully paid for.” Glenvar High School is also slated for a makeover.
A group of Glenvar area citizens have been meeting with Church and Catawba district planning member Martha Hooker on a regular basis, trying to come up with guidelines that preserve the natural assets of the area while leaving room for development. “We have brought zoning issues from the citizens up [to the board], not from the government down,” he notes.
That citizen’s group coalesced around the issue of the asphalt plant, which is now proposed for a more remote area away from the main highway corridor, schools and residential areas. “I stopped that thing in its tracks,” said Church, adding “that was the wrong location.”
The Board of Supervisors is getting ready for a first reading on the wind turbine issue, which would pertain to the windmill farm proposed for Bent Mountain. Church is keeping an open mind. “This thing may or may not ever come to Roanoke County. We’re trying to come up with an ordinance that will handle all of Roanoke County.” He notes that no application has come before the board as of yet. “There are so many pieces of information out there [to study].” In general, Church said he believes in “clean energy.”
Now a retired insurance executive, Church garnered 54% of the vote last time around, winning handily against two opponents in what he considers a landslide. He’s already been going door to door for two months, asking for votes this November. “I just work [at] my job and stay with a positive campaign,” said Church, who prefers not to engage in any partisan or negative mudslinging.
Church hears that people trust Roanoke County government more than they have in years, and he likes to take some credit for that. Citizens want to feel like they are “part of the process,” said Church. “Get people involved … from the start. Then they can better understand when decisions are made.”