As Predicted, City Council Taps Anita Price For Open Seat

In an exclusive interview with community leader and former City Council candidate Peg McGuire (R) published here on April 14, she predicted Roanoke City Council would appoint former council member Anita Price (D) to fill the seat vacated by disgraced Robert Jeffrey Jr. (D) who had to resign due to multiple felonies related to misallocation of funds allegedly over $100,000.

Showing effusive praise for Price, McGuire commented: “Personally, I believe that Anita Price will get it, and to be honest with you, I don’t see a problem with Anita Price. I know Anita. (…) I think Anita is a lovely human being, and she is about community.  She doesn’t strike down ideas from the other side; she thinks things through. You really can’t go wrong with Anita Price filling that seat. And I assumed that when her name was on that list that somebody had called her and said ‘Yeah, we’re going to need you to come back to Council right now.’ And I don’t agree with Anita on a lot of policy issues, but you can’t deny that she’s good, she reaches across party lines and neighborhood lines and takes in the whole thing. (…) We respect one another, which I think is really important in this day and age.”

That prediction, as posted in “Unanswered Questions Roil Roanoke City Council Search,” came true today as Council made that announcement at their 2:00 public hearing this afternoon. The official announcement is as follows:

City Council Appoints Anita James Price to Fill Unexpired Term

On Monday, April 18, Roanoke City Council announced the appointment of
former Council member Anita James Price, to fill the unexpired City Council
term of Robert Jeffrey Jr., effective as of April 18, 2022. Anita James Price will
serve a 9-month term of office ending on December, 31, 2022.

A career educator with Roanoke City Public Schools (now retired), Price had served on City Council from 2008 until her retirement in December 2020. She has expressed she will not stand for re-election this November. As has been common in much of this process, and a factor that has drawn much public ire, the decision to choose Price was made in a closed-door session.

The public vote for approval was met by a “present” vote by Councilman Bill Bestpitch (D), without any explanation. The yea votes came from Mayor Sherman Lea (D), Vice Mayor Patricia White-Boyd (D), and council members Stephanie Moon Reynolds (I), Joe Cobb (D), and Vivian Sanchez-Jones (D).

For many Roanokers who still remember the gracious, genteel style of Mayor and Pastor Noel C. Taylor (R), the current process to fill the empty seat has unfortunately been marred by controversy and acrimony.

Many have questioned why current Vice Mayor White-Boyd had earlier come in fourth in an election but was later given a seat when an opening came up; however, that precedent was not followed this time with Peg McGuire. Supporters note that McGuire had garnered over 11,200 votes and won 12 of Roanoke’s 22 precincts in her 2020 bid, but this time was not even selected as a finalist. In contrast, the candidate who had come in eighth in 2020 was among the finalists.

[Update 4-19-22: Vice Mayor White-Boyd has given this statement to The Roanoke Star:

In response to your question. I was told I won the 2016 Election based on info from the State Board of Elections live feed by 3. Then Matt Chittum received a call from Andrew Cochran stating (sic) made an error and gave me 50 votes I should not have received there by losing by 47 votes. There was an election in 2018 [including] Robert Jeffrey, Joe Cobb and Djuna Osborne. Robert loss (sic) to Bill Bestpitch, Joe and Djuna won. I was appointed in 2019. So it was not the next election. If that were the case the next candidate for in 4th place  would’ve been Robert Jeffrey which was not the case.]

Moreover, many have wondered why candidates with lengthy resumes of service such as Linda Wyatt, Dr. Dave Trinkle, and former four-term Mayor David Bowers were likewise not considered among the final applicant pool.

Former Mayor and current Council candidate David Bowers (I) made this statement today: “Anita James Price is an excellent choice, and I wish her, as my friend and confidante, much success. But, not a surprise. Our Mayor and this City Council have gone through yet another sham exercise trying to fool Roanoke citizens that they were having an open and transparent process, when, everyone seems to know and can easily tell, that they had already made their decision in advance, behind closed doors, beforehand…. How much longer must we Roanokers endure these supposedly “liberal minded and enlightened”  Council ideologues who insist on their own determined grab for power to perpetuate themselves, instead of our having a true and democratic Council, representative of ALL the people of the Star City?…..Will the November election tell the tale?”

Attorney Charlie Nave, former House of Delegates candidate and Roanoke GOP Committee Chairman has this statement for The Roanoke Star: “I am grateful that after botching the appointment process, City Council selected an experienced applicant who is not known for her antagonism to the Roanoke police department.  Council needs to mend fences with Roanoke law enforcement, and with this appointment they chose to at least not burn more fence rails.”

The Roanoke Star also requested a statement from Luke Priddy, Chairman of the Roanoke City Democrat Committee and one of the finalists bypassed by Council for the open seat, but no response has been received as of publication time.

To help avoid tie votes, Roanoke City Council has seven seats. To allow for continuity, the four-year terms are staggered, with either three or four up for grabs every other year. With Jeffrey’s removal and Price pledging not to stand for re-election, that puts four seats to be determined this November.

The campaign season promises to draw much attention, with voter anxiety and angst fueled by issues such as the growing homeless encampments, beggars on busy street corners, woeful police understaffing and low morale, and a seemingly out-of-control spiral of brazen violence. Reportedly, an assailant recently snatched a woman’s purse and stabbed her in the head one morning at the Valley View Mall Walmart, but was then apprehended by Good Samaritan employees.

Against this backdrop, City voters have the opportunity to select a majority of council– four of seven–this November.

–Scott Dreyer


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