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Chase City candidates, top photo, from left, running for mayor, Eddie Bratton and Alden Fahringer, followed by the contenders for Town Council Henry Davis and Pauline Keeton. Above, Marshall ‘Tommy’ Whitaker, Charles Willis and Michelle Wilson. / May 06, 2020
Eddie Bratton

Eddie Bratton has served as Mayor of Chase City for the past 12 years and he’s asking the voters to return him to that office for another two-year term.

Bratton is a lifelong resident of Chase City with deep roots. “My grandparents came to our town nearly 100 years ago with a machine my grandfather invented to dig wells. My family operated a John Deere dealership on West Second Street,” Bratton said of his background. He is a graduate of Bluestone High School and was a long-time employee of Burlington Industries.

He obtained a degree in engineering from Virginia Tech and master’s degree from Longwood University and worked in what he described as the “evolving computer world” at Burlington before the textile giant went out of business.

Bratton was encouraged to run for office by former Chase City Mayor Duke Reed and says, “I have been blessed to serve our town since the 2008 election.”

Moving forward, Bratton said “the top priorities for Chase City include the restoration of our historical buildings, neighborhoods, and businesses. I want to help find ways to use these treasures as a reason to come to our town. It is exciting to work with our town manager and Town Council to create an environment that is inviting to entrepreneurs for the business opportunities in Chase City.”

Bratton said he is seeking re-election to help continue the revitalization of Chase City and to prepare the town to “take advantage of its potential and the opportunities that are sitting on our doorstep.” He says it’s the determination of the residents, and town employees that will enable the town to grow and prosper. He also credits the generosity of individuals who revered, nurtured and supported Chase City from their youth with positioning the town for the future.

Alden D. Fahringer

First-time candidate Alden D. Fahringer is hoping to unseat four-term incumbent Eddie Bratton in the race for Chase City mayor as voters head to the polls Tuesday, May 19.

Local elections in Chase City are traditionally held on the first Tuesday in May during even-numbered years. This year, with concerns about the spread of the coronavirus, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam pushed the date back two weeks.

Alden, who moved to Chase City in 2016, said he is running for mayor to find solutions to the problems Chase City faces. “As a resident and volunteer, I have witnessed our problems first-hand. We struggle with lack of job opportunities, youth violence, drugs and crime, and crumbling buildings. We need to incentivize businesses to move here to start fixing these problems.”

Fahringer has been an active volunteer in his adopted hometown. “I’m an active member of FBC (First Baptist Church) Chase City. I run the audio for services and help members with computer problems. I’m a volunteer firefighter with Chase City Volunteer Fire Department and a proud Chase City Lion’s Club member. I serve as Junior Warden for Chase City Masonic Lodge #119, Blood Coordinator for the 27th Masonic District for the Grand Lodge of Virginia overseeing blood drives for all nine lodges, Blood Coordination representative for the Town of Chase City to the Red Cross, and I serve on the Party at the Pavilion events committee.” He also has helped raise $32,000 for a mentoring program and youth center he would like to see established in downtown Chase City.

Fahringer points to many positive aspects to Chase City, including its abundant supply of water, high-capacity electrical infrastructure, high-speed internet, existing factory and warehouse space, college education and job training programs at the Estes Center, a railway line, and a low cost of living, all of which make the town an ideal place to do business, he said. These resources need to be shared with the local youth while also educating them about local work opportunities and career training.

He sees job opportunity and training as essential to curbing crime in the region while also strengthening the family unit. “Employed citizens able to provide for their families are fundamental to community health and the best way to show kids that drugs and crime are dead ends,” Fahringer said.

Originally from Williamsburg, Fahringer moved to Chase City after accepting a job at the Microsoft data center in Boydton. He currently serves as the Project Coordinator with Productive AV, a Richmond-based technology company that designs and installs security solutions, presentation systems, lighting automation and more.

When asked why Chase City residents should vote for him, Fahringer replied, “The most important job I have ever had is simply being a Daddy. Chase City is the town my little girl is going to grow up in, so I want to do all I can to make it safe and prosperous. I want to show the world the great things Chase City individuals, businesses, and organizations bring to the table. If elected Mayor, I promise to work hard to make Chase City the thriving town we know it can be. I hope my actions and service to the community demonstrate that Chase City is truly my home.”

Pauline Keeton

Retired educator Pauline Blackwell Keeton is looking to step up her service to her hometown by seeking her first elective office. Keeton is one of five candidates vying for three seats on Chase City Town Council.

“Having lived in Chase City all of my life, I have seen it go from a thriving town to one that requires one to have to go someplace else to shop for nearly everything, but food,” Keeton said, explaining what prompted her to run for Council.

Keeton spent 27 years working with local youth as a parent resource coordinator, a business education instructor, assistant principal and principal in Mecklenburg County Public Schools. She retired from the school system in 2018. She remains focused on the needs of local youth, observing that a lack of supervised recreation leaves kids with “less-positive choices to make about entertainment.”

Youths are not the only ones suffering from a drought of opportunity. Keeton is frustrated that a lack of local jobs forces residents to travel to neighboring towns and counties when seeking employment, and the dearth of retail stores — other than food — and limited entertainment and lodging options make the town less appealing to visitors and potential new residents.

“I know that revitalization sounds like a big word, but I feel that we must look at ways to make our town more appealing to those outside of Chase City,” she said. “We need to make our town attractive so that when others drive down our streets, they see it as the kind of place they would like to raise their children, or the kind of place they would like to retire.

“We need to research more grants to locate money that has been appropriated for a cause such as this. If we are able to attract more business, this too will help stimulate our town’s economy,” Keeton explained.

Keeton said she is seeking a seat on Town Council because of her genuine interest in the future of Chase City. “It is my home and has been for my entire life. I plan to spend the rest of my days here and I want it to be the best small town it can be for all residents.

“I think people should vote for me because I love Chase City and am willing to do all that I can, within my power, to make a positive impact on my hometown.”

Keeton put herself through college while working full-time at Burlington Industries in Clarksville. She earned an Associate of Science degree from Southside Virginia Community College in 1989, a Bachelor of Science degree from Longwood University in 1990, and a Master of Science degree in Education from Longwood in 1994.

A long-time member of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Chase City, she currently serves as a deaconess, financial secretary, usher board member, choir member, and Sunday School teacher.

Keeton is active in the community, serving on the Chase City Board of Zoning Appeals, the Mecklenburg County YMCA Board, and the Scholarship Committee for the West End High School Alumni Association. Previously, Keeton volunteered as treasurer for the Mecklenburg County Red Cross and as a support member for the Chase City Volunteer Rescue Squad.

She is married to Joseph Keeton, a retired deputy for Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office. They have one son, Bryan, a procurement officer for Charlotte Water in Charlotte, N.C. and an 11-year-old granddaughter, Sayrianna.

Charles Willis

Three-term incumbent Charles H. Willis says many of Chase City’s major concerns are fixable. He is asking the voters to return him to Town Council on May 19 so he can be part of the solution.

Willis is a life-long resident of the Chase City area and an active member of the community where he and wife Eliza raised their three, now-grown children. He is known for his service to the town as a member of the Chase City Masonic Lodge, as well as a volunteer with many civic and charitable activities that give back to the town’s people.

Willis acknowledges he is one of the more outspoken members of Town Council. “I have a record of speaking up and speaking out when the occasion calls for it,” he said. “I try to always act in the best interest of the town, which often does not align with my own personal best interest. I always stand behind a decision I make whether it’s a popular decision, or not. When I’m wrong, I admit I am wrong and take steps to correct it.”

He does not see speaking out as a negative but a way to move the town forward.

Willis said, “Over the last several years a lot of progress has been made to maintain and improve the physical infrastructure of Chase City.” He cites a program he started with former council member Munsey Moore. “Several years ago, Councilman Munsey Moore and I began a program of demolishing dilapidated and dangerous buildings within the town. That program has been successful.” The work continues today through a committee that now includes incumbent council member Marshall “Tommy” Whitaker, but Willis said he would like to see more attention and resources devoted to what he sees as a project to improve the safety and appearance of Chase City.

Willis is proud that during his tenure, the town has “a fully funded budget” while also acknowledging that Town Council must constantly work on finding funds to address for infrastructure projects. “We must improve and maintain our infrastructure,” he said.

The top three issues facing Chase City, according to Willis, are jobs, physical and fiscal infrastructure, and community involvement. “We are not unlike all small towns in America. When our factories left, so did the jobs. To keep citizens here there need to be jobs. That will happen once we find our niche, promote our town, and make the town a wonderful place to live and raise a family.”

He notes that prior and current town managers have actively promoted Chase City to draw more interest. He believes there would be more interest in the town if there were more involvement by rank-and-file citizens because “involvement equals promotion which equals quality of life.”

After spending four years as a supervisor with Craddock and Terry Shoe Corporation, Willis accepted a position with Mecklenburg Correctional Center in 1979. He retired as Sergeant from the Virginia Department of Corrections after 25 years of service. In 2011, Willis and his wife along with Mike and Karen Turner formed a private security company that contracts with the Department of Defense and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Marshall Whitaker

Marshall “Tommy” Whitaker is seeking his third term on Chase City Town Council, but his service to the town and its people transcends his time in elective office.

Whitaker, a lifelong Chase City resident, was first elected in 2012.

Whitaker has spent 40 years serving the town in various capacities. He is a lifetime member of the Chase City Volunteer Fire Department, for which he currently serves as Secretary/Assistant Treasurer. He is a past chair of the Chase City Industrial Development Authority and a lifetime member and treasurer of Chase City Church of God.

Whitaker says he is seeking re-election to Council “to continue to serve the community that I have lived in and served my whole life with honesty and integrity. Also, I would like to continue to work toward the completion of projects on hand that have been set in place by the current council.” He also brings a management perspective to Town Council, having 40-plus years of management experience.

The issues that Whitaker said he would like to address, if returned to office, include:

» Convincing new businesses to view Chase City as a prospective location to bring jobs

» Developing outlets that provide positive activities for youth

» Revitalizing the community.

Whitaker says he does not merely identify problems in town — he offers solutions to the challenges Chase City is grappling with. “We can start by working with the owners to maintain, repair and update their properties. In other words, giving Chase City a face lift,” Whitaker said. He would simultaneously press the town to “come up with innovative ideas for incentives for possible new businesses” to make Chase City a home base.

Whitaker suggests overcoming the lack of positive activities for youth by “seeking grants for after school programs and recreational activities for the youth. We can also reach out to organizations to help sponsor some positive youth activity programs.”

Whitaker says he will press town leaders to work together to make the downtown area more attractive for residents and businesses alike.

“I would appreciate your vote on May 19 so I can continue to stride forward with moving our community into the next chapter,” Whitaker said.

Henry Davis

Henry Davis, a first-time candidate for Chase City Town Council, sees local businesses as the foundation of a stable community and would apply the lessons he learned as a former town business owner if elected to council.

As a life-long resident, “I possess a motivation of our community’s survival and realize a community’s backbone is its citizenship and their ability to prosper,” said Davis. “I also recognize for this possibility, there must be both employment opportunity and a quality of life here for residents to aspire to.”

Davis calls on everyone in town look at the town through a new lens, not one colored by past struggles and strife. He would focus on Chase City’s strengths and resources to seek out and allure job investors to secure more employment opportunities for the citizens. In doing this, Davis said there would also be work available for the local youth.

“This community has historically been a wonderful place to live and provided the foundation of many successful Americans across this country. Its name is often known to others, no matter how far you travel,” Davis said. But he worries about Chase City’s legacy going forward: “Our community’s identity has slowly been lost due to industrial relocation and we need to work hard at regaining some portion of it before it’s too late.”

Davis says he holds no illusions when it comes the work needed to rebuild the town saying, “Chase City may never again know its former glory, but as a life-long citizen, I know where we have come from and I have a practical sense of where we would want to go. Successes can be found.”

To that end, Davis promises to work diligently to identify existing opportunities to rebuild Chase City, to always have the best interest of the citizens in mind when making decisions about town business, and to provide a seasoned hand of leadership based on fiscal responsibility and effective marketing skill.

“If elected, I will be a voice for the citizenship. I feel an elected official has an obligation of being a good steward with their voice and should always remember their position is to represent the constituency,” Davis said when asked why people should vote for him.

He added, “So I ask for your vote for me as a member of the Town Council, in order to help move our community forward in tomorrow’s challenges for success. I appreciate your support in advance. Let’s work together today, for a better tomorrow. “

Michelle Wilson

Michelle Wilson and her husband, Jim, have lived in the Chase City area for the past 31 years, and within the town limits for the past two.

She said she decided to run for Chase City Town Council because she loves the town and wants to make a positive impact in Chase City. She remembers fondly the town as it was when her father owned Scottie’s Drug Store and the Jonbil factory was in full production, sewing men’s and boys’ jeans. She even worked at the factory for a time.

Wilson said it is time for Chase City to “rebloom.” Working with her mother-in-law, Joan Wilson, at Chase City Flower Shop on Main Street, Wilson said she envisions a vibrant downtown bustling with shoppers and visitors. She knows that won’t happen overnight, but believes the people of Chase City can bring about change if they pull together.

If elected, Wilson said she would first reach out to residents to help them feel as if they are more a part of the town. To do that, she said she would work to increase their awareness of Chase City’s needs and activities and seek their opinions.

“We live here and know what’s going on and that’s why it’s important to involve and listen to the people,” Wilson said.

She also sees the need to pay more attention to the local youth, to “keep them on the right track.” To that end, she believes Chase City needs to find a way to bring in more opportunities for the youth, whether it be sports or other activities that will keep them engaged.

Wilson would also work to improve economic development prospects for the town, from finding ways to entice new small businesses and larger industries. There are facilities within the town that can accommodate this growth. It’s time, she said, for the town to start thinking outside the box, look at what resources are available and identify the types of businesses that could best take advantage of those resources.

“Jim and I and our family [which includes son Joshua who works at the Microsoft Data Center in Boydton] would not want to live anywhere else. Chase City is a family-oriented community filled with hard-working, community-minded people. I want to help make this town a better place for everyone,” Wilson said.

When not working at the flower shop, Wilson has worked part-time as a dispatcher for the Chase City and South Hill police departments.

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