Democrat Ben Shepherd of Vinton has announced his candidacy for the Roanoke County Board of Supervisors seat for the Vinton Magisterial District, now held by incumbent Jason Peters.
Shepherd was introduced on the steps of the Vinton War Memorial on March 27 by Steve McGraw, the Clerk of Circuit Court for Roanoke County, who is also the Roanoke Democratic Committee Candidate Recruitment and Development Chair. He was supported by family and friends, including his wife Tiffani and two-year-old son Remington.
Shepherd is an investment analyst for the Capitol Information Group and business information editor. This is his first run for public office.
McGraw Shepherd is the “best kind of candidate– self-initiated.” The Democratic Party did not recruit him; he sought them out.
Shepherd said that when he is asked, as he frequently is, why he decided to run for office, he responds that his initial motivation was seeing black-capped fire hydrants “five doors up the street.”
“We must address Roanoke County’s problem with aging infrastructure, especially considering the comprehensive redevelopment project to be undertaken along the Route 419 corridor,” noted Shepherd. “For example, here in Vinton there are black-topped fire hydrants that are unreliable or virtually inoperable because of low water pressure or faulty pipes. Future development is important to our valley’s economic success, but we must also maintain the infrastructure we have for the safety and comfort of our citizens.”
Shepherd says his concerns other than the need for infrastructure improvements are maintaining the county’s excellent education system and expanding broadband services to ensure business growth.
“With federal budget cuts looming across all departments, it is critical that we have progressive Democratic voices on our Board of Supervisors to help grow our economy and protect essential services such as education,” Shepherd said in his official press release. “Our public schools are the backbone of our community, turning out well-rounded students ready to strengthen the modern workforce through highly skilled technical and vocational programs, or by earning college degrees.”
Shepherd credits his own success in part to the excellent education he received at William Byrd High School where he graduated in the Class of 2000.
He said he is also concerned about the recent proposed Roanoke County budget, which is described as a “status quo” or “maintenance” budget. He fears the maintenance budget might lead to budget cuts in following years which could negatively impact the quality of life in Roanoke County.
Shepherd says he believes that “expanding Roanoke County’s broadband initiative to enable access to high quality, affordable Internet service for both businesses and private individuals is crucial.
“Broadband access is essential to keeping our citizens competitive in the 21st century economy and attracting and retaining industry,” said Shepherd. “Regardless of your profession or trade, broadband is vital to keeping your business growing, and a necessary element in attracting new business.”
As a student at William Byrd, Shepherd was a member of the marching band, orchestra, and Black Swan yearbook staff. He recalls doing political canvassing for Virginia House of Delegates member Dick Cranwell as a junior in high school.
He is an avid hunter and fisherman and believes that “our valley’s natural beauty is one of our greatest assets and its protection is vitally important. It is also a key element to attracting more tourists to the county.”
He supports further greenway expansion and believes that a “more comprehensive, county-wide recycling program is needed.”
Shepherd will become the formal Democratic candidate for the Vinton Board of Supervisors seat at the Democratic caucus to be held on April 29 at South County Library from 10 a.m. until noon.
Roanoke County Democratic Committee Chair Susan Cloeter, who also attended Shepherd’s announcement, says that the party is permitted by the State Board of Elections to cancel the caucus if there is no opposition to his candidacy.
Shepherd and his wife Tiffani are the parents of two-year-old Remington. The couple has cared for his 92-year-old grandfather in their home for the past six years “even as Tiffani has launched two small, home-based businesses.”
Longtime friend Aaron Layman is Shepherd’s campaign manager.
More information on Shepherd and his campaign can be found at ShepherdForSupervisor.com.
Incumbent Republican Supervisor Jason Peters plans to seek re-election but has not officially announced his candidacy.