By Stefanie Jackson
The Cheriton town council determined in late October it would appoint a new council member at its next regular meeting on Nov. 28, but by that date the open seat had already been filled by Greg Hardesty, who had previous experience on the council.
Hardesty replaces former Councilman Wesley Travis, who resigned on Sept. 26, citing his disapproval of the manner in which the council handled the firing of Cheriton Police Chief Marc Marshall.
According to Virginia law, a special election must be held for the open council seat, but the council may appoint someone to fill the seat until the special election is held.
Cheriton Mayor Larry LeMond noted that arranging special elections is costly, and he requested that Cheri-ton’s special election coincide with the next general election on Nov. 5, 2019, to reduce the cost to the town.
Cheriton’s May election cost $1,900, LeMond said, but holding a special election at the same time as a general election would only cost $200 to $300.
Northampton circuit court judge, Hon. W. Revell Lewis III, informed LeMond he would only consider the request if the town met the legal requirement to appoint an interim council member within 45 days of the previous council member’s resignation, making Nov. 10 the deadline.
The council was compelled to make the appointment three weeks earlier than they planned.
Jason Van Marter was the first candidate to speak at the Nov. 7 special meeting.
He is fairly new to Cheriton, but he has been associated with the town for 13 years through family.
Van Marter mentioned the town motto, “Small Town, Big Heart” and said, “I can offer some fresh ideas to help fill that vision … and, hopefully, make some changes that can help us grow into the future that is pound-ing on the Shore’s doorstep.”
“If elected, I’ll do my best to help out with the town; if not elected, I’ll still be the same,” he said.
Neither Scott Berger nor Hardesty was able to attend the meeting, but Town Clerk Stacey Salenski read their comments into the public record.
Berger said the “two primary driving forces in my life” are “to solve problems and to help others,” the reasons for his 25-year career as an architect designing buildings for the military.
Berger and his family “are come-heres, but that means we have a choice and we chose Cheriton.”
Hardesty indicated the “extensive roots” he put down in Cheriton in 1977 at age 14. The Northampton High School graduate worked in var-ious jobs across the Bay before re-turning to Cheriton 12 years ago. He now works in aquaculture.
Hardesty served two previous terms on the town council and volunteered for the Cheriton fire department.
Bruce Nutter withdrew his candidacy but volunteered his advice to the town council: “bring some diversity in, like younger people that have a level head on their shoulders.”
Only 25 percent of Cheriton’s population is age 62 or older, Nutter said, and younger citizens like him-self “feel pushed out, and we don’t feel like we’re being represented very well.”
“That’s why all the anger is com-ing through the community,” Nutter continued. “This is an emotional thing for all of us because we love the town so much.”
Councilman Barry Downing said he does not object to young people serving on the council, but it would be fair to choose the candidate who had the most votes at the May election – Hardesty.
Downing nominated Hardesty, seconded by Councilwoman Norma Spencer.
Councilwoman Jackie Davis nom-inated Van Marter, pointing out that he participates in every council meet-ing. Downing seconded that motion.
Hardesty won in a 3-1 vote.
Van Marter plans to run for the Cheriton town council in the special election expected to be held in November.