Democratic sweep brings winds of change
by Devon Burch
Roanoke Democrats have reached an incredible milestone by taking the majority of the Roanoke City Council.
This win brings promise of diversity and change to a council that local residents feel hasn’t been reaching out and understanding the entire city completely. Joe Cobb, who won the most votes, is the first openly gay person elected to council.
The 56-year-old former minister–turned social justice advocate returned to the area and is making his mark on the city.
Djuna Osborne at 42, now becomes a member of the first trio of women, abreast of Vice Mayor Anita Price and councilwoman Michelle Dykstra, ever to be on the 7-member team together. Both Cobb and Osborne, as newcomers to the game, are looking to find balance with the new change of seats and also come in with hopes that real change is truly possible.
Democrats praised city leaders for their economic success collectively and the modernization of downtown but stressed the importance of spreading that success to all aspects of the city including many neighborhoods that desperately need attention.
A Democratic majority is nothing new for the city and the council has swayed to blue for years until 2016. Donald Trump’s rise to the presidency motivated many independents to become confident thus beating out the Democrats that year.
Tuesday’s election came, and with it brought new faces in the winner’s circle and a proud victory for the city’s Democrats as a whole.
Cobb came in the top 3 in 18 out of the city’s 20 precincts, and Osborne finished in similar fashion placing top 3 in 17 out of 20. Incumbent councilman Bill Bestpitch running as an independent, beat out “his associate” councilman Ray Ferris who conceded on very good terms and was in equally good spirits when the “verdict” came in. He even mentioned that he would like to have a real “Sit down and heart to heart” about counseling effectively.
“The people have spoken and I’ve made my peace with that, Wishing anything other than their success would be wishing bad things on the city and I wont do that,” said Ferris.
Mayor Sherman Lea referred to losing Ray as “sad” but as the leading Democrat in the city, the mayor wants to move forward and support future Democratic endeavors–working together no matter what seems to be the main objective for this new council.
“We have always believed that our wisdom as a city can overcome any obstacle, barrier or challenge we may face, Roanoke is strong and will only get stronger,” said Cobb who now takes his seat as the new vice-mayor.
For one treading on unfamiliar turf, Democrat Robert Jeffrey came in relatively strong also beating out Ferris–yet to no avail.
Although both are inner-city community advocates, both Shawn Spencer and Grover Price, ran campaigns that ultimately were trounced by the more mainstream candidates.