by Shawn Nowlin
A major qualification required for such a lofty position is the candidate’s ability to galvanize a broad coalition of constituents. No stranger to local politics, Vice Mayor Joe Cobb has long been a rumored mayoral candidate. Much excitement was in the air on Jan. 11 at The Train Station on South Jefferson Street as people gathered to experience Cobb’s official launch of his campaign.
Mayor Sherman Lea, endorsed Cobb at the event and explained why he is the right person for the Job. Prize-winning author Beth Macy, councilmember Bill Bestpitch, NAACP President Brenda Hale and Cobbs’ son, Taylor, also spoke to those in attendance.
“After 25 years of public service, the time has come for me to retire and pass the torch of leadership. Our party stands for inclusiveness, compassion and progress. Vice Mayor Cobb embodies all of these traits in the affirmative. I’ve worked alongside Joe on council for six years and in him, I’ve seen a leader who not only understands, but also lives the principle of caring for all,” Lea said.
During her comments Beth Macy lauded Cobb as a “straight-shooter, a bridger of people and the embodiment of a true Christian who stands up for everybody.”
Pumping the crowd up Hale said, “Folks, this is a new year and a new day, full of opportunities. There is a large amount of synergy throughout the Roanoke Valley. Let me tell you what I know about Joe. He is a dedicated minister, an amazing father, a meticulous historian and a man of great integrity.”
Bestpitch, who retired after 16 years on City Council, knows full well Cobb’s record and spoke at length on the vice-mayors accomplishments and positions he’s assumed–as launching the Gun Violence Commission and his being president of the board of Valley Metro Transit System – a position Bestpitch once held.
“Joe’s a champion for businesses that bring good paying jobs to Roanoke. He supported the repurposing of the old Viscose plant to a new multi-use complex–the biggest investment in southeast Roanoke in decades. Joe knows that new and improved businesses bring vitality and prosperity to our community,” said Bestpitch who delivered the most detailed endorsement of the night. Bestpitch effectively linked each element of his supportive testimony with the phrase “Joe doesn’t quit.”
During his pitch to the sizable crowd gathered, Cobb said that the city can experience at least a 50 percent reduction in violent crimes over the next five years and spoke of ‘What’s Good Roanoke,’ a new initiative created to help that aspiration become a reality.
“A grandmother recently reached out to connect with our youth and gang violence prevention team,” he said. “She was concerned about her grandson, explaining that he doesn’t have any positive male mentors or role models in his life. We have already made a connection with her and that grandson. We have much more work to do.”
Homelessness, education action plans, city transportation and affordable housing units are among the lengthy and comprehensive list of priorities Cobb spoke of as issues of major focus if he is elected as mayor.
Cobb, the first openly gay candidate for Roanoke mayor, is a Kansas native who moved to the area in 2001. He and husband, James, are the proud parents of JJ and Ginny, pupils at James Madison Middle School. Their family also includes Taylor, daughter Emma (Connor) and grandchildren Harper and William.
In addition to the Roanoke Gun Violence Prevention Commission, Cobb has also chaired the City Council of Community Services Board of Directors, and a host of other boards and commissions during his impressive career.
The field of candidates for city mayor will likely continue to emerge in the coming weeks.