Occupation: Mayor of the City of Lynchburg and Director of Development at Lynchburg Beacon of Hope
Hometown: Lynchburg, Va.
Tell us about your history with Lynchburg City Council.
I was elected in 2002 to Lynchburg City Council as an At- Large Member of Council. I served as Vice Mayor and Mayor for eight years from July 2004 to June 30, 2012. On July 1, 2016, I was selected by my fellow Council members to be the Mayor for the 2016-2018 term.
During my tenure as Mayor, I have championed and advocated for the following initiatives:
• Dialogue on Race and Racism
• Pre-school literacy initiative (The Mayor’s Amazing Book Race)
• Live Healthy Lynchburg (www.LiveHealthyLynchburg.com), and challenged the community to lose 12 tons in 2012, which they did by summer of 2012
• The Town and Gown initiative
What made you decide to accept the challenge again?
I love serving the City of Lynchburg and the citizens of this wonderful city. I consider this one of the most important jobs that I have ever held in my life and one that I take very seriously. I often tell folks who ask me why I do this that serving this city is a “Labor of Love” for me. I strive every day to show my love and care for people and this very extraordinary city through service to my fellow citizens of Lynchburg.
What are some of your goals for the City in the coming year?
Some of my personal goals for our city involve:
• Continuing to work with our City to make Lynchburg a “Great Place to Live, Work and Play!”
• Working closely with my fellow council members to carry out our council goals, priorities and initiatives.
• Continuing our discussions (that will hopefully lead to an action plan) on ways that we can address poverty. I will constantly seek out direction on how we as a community (not just local government) can work together to ensure that all families and individuals in our community thrive.
• Continuing to build strong, positive relationships on the local and regional level.
• Being available and accessible to our citizens. I have City Hall office hours every Tuesday and encourage citizens to call the Clerk of Council, Valeria Chambers, at (434) 455-3983 to set up an appointment.
Top goals for City Council?
The complete list is available on the City’s website, www.lynchburgva.gov. A few of the priorities that City Council adopted in 2015-2016 were:
• Continue strong financial management.
• Continue to address infrastructure needs and maintenance; this includes water, sewer,
and capital projects.
• Continue initiatives and establish strategies that will attract and retain and grow companies and industries.
• Maintain a safe community by supporting our public safety departments that protect and serve the citizens of our community.
• Continue to work collaboratively with Lynchburg City Schools and all of our local colleges.
• Improve the City’s role as facilitator and champion of local and regional efforts.
What is your role with Beacon of Hope?
I hold the position of Director of Development with Lynchburg Beacon of Hope, an organization that strives to empower and equip all Lynchburg City public school students to seek higher education by building a pathway between high school and post-secondary education. I work closely with our Executive Director, Laura Hamilton, and the Beacon of Hope Board to raise private funds for operation and scholarships for the project. This will ensure that Lynchburg’s young people will have fair and equitable access to quality education, be financially literate and have opportunities to access higher education in order to ensure a secure future.
What led to your involvement?
Lynchburg Beacon of Hope originated from a communal goal that started with the Community Dialogue On Race and Racism. It is a private nonprofit and is a real tangible outcome that grew from an endeavor that private citizens carried forth after the dialogue. I taught for 10 years and have always believed that education is just so important for the success of an individual and ultimately for the success of the community in which that individual resides. I believe that all public school children in our community need to be successful in school and graduate with a plan in place for some form of post-secondary education, whether that is technical or trade school, two year or four year college.
I firmly believe that this will help create a stream of qualified and educationally prepared talent that will benefit the greater Lynchburg community’s economic future. What better investment in our community’s future than an investment in our most precious resource: our children! This is why I wanted to be involved with Lynchburg Beacon of Hope.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I do well with a team approach where all thoughts are valued. I enjoy reaching general consensus with the team and then working together for the desired result.
What are some challenges you’ve faced over the years?
My biggest challenge is always having time to balance all the many “hats” that I enjoy wearing! So over the years, I constantly work on my time management skills. I feel that serving on Council has helped me with time management.
How does it feel to lead the City along with Treney Tweedy and mark a milestone for Lynchburg?
I consider it an exceptional privilege to have the opportunity to serve with Treney during such an exciting time in the history of our city. I am very humbled that my fellow Council members have entrusted me with this leadership role again.
What is your advice to women who are climbing the career ladder?
I would advise them to continue to climb if that is what they truly wish to do! The climb is never easy, but they need to hold onto their dreams and let that be their inspiration during times that are not easy on that ladder!
What’s life like outside of work?
I have been married to Bob Foster, a pharmacist at Walmart on Wards Road, for 47 years. We have three grown children. Janna, who is married to Andrew Joyner; Hilary, who is married to Johnathan Basham; and Robb, who is married to Samantha Foster. We have six absolutely wonderful grandchildren—Grace, Annie and Lily Joyner, Wyatt and Morgan Basham and River Foster. So needless to say, in my spare time I hang out with my family, which also includes my mother who is 91 years old! I enjoy family gatherings, which are usually at my home and are never dull! I also enjoy serving on The Opera on the James Board, the Inclusive Communities Board, and I am a member of the SPHEX Club. I attend St. John’s Episcopal Church, where I am on the Outreach and Altar Guild committees, as well as the Vestry. If I have any time left over, I enjoy antiquing and traveling!
My closing message to our citizens is to always feel free to contact me. As a matter of fact, I encourage all of our citizens to come to a Council meeting, which is held the second and fourth Tuesdays of the month at 7:30 p.m. on the first floor of City Hall in Council Chambers. If there is a group who would like a personal visit to Council Chambers, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with Valeria Chambers at (434) 455-3983 to arrange this. I would be delighted to give them a personal tour and discuss the local government process with the group.