Norfolk Council Election Could Endanger Voting Bloc

In the six-person race to fill Anthony Burfoot’s Ward 3 seat on the City Council, the candidate with the most to lose may be Mayor Paul Fraim.

Burfoot, an ally of the mayor, was elected treasurer in November. His departure from the council puts Fraim’s majority voting bloc on the line.

After years of solid control of council actions, Fraim’s coalition today is “somewhat fragile,” said former Ocean View Councilman W. Randy Wright.

“You’ve got a loose-knit majority coalition that is in jeopardy with someone else being elected in Ward 3 that is not of the same ilk,” he said. “It’s a big seat.”

Wright was unseated four years ago by Councilman Tommy Smigiel, now known as an independent vote on the council and often the sole dissenter.

But Smigiel is sometimes joined in opposition to the mayor by Councilman Andy Protogyrou and Vice Mayor Angelia Williams, creating 5-3 votes.

One of the most high-profile examples of a 5-3 split was the approval in 2011 of the ill-fated plan by Tivest Development for an office building at Tidewater Drive and Virginia Beach Boulevard. The plan fell apart days after the vote when it became public that the anchor tenant, a nonprofit called STOP, was having major financial problems and wouldn’t be able to afford the rent.

Were Burfoot’s seat to be won by someone less inclined to agree with Fraim, 4-4 votes could result, killing some proposals.

Fraim said he has not endorsed a candidate in Ward 3 and hasn’t decided whether he’ll do so publicly.

The Ward 3 candidates are salesman and political consultant William H. Collins Jr., 59; Glen L. Jones Sr., 52, a minister and school volunteer; Mamie Johnson, 48, president of the Broad Creek civic league and a retired teacher; Rodney A. Jordan, 48, a School Board member; Marcus J. Powell, 48, a retired Marine and Barraud Park activist; and Lionell Spruill Jr., 46, a veterans affairs coordinator at Norfolk State University.

The ward includes Norview, Ballentine Place and other neighborhoods in the heart of the city.

Fraim said Johnson is the only candidate who has asked to meet with him. “I think she would do well on the council, but there are other candidates as well,” he said.

Of Fraim, Johnson said, “Mayor Fraim has a really good vision as far as the direction of our schools as well as for our city.”

Powell said that while he likes the longtime mayor and thinks Fraim has the best interests of the city at heart, he believes all of Norfolk’s elected officials should be limited in how long they can serve because some communities get passed over. Fraim has been mayor for 20 years.

“I think Smigiel and Protogyrou work very well together,” he said. “They have the best interests of the people first – and then politics – and that’s how council should be run.”

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