From the May 8, 2014 DNR by Preston Knight
HARRISONBURG -- The Harrisonburg Democratic Committee on Wednesday selected a pair of candidates for this fall’s City Council race that it hopes will give the party a near full house on the panel.
Chris Jones, an account executive at WHSV, and Alleyn Harned, executive director of Virginia Clean Cities at James Madison University, werenominated during a caucus meeting attended by 30 committee members.
Jones, 35, and Harned, 33, were the only two city residents who sought the nomination.
Two seats are open on the five-person council in November’s election. Mayor Ted Byrd, a Republican, seeks re-election, while Councilman Charles Chenault, an independent, does not.
Councilmen Richard Baugh, Kai Degner and Abe Shearer are up for re-election in two years. Baugh and Degner are Democrats, while Shearer is independent.
Members serve four-year terms and elect a mayor within their ranks every two years.
Later this month, city Republicans will nominate Byrd and D.D. Dawson, who is retiring as finance director for Harrisonburg City Public Schools. Also, Helen Shibut, chairwoman of the Harrisonburg Libertarian Committee, and Josh Huffman, a former Republican running as an independent, seek seats on council but must turn in 125 signatures of registered voters to the Harrisonburg Registrar’s Office by June 10.
Friends Of The Friendly City
Jones, a Danville native, said he “fell in love” with Harrisonburg nearly 20 years ago while on a college visit to James Madison University. He graduated from there in 2000 with a degree in sociology — focusing on critical thought — and a minor in business.
After working in Northern Virginia and Raleigh, N.C., Jones returned to Harrisonburg last year and went through the city’s citizens academy, which provides a behind-the-scenes look at various government departments.
It’s that diverse background — small-town roots and big-city living, plus business experience — that he wants to bring to City Council. He also wants to offer a voice for the Northeast Neighborhood, where he lives.
One particular area of need citywide is reducing the school system’s free and reduced lunch population, Jones said. About 73 percent of students are eligible for meal benefits this year, compared to 40 percent statewide, school officials have said.
Jones said he wants to build a Harrisonburg that has “lasting economic growth” and encourages its youth to want to stay.
“It’s a fun, safe, growing place,” he said.
Harned, 33, is a Chapel Hill, N.C., native who has spent his time trying to reduce our reliance on oil. Virginia Clean Cities, which he joined in 2009, promotes using alternative fuels and encourages programs that improve air quality.
Before joining the organization, Harned served as the assistant secretary of commerce and trade under Democratic Gov. Tim Kaine.
He’ll receive a master’s degree in public administration from JMU this week, with a concentration in community economic development. Harned is hopeful he can bring “new energy” to council.
Serving on the panel is his way of giving back in a “meaningful way,” he said.
“I want to spend the next 180 days … reuniting with old friends, meeting new people and building a collaborative vision for this city,” Harned said.
The Harrisonburg Democratic Committee got its nominees off to a nice start: It donated $1,000 to each campaign and is offering free access to a voter information system that helps candidates target registered voters.