Republican candidates for Brookland supervisor’s seat meet at forum

Republican candidates for the Brookland District supervisors seat (from left, Benjamin Dessart, Gilbert Wilkerson and Bob Witte) meet with voters during a forum April 18 at the Henrico County Western Government Center.
APR. 19, 12:03 P.M. – The Three Republican candidates seeking their party's nomination for the Brookland District supervisor's seat presented their platforms during a forum last night at Henrico County's Western Government Center.

Ben Dessart, Gilbert Wilkerson and Bob Witte are vying for the right to challenge the Democratic nominee (either Danny Plaugher or Courtney Lynch) in a special election Nov. 7 to fill the remaining two years of late supervisor Dick Glover's term. Glover died at age 82 in February.

All three candidates are seeking elected office for the first time.

Dessart, a researcher for Altria and the Brookland District chairman of the Henrico County Republican Committee, touted his background as a Henrico native who grew up in Brookland District and knows it well. His vision for the county is one in which small businesses will continue to thrive, he said, pointing with approval to the board's recent decision to raise the business and professional occupation license tax exemption from $100,000 to $200,000 as one way to assist such businesses.

As supervisor, he vowed to work constantly with his constituents.

"People don't build a house in Henrico, you build a home," he said. "Relationship-building in the community is key to being a good supervisor."

Wilkerson, a judge's assistant in the Richmond Circuit Court, has lived in the Brookland District for 32 years. He is a board member for the Richmond TEA Party and serves as the division chaplain for the Henrico Division of Police.

He cited his professional experience in the judicial system (in which he also has served as a general district court clerk and administrative assistant for a law firm) as providing him a broad-based view of the legal issues that can shape citizens and a community.

"You need strong shoulders and a strong head to be a leader," Wilkerson said. "I have been battling from the sidelines for a long time. It's my time to run.

"I will treat citizens of this district with fairness."

Witte was appointed by Glover as the Brookland District representative on the Henrico County Planning Commission in 2012 (a role he continues to fill), following a previous appointment by Glover to the Board of Zoning Appeals. Witte previously served for 30 years with the Henrico Division of Fire, retiring as captain in 2005. He has presented himself as the heir-apparent to Glover, vowing to continue the diligent work that made Glover something of a local legend.

"I will continue like Mr. Glover and be a full-time supervisor – someone who is accessible," Witte said. "I see the good, the bad and the needs of the people. I think I will make everyone proud as your supervisor. "

Witte has vowed to continue his focus on revitalization within the district through public and private projects. Like Glover, he is a strong proponent of youth sports and sports tourism, which has helped Henrico become a top tourist destination in the state.

All three candidates agreed that additional funding for education and public safety would be top priorities when possible.

Tuesday's candidate forum was hosted by the Henrico County Republican Committee, the Henrico County TEA Party, the James River and the Tuckahoe Republican Women's Club. About 60 people attended.

Republicans in the district will select their party's nominee during a June 13 primary election.
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