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Ross-Hammond, former Kempsville District rep, running for new District 4 seat on Virginia Beach City Council – The Princess Anne Independent News

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Dr. Amelia Ross-Hammond, a former member of the Virginia Beach City Council who served in the Kempsville District, is seeking election this year in the new District 4 seat on the council. [John-Henry Doucette/The Princess Anne Independent News]

Ed. — From the Sunday, March 27, print edition.

BY JOHN-HENRY DOUCETTE

VIRGINIA BEACH — Dr. Amelia Ross-Hammond, who once represented the Kempsville District on the City Council, hopes to rejoin the body by running in the new District 4.

“I’m brushing off my walking shoes and getting out there to see if I can continue to make a difference for our great city,” she said during a telephone interview on Tuesday, March 22, during which she confirmed her candidacy.

Ross-Hammond, in addition to her term on the council, is a retired Norfolk State University distinguished professor who is known for her work as chairperson of the Virginia African American Cultural Center and for her continued community service with the city and regional transportation efforts, among other things. 

She has filed paperwork to run for the new district seat, according to the Virginia Beach Department of Voter Registration & Elections. As of this past week, Ross-Hammond is the only person within the district who has filed to run for council.

“One of the reasons I wanted to come back is I really enjoyed my time on council,” she said. “I really got something done for Kempsville — not only Kempsville but the entire city.”

Ross-Hammond said her priorities include strengthening public education, supporting trade and vocational opportunities, addressing flooding and stormwater management concerns, and making the transportation system stronger and more diverse in its options for the people who depend upon it.

“I’m looking at public education and teacher recruitment and retention,” Ross-Hammond said. “We need to be sure we have that commitment to make sure we keep the great teachers we have. The other thing that really rested on my mind is there are so many new trades coming in.”

Ross-Hammond said there are opportunities for workforce development that coincide with industries such as offshore wind, which is anticipated to make a significant economic impact in Virginia Beach in the coming years, and she would like to continue work on developing employment opportunities.

In the past, Ross-Hammond has said her support for light rail cost her politically. Though extending The Tide in Virginia Beach is off the table since the referendum that was held the year she left the council, Ross-Hammond said work needs to be done to improve the public transit system overall and make it more “rider-centric.”

Ross-Hammond won the Kempsville District race in 2012, placing first among four candidates seeking the seat after former Councilmember Harry Diezel did not seek reelection. 

Hammond won 32.1 percent of the vote, according to official returns. 

Ross-Hammond’s time in office ended when in 2016 her reelection bid was foiled by now-former City Councilmember Jessica Abbott, then a political newcomer. Abbott won office with 58.9 percent of the vote to 40.5 percent for the then-incumbent Ross-Hammond.

Ross-Hammond was among the people who sought temporary appointment to the Kempsville District seat this past year following the resignation of Abbott due to a medical issue. Ross-Hammond was one of three finalists for the appointment, though the City Council in August voted to appoint Rocky Holcomb, a former state delegate, to represent the seat until a special election is held.

Virginia Beach Local District 4 [Charles Apple/For The Independent News]

This year, following the implementation of the new 10-district local voting system in the city, Holcomb is running in a special election in District 1 to essentially complete the final two years of a term Abbott began. Due to the new district maps implemented by a federal judge in December, Ross-Hammond now lives within District 4, which has no incumbent. 

And Ross-Hammond said the new district system factored into her decision to run this year. When she lost to Abbott in 2016, Ross-Hammond was competing in a citywide race, and she said the result did not reflect her strong support among voters within the Kempsville District. Now, she will be able to run a more focused race, and she said the new district system may mean it is more affordable to campaign.

In December, a federal judge implemented the new 10-district voting plan for local elections here after finding the city’s former system violated the U.S. Voting Rights Act and denied Black, Hispanic and Asian American voters an opportunity to select candidates of their choice.

The city’s controversial former system was a mix of citywide and district seats, but all were selected “at-large,” meaning all city voters pick all members of the council – even if a voter lived outside a district. Now, only people within a district vote to determine its representation.

Ross-Hammond said she has experience working on important district matters, such as road projects and revitalization in Kempsville. 

But she also said it is important for the City Council to continue to work on citywide goals. 

“I hope nobody is going to go in there and think we will work in silos,” Ross-Hammond said.

Dr. Amelia Ross-Hammond, at center, is recognized during her final meeting as the Kempsville District representative on the Virginia Beach City Council in December 2016 at City Hall. With her are then-Mayor Will Sessoms and City Councilmember Barbara Henley, who represents the Princess Anne District. [John-Henry Doucette/The Princess Anne Independent News]

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