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Greene runs for sixth council term

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By Shaina Stockton, Staff

After 20 years of service to the community as a member of the Galax City Council, Vice Mayor Willie Greene has decided to run for a sixth term.
He is one of five candidates — four incumbents and one newcomer — competing for four available seats this year. Election day is May 6.

Greene was first elected to council in 1994, and has been vice mayor for at least a dozen of those years.
(Council members appoint a mayor and vice mayor from among their ranks.)
“I’ve lived in Galax all my life… and I’ve seen a lot of good things happen over the years,” he said.
Greene is a volunteer for the Galax Fire Department, and he has a history of volunteer work with organizations like Rooftop of Virginia’s Head Start program, which precedes his time on council.
He also has a background in local business. “I owned a restaurant for a few years and a daycare for 10 years,” he said, in addition to several years working at Vaughan-Bassett Furniture.
Greene represents the city as a member of several committees and boards, including the Regional Landfill Authority, Twin County Airport Commission and Mount Rogers Planning District Commission.
As an extension of his MRPDC involvement, he serves the Virginia Association of Planning Districts, which meets twice a year and holds eight conference calls a year.
Greene has been appointed by both Democratic and Republican governors to serve on state boards over the years. He has served eight years on the Virginia Board of Social Work, and is the vice chair for the Virginia Department of Social Services. He has local involvement with social services, as well.
When asked why his schedule so full, Greene replied that his heavy involvement allows for non-stop education about local issues. “When you get a chance to serve on different committees, you get an opportunity to help a lot of people who normally may not be helped,” he said.
Looking back, Greene is proud to have been part of a number of projects that moved the city forward. He the expansion of the Galax Recreation Center, the re-structuring of what is now the Galax Social Services building and the old Rosenwald-Felts School renovation, which now houses Rooftop’s Head Start program.
Moving forward, Greene wants to continue to see positive changes and opportunities. “I want to be around, because I’ve been on the board for a while now, and I know that there are other things I can do to help,” he said.
His other board appointments allow him to hear about opportunities, such as grants, that he can apply to the needs of the city.
He is excited about several recent projects, including the proposed aquatic center at Felts Park, the proposal of a new elementary school and the Wildwood regional commerce park. “We have had some growth, like our expansions in the furniture industry. And that is great because tourism, while I do support it, can’t be the only thing we have.”
During his time as a council member, he says that the best thing about local politics is that council members have a direct line to their community. “You run into people in the grocery store, and they talk to you, not necessarily as a council member, but as a fireman, or just a neighbor. Sometimes, by being on another board, you an help someone with a problem that they are having.”
Being a local representative, he says, also goes beyond the city limits for him. “Once I year, I [along with City Manager Keith Barker and Mayor C.M. Mitchell] go to Richmond and talk to legislators, and tell them what we need and what we’d like to see them do to help the community,” he said.
The communication with higher levels of the government helps more than people realize, Greene said. “If we passed on that opportunity, chances are that we would have had to raise taxes in the past, for real estate, etc…. there is a lot that goes on behind the scenes that people don’t realize.”
Greene credited the partnership among council members, city officials and residents for the successful developments he has seen so far. “We have a good group of people and, while we haven’t always agreed 100 percent, we have always managed to work it out and get along,” he said, noting that alternative opinions are always welcome, and sometimes very helpful. “Other members who bring up different points, it can get you thinking in a different perspective.”
He encourages continued communication from individuals, regardless of who is chosen to fill the council positions. “By communicating, and letting us know your opinion, it really does help us. If nobody says anything, we think everything is fine,” he said, adding that all council meetings are open to the public.