By Brandon Martin
Since he was “a lad of 12,” Jim Woods said he has dreamed of a life of service.
Although he was disqualified from joining the military due to congenital cataracts, he eventually found his path to public service when he was elected to Martinsville City Council in 2018, and this year is defending his post.
Woods, 48, said he wants to be in office during some of the key issues the city will face in coming years, chiefly reversion.
“I think that our fates are inexplicably tied,” Woods said of the city and Henry County. “For years, they’ve (city) pushed this concept of reversion around and they finally have a council that is willing to move forward — but not move forward unilaterally. We want to talk to county officials.”
The former teacher said he rejects the notion that the city is eyeing reversion for malicious reasons.
“Why, if they are my neighbors, would I want to do something to get over on them,” he asked. “I taught in Henry County schools when I moved to Southside in 1999. We are not asking the county residents to take our debt. By law, we can’t.”
For now, Woods said all options are on the table.
“Maybe it’s a sharing of services. Maybe it’s a full-on reversion where the city becomes a town. That’s part of where we come, sit down at the table and talk with our neighbors,” he said. “Whatever reversion looks like.”
Woods said the Mayor, Vice-Mayor, City Manager and attorneys would be the city’s primary representatives during the process, and he hopes it will end in a mutually beneficial solution.
“It shouldn’t be an adversarial process. People coming together looking for the best interests of the city and county is what people want,” he added.
Regardless of the final decision, Woods said that time is running out to act.
“The city and the county are both going to have to face the music with the LCI (Local Composite Index), and the number of our students dwindling,” Woods said. “The amount of money that the county is going to have to pony up to support schools is going to be going up because Richmond is going to be paying less. They don’t care about us here so we, in Southside, have to think in unconventional ways.”
Part of that rethinking is having a positive view for the future, according to Woods.
“My vision is to play to our strengths,” he said. “We have an unbelievable citizenry that is willing and able to work. We have natural resources at our disposal with the Smith River and the trails that we have developed. The trail (Dick and Willie Passage Rail Trail) is an example of how the city and the county have come together to play to our strengths.”
In addition to finding more ways to work with the county, Woods said that if reelected, he would concentrate on attracting jobs and entertainment options to the area. He added his record on development supports that assertion.
“There have been so many neat things that we have done that I think, in the end, will see some truly magnificent returns,” he said. “Voting to get the BB&T building purchased. You’re talking about a $2.3 million building that was purchased for $25,000, but the developers are paying that amount. It’s a win-win. They get this great building and they get to repurpose it. We are making progress instead of tearing down something that has been here for over 50 years.”
The deal was even better considering the $40,000 that Woods said it would have cost to “move our towers that we had for MiNet.
“Everybody is winning in that,” Woods said.
As he makes his pitch to voters, Woods said that he thinks the residents of Martinsville are looking for “truthful, edifying and hopeful individuals who are making decisions.
“Always look into the future,” he added. “We can’t look back, I don’t think. You want to be hopeful and you want to build people up. They want someone who won’t fabricate something for political gain and make themselves look like the magnanimous individuals that they are not. They don’t want someone who is going to pander.”
The decision to stand firm in his beliefs has already had its cost, Woods said.
“I lost friends over the 2nd Amendment vote that I took, but I did it from a philosophical standpoint,” he said. “Not because I pack heat. I don’t own any guns, but I believe as a former civics teacher that the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of Virginia is pretty clear. That right shall not be infringed.”
Given his Libertarian standpoint, Woods said he is puzzled by legislation to restrict firearm purchases to one per month.
“If I have the money, then why is the government telling me that I can’t do it,” Woods asked rhetorically. “My sister collects spoons. She inherited that spoon collection from my grandmother.”
The government dictating the number of guns that can be purchased within a specified time frame is the equivalent of Woods telling his sister, “‘you know what, Karen, you can’t have any more spoons because you’ve got too many, and I’m not going to let you,’” he said.
While he recognized the difference between spoons and guns, Woods said that responsible gun owners should not have the government intervene.
As with any position, Woods said he is open to a dialogue with voters.
“Where there is disagreement, I’m willing to listen,” he said. “If you make a compelling argument, I may even change my mind. Maybe I won’t, but you’ve got to be willing to ask the tough questions and take some tough answers.”
Woods said he considered four questions when making decisions.
“In everything I say and do, I want to know is it true? Is it fair to all those concerned? Will it build good will and friendships? Will it be beneficial to all those concerned,” Woods said, and added that he had “loved on this community for almost 10 years” before deciding to run for office. During that time, he was “loving on people, regardless of their socio-economic or racial backgrounds and religious beliefs.
“When they needed somebody to fill the seat, I prayerfully considered it, and decided to throw my hat in the ring,” Woods said. “I was tapped to be a part of it (city council), and I told them when 2020 comes, I’m going to run again. I’m not in it for the gold or the glory. I’m just in it to love on the citizens of Martinsville some more.”
Woods has two children–C.J. and Cate. He is currently employed by a subsidiary of Legacy Industries. Woods has obtained degrees in History and Spanish from Ferrum College, and a graduate degree from Regent University in Education. Woods has also obtained a voice degree from Emmanuel College in Georgia.
Others running for seats on Martinsville City Council this year are incumbents Kathy Lawson and Chad Martin. Newcomers to the contest are Nelson Edwards and Tammy Pearson.