City council member Danny Turner and Vice Mayor Jennifer Bowles’ terms both expire at the end of this year, opening two seats for the November election. Both council members will be running for reelection, while two new candidates, L.C. Jones and Aaron Rawls, will also be on the ballot.
Jennifer Bowles, 32, was elected as city council member and vice mayor on Nov. 4, 2014, and with that appointment became the youngest ever city council member and the first African-American woman in a leadership position on the council. She forms the first female duo of Mayor and Vice-Mayor in the city’s history, along with mayor Kathy Lawson.
Bowles is a graduate of Martinsville High School, graduating with an advanced diploma, and received her MBA from Averett University and her Bachelor of Arts from the University of Virginia. She currently works as the Public Relations Specialist with the Danville Police Department.
In her free time, Bowles enjoys reading, spending time with family, playing with her goddaughters, nephews, and niece, and playing with her dogs, King and Wiggles.
Bowles hopes to help Martinsville live up to its motto and listen to what the citizens want for the city. “My vision for Martinsville is to truly live up to our motto, a city without limits,” she said. “We need to put our citizens first and help those who need it the most. I plan to achieve this by continuing to listen, having open conversations and dialogue with our citizens. I plan to make decisions that help all citizens, not just one segment or population.”
While she cites many accomplishments during her time on the council, a few of them include advocating for diversification of city’s staff with employment of more minorities in all departments including the police department; voting for improvements to parks with a citizen survey to decide what occurs in the parks; supporting the utility moratorium during the COVID pandemic and supporting utility rate subsidies for elderly citizens; and pushing for weekly, then monthly meetings for the community to receive updates during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Bowles is in support of Martinsville’s reversion; however, she believes that the citizens should have a say in it. “We should allow our citizens to vote on whether or not they want our city to revert to a town. The city should do a better job at showcasing the pros and the cons and allowing the citizens to decide,” she said.
She aims to be a voice for the citizens of Martinsville. Bowles said, “I will always continue to fight for our citizens and do what I believe is in their best interest. I do not mind standing alone on an issue if it is for the betterment of our community. Being born and raised in Martinsville, I have seen the good and bad our city has to offer. I will continue to be a catalyst for change, progression, and positivity.”
Aaron Rawls, 40, moved to Martinsville in 2012. He is the Chief Information Officer for Madison Taylor Marketing and is the owner of Oakdale Technology Consulting. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in marketing and management from the University of South Carolina and an MBA from the University of Phoenix. Rawls has been in management and leadership positions for 18 years and spent several years in the Baldrige program. In his free time, Rawls enjoys fixing up old houses and dog rescue.
Rawls has a vision of bringing Martinsville back to its glory days as much as possible. “The vision is, frankly, to bring a little bit of vision to Martinsville,” he said. “What I mean by that is for decades now, probably about fifty years or getting there, we’ve been in a state of decline. That’s pretty similar to a lot of areas around the country, but things have changed over the last fifteen or so years and we have (not acted as though) we might be something more than what we used to be.”
Rawls plans to do what he can to bring people back to Martinsville.
“Martinsville’s an awesome place to be,” he said. “We do not need to be stuck in a mindset of permanent decline and failure because that’s not who we are.”
Rawls is firmly against reversion, as he believes that saying yes to reversion means giving up on the idea that Martinsville can be bettered. “It assumes a position of failure, that we will never grow, that we will never be able to pick ourselves up, and that we just have to be resigned to perpetually slowly dying,” he said. He says that city revenues are increasing instead of declining.
Rawls believes that Martinsville is a wonderful place to live and wants to work to help it live up to the potential that he knows it has.
“I love this city, I believe in it, and I have the expertise to bring us up instead of down,” he said.
L.C. Jones, 41, is a long time Martinsville resident with an 11-year-old son. He works as a Martinsville Police Officer with his current position being a School Resource Officer at Martinsville Middle School. Jones graduated from Fieldale-Collinsville in 1999. He then went on to receive his Bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice from Liberty University in 2020, and is currently enrolled in Liberty’s Master’s program in public administration. In his free time, Jones enjoys spending time with kids, bike riding, and exercising.
Jones believes that one of the biggest issues facing Martinsville right now is the homelessness issue, along with the mental health crisis. He said that these two issues feed off of one another and drain entities like the police department of resources. One of his proposed solutions for these issues is a community crisis team, which would consist of local police, EMS representatives, mental health representatives, Piedmont Community Support representatives, and at least one common citizen.
He is also an advocate for making the city more inviting for new citizens and business owners by cleaning up the city, especially the large number of uninhabited houses. Jones would also like to see an increased number of trade programs within Martinsville schools, such as HVAC, plumbing, mechanics, and more.
Jones is against reversion and believes that the biggest problem is how it was presented to the people. He says it was presented to the citizens as if it was a necessity, and that if it were presented differently and with more information people would have different opinions on it. He says that the financial situation of the city is not as dire as is being reported.
“The city is not losing money or in the financial bind that they’re reporting to us,” he said. Jones said that the citizens of Martinsville should be able to vote on the issue.
Jones’ motto is, “Integrity, transparency, and legitimacy,” as he believes these are three things that the city is lacking right now. He encourages voters to take a chance to get to know him and to do their own research into Martinsville’s financials.
Danny Turner, 66, was elected in 2008 and has served on council since, with the exception of a two-year hiatus from 2016-2018. He is a graduate of Martinsville High School and attended Patrick and Henry Community College for two years. He is retired, and in his free time he enjoys playing golf, watching baseball, and collecting old and unusual currency.
Turner is an advocate for keeping taxes low for Martinsville residents and improving the environment around the city to facilitate growth. He believes that Martinsville has many valuable assets to attract new citizens.
“There’s a lot of people in this country looking to move away from where they’re living now,” he said. “We have to encourage people to move here by governmental policies and just being friendly and showcasing what we have here.”
While being in office, Turner is proud of many of the things he has accomplished.
“When I was mayor … the city of Martinsville was paying way too much for economic development,” he said. “Our share, we were paying about three or four times more than what we should have compared to what the county was paying,” an issue Turner said he helped resolved. He has also worked hard to raise money and recognition for veterans in the city. He is also proud of his approach to Covid, and said that he went out and helped deliver 3,500 masks to the people and helped businesses take advantage of the programs available to them to help them through the pandemic.
Turner plans to support whatever decision the three-judge panel comes to regarding reversion, but believes that reversion is inevitable and the “independent city concept has outlived its usefulness many times over.” He says that there should only be one constitutional office between the city and the county, the details just need to be worked out.
Turner believes that he should be reelected because he’s always had citizens’ backs. “When anyone’s ever called or asked for help, I’m always there,” he said.
1 Vice Mayor Jennifer Bowles
2 Aaron Rawls
3 L.C. Jones
4 City council member Danny Turner