Friday, April 16th, 2021

Shopper Client Stories


This "local boy made good" is committed to Chesapeake's future

by Cristi Sanchez

Chesapeake Mayor Rick West, is a classic example of "local boy made good." His success  is not about fame or fortune, but about service, community, and making a difference. This unassuming lifelong resident grew up in the heart of rural Chesapeake and has spent most of his adult life serving his community, beginning immediately out of college.

Working diligently to put himself through Old Dominion University, Rick graduated in 1974 with an education degree and quickly landed a job. "I began teaching at Great Bridge High School under the greatest mentor I've ever known, Harry Blevins. He gave me my first job as a government teacher and student activities leader," he remembers fondly. "I loved my job and wanted to pursue it to the fullest."

He did just that. With hard work and continuing education, Rick earned the distinction of becoming the youngest administrator in the school system as principal of Southeastern Elementary School. He also served as principal at Great Bridge Intermediate and opened Hickory Middle and Greenbrier Middle. After 30 years as a school administrator, Rick retired and, like most retired educators, decided to try something new.

"I look at our city and our future.
That's the reason I'm running again.
I'm so excited
about where our city is going
 and the direction it's taking.
I don't want to see anything change
our forward momentum and success."

     - Mayor Rick West

"I thought I'd see what I could do in the business world," he divulges. "I sold real estate, and it was very lucrative. Even though I tripled my administrator salary the first year, I felt that something was missing. As a principal, you have the privilege of affecting young lives. That's an intrinsic value that can't be replaced with money," he adds with conviction.

So Rick began to seek something that would be personally fulfilling. Some close personal friends convinced him to try the political arena. He considered running for the Chesapeake school board but chose instead to run for Chesapeake City Council. He was elected and eventually selected by the council to be vice mayor, serving for 10 years.

Although he'd enjoyed his time on the city council, Rick decided that it might be time to retire. But fate had different plans. "Around the time I was ready to retire from the political arena, my friend, colleague, and former mayor, Alan Krasnoff, decided to retire. We both talked about it and laughed, saying it must have been some kind of divine intervention. So I became interim mayor and subsequently ran for the position two years ago."

Rick firmly believes that his time spent as a school principal was great preparation for being mayor. "Both jobs require working with different populations, as we all move toward mutual goals. It was great preparation for me!" he points out.

A principal's desire to help and advocate for those entrusted to him resonates in Rick's philosophy toward helping Chesapeake residents. "Sometimes there'd be that one student struggling to get something done who needed exceptions made to make life work for them. It's the same thing as mayor. If a resident has a problem and general rules aren't working to address their situation, sometimes exceptions are necessary. When you get to advocate for that person to get the results they need without compromising the city's guidelines, it's a feeling you can't pay for. It brings that same sense of fulfillment I had as an administrator. Working together with our citizens is part of what makes our city so great and our residents proud."

Rick cites a recent ODU study showing that Chesapeake has the highest resident satisfaction rating than any other city in the entire region, with almost 90 percent of residents expressing high satisfaction with their quality of life. He attributes this high satisfaction to multiple factors.

Chesapeake Mayor Rick West and his wife, Vicky.

Chesapeake Mayor Rick West and his wife, Vicky.

"It all boils down to how well our city is doing overall and the opportunities that we have," he begins. "Not only do we have low violent crime rates, a strong school system, and low tax rates, but our economic development and job opportunities have skyrocketed. This past year Chesapeake added 455 new businesses to the area and created 1700 new jobs through those businesses and through the expansion of existing businesses."

While business expansion is good for Chesapeake's economic health, some residents express concern over the city's growth. Rick is quick to allay their fears from a place of understanding. "I was 10 when Chesapeake became a city. My grandfather sold his businesses, Cook's Hardware and Cook's Variety Store. He moved to North Carolina because they put a traffic light at the end of Cedar Road. The growth was too much for him," he explains.

"So, I understand, on a personal level, the concerns about growth. For residents with those concerns, I want to assure them that we've been growing at a very manageable rate of one percent a year over the last 10 years. While we grow, we're not abandoning our rural heritage. We're conserving, growing smart, and preparing for the future. We continue working on and planning road and bridge improvements, and are doing studies on our school facilities to see what improvements we can make today and in the future."

As a former educator, schools remain near and dear to Rick's heart. Naturally, school safety is also a top priority for him and is the accomplishment of which he's most proud. "We formed a joint school-city task force to help improve school safety. Their recommendations to make schools safer have already been implemented, and the task force continues to meet every month to evaluate school safety and make additional changes. They didn't just meet one time and say "Ok, we fixed it, now we're done.' They're always working and researching to ensure our schools, our children, and staff are safe."

Driven by his desire to help and make a difference in his community, Mayor Rick West is hoping to continue serving the people of Chesapeake. "I look at our city and our future. That's the reason I'm running again. I'm so excited about where our city is going and the direction it's taking. I don't want to see anything change our forward momentum and success. My motives are genuine. What you see is what you get; I am what I am. I'm local, been here all my life, love the city, and want to continue to serve."

Friends of Mayor Rick West

P.O. Box 16092
Chesapeake, VA 23328