Thursday, July 19th, 2018

S Shopper Stories


MAYOR RICK WEST

A solution-based team player bringing unity to Chesapeake

by Candance Moore


Surrounded by family, Mayor Rick West took the oath of office on November 14, 2017.  Photo by Sarah Jackson

Surrounded by family, Mayor Rick West took the oath of office on November 14, 2017. Photo by Sarah Jackson

When Rick West was sworn in as Mayor of Chesapeake last November, he was greeted with a long list of questions.

Who exactly is this modest, unassuming man with a knack for talking about anything but himself?  How did this regular guy—seemingly the very antithesis of a career politician—find himself in governmental leadership? When did he realize that his quiet, studious service on the city council was putting him on a path to lead the third largest City in Virginia?

Was it happenstance? Timing? Hard work? Months later, his answer hasn’t changed: it was all of the above.

“I never presumed that I deserved this privilege,” he insists, matter-of-factly. “This whole thing started with me wanting to serve my community; that was it. Circumstances brought me here as I watched in amazement. I’m just as surprised as everyone else!”A Chesapeake native and the father of four, Rick always preferred the company of family and close friends at a backyard barbecue than life in the public spotlight.

After earning a degree in education from Old Dominion University, he joined  Chesapeake’s public school system as a teacher. He went on to earn a Master’s Degree from the University of Virginia and a Doctorate from Virginia Tech. It wasn’t long before a natural ability for leadership placed him in the role of principal. For 30 years, he worked alongside teachers and parents to rescue troubled students, to engage gifted students, and to improve working conditions for faculty.

“I loved my career in education,” he declares. “I really did look forward to going to work every morning. Nothing is more fulfilling than trying to be a role model for children.”

Although he found his students and teachers a delight, the public school system presented challenges. Rick is convinced that meeting those challenges prepared him to deal with the many issues now facing the City of Chesapeake.

“The most important lessons I learned in the schools were how to listen carefully and how to find answers and solutions to issues, big and small, through collaboration—working together for a common purpose.”


City of Chesapeake Mayor Rick West. Photo by Cliff Hayes

City of Chesapeake Mayor Rick West. Photo by Cliff Hayes


Rick credits much of his ability to the mentoring that he received from his high school principal and his boss, the late Harry Blevins. “There were others who also had a tremendous influence on me,” Rick confides.

“We have so many dedicated, caring principals, administrators and teachers working throughout our school system. I’ve learned from every person with whom I’ve crossed paths.”
Upon retirement from the schools, he became a real estate agent, working primarily with family and friends. “Buying or selling a home is such an important event in the life of a family, so I enjoyed helping others work through that process,” Rick says. “But my thoughts kept drifting to the larger community. I felt I should be doing more.”

One day at a community service event, he was asked why he had never run for office. “To be quite honest, the thought never crossed my mind,” Rick replied with a laugh. He was told that his was a perspective that the city council needed. With that encouragement, Rick ran for Chesapeake City Council, winning his first election in 2008.

For the next eight years, Rick served quietly but effectively. He saw his fellow council members as neighbors—not as rivals—whose futures were entwined with his own. A team player, intensely interested in others, he brought a refreshing sense of nonpartisanism to issues. At the start of his third term, the city council selected him to serve as Vice Mayor.


“This whole thing started with
me wanting to serve my community...
Circumstances brought me here
as I watched in amazement.
I’m just as surprised as everyone else!”
—Mayor Rick West



In the spring of 2017, Chesapeake’s respected Clerk of Circuit Court Faye Mitchell announced her retirement. When illness tragically took her life, Mayor Alan Krasnoff offered to do his best to try to fill her shoes. He was elected as Circuit Court Clerk later that year. Vice Mayor Rick West suddenly realized he was about to step into new shoes himself. At a swearing-in ceremony last November, an excited but nervous Rick, with his wife, Vicky, at his side, officially accepted the job of Chesapeake Mayor.

Since then, this unassuming man who avoided the spotlight has served as the face of Chesapeake.

One day he’s in South Norfolk, where ForKids is building a $12 million headquarters; the next day he’s in Western Branch, where Chesapeake Square is under promising new management. The day after that he’s in Hickory dealing with concerns  over development. “I’m here to serve the entire city, so I go where I’m called,” he insists. “I make myself available to whoever needs me.”

A proponent of business growth and job creation, Rick worked with executives of Dollar Tree—a Fortune 200 company—on their first-in-the-nation project in Greenbrier, which he expects will bring a huge financial boost to the city.


(Seated) Mayor Rick West and his wife, Vicky West, surrounded by their children and grandchildren. Photo by Jack Photography

(Seated) Mayor Rick West and his wife, Vicky West, surrounded by their children and grandchildren. Photo by Jack Photography

“Ribbon cuttings are exciting to me,” he confesses. “They represent large companies and small mom-and-pop shops—all sharing hope for success in our city. It’s great to see faith and hard work being invested to improve life for every Chesapeake citizen.”

Rick realizes that Chesapeake has reached a crossroads and must make important decisions to ensure a future of opportunity.

Recent national events ratify his strong desire to keep the city safe. “Safe schools, streets and neighborhoods are a foundation we cannot afford to see diminished,” he notes. “Responsible growth will be an important component in promoting a strong quality of life and preserving our reputation as a great community. Issues surrounding growth are front and center now. I was there when we first began to tackle them, and will do all I can to get ahead of the all-important infrastructure curve.”

Although he has served as mayor for just four months, Rick is brimming with ideas and insights one would expect from a seasoned leader. After listening to the suggestions and concerns of citizens, Rick recently appointed three new Mayoral Advisory Committees to focus on technology, sustainability and resilience, as well as to review and implement of the city’s comprehensive plan.
  
When Rick speaks about the city that he so loves, a compelling vision for the future takes shape. “We have all seen on the national level what happens when people are divided,” he says. “We can’t let that happen to Chesapeake. If the people elect me on May 1 to continue as their Mayor, I will work with them to build a future that benefits all of us. We owe that to our children.”




Friends of Mayor Rick West

P.O. Box 16092
Chesapeake, VA 23328

757-287-7032