ELKTON — After winning 61 percent of Elkton residents’ votes on Tuesday, Joshua Gooden is ready to transition from being a councilman to the town’s mayor.
Gooden, 24, said that just like when he first ran for council in 2012 at the age of 18, running for mayor against longtime incumbent Wayne Printz was a spur-of-the-moment decision.
“I had an outpouring of citizens asking me in May and June to run and at first I wasn’t sure,” he said. “But after a number of people asked, I felt I could make a positive difference and serve all the citizens better in that role.”
Gooden, Rockingham County’s economic development and tourism coordinator, is in the middle of his second four-year term on Town Council, which doesn’t end until 2020. He will step into the mayor’s role Jan. 1 and, according to the town charter, the remaining members of council must appoint someone to fill his seat on the six-member panel within 30 days of vacancy. A special election will then be held for the remainder of the term.
Printz, 60, will step down as mayor after 12 nonconsecutive years and a 12-year run on council. Printz, who has been the acting town manager since February 2016, also will step down from that role, Gooden said.
“The first priority as mayor is to hire a town manager,” Gooden said, adding that he hopes to fill the position by the February regular council meeting. “I would like to work with council to put out an advertisement for people to apply because it’s a position we need.”
Among other priorities for Gooden will be adding to Elkton’s police department, which now has four officers, including the police chief. A fifth officer will join on Nov. 15, but he wants to hire a sixth officer in the near future.
“In the past fiscal year, we had allocated money to have a seventh officer to loosen the strain on the individual officers when one had to be out of the area to do something like go to the Harrisonburg jail,” he said.
But Gooden’s second priority is to decide a use for the former Town Hall at 173 W. Spotswood Ave. In 2016, town offices vacated the building, built by Dr. Simeon Jennings in 1840, when the basement flooded and mold was found shortly afterward.
In September, Lineage Architects presented council its findings from an evaluation of the building that included a number of possible upgrades without giving an estimated cost. The cost would depend on what council decides it wants to do with the building, according to the architects.
Gooden, without saying anything more specific about its future use, said he wants to make it more user-friendly.
One thing he would like to continue from Printz is a “zero tolerance” discrimination policy and sensitivity training for town staff.
After Public Works Director Troy Shifflett used an ethnic slur during a council meeting, Printz called for all town employees to take part in the training.
Gooden said he wants to ensure that the town and council continue to serve in a respectful way and plans to continue the training for both council and Elkton personnel, which is held by a Blue Ridge Community College outreach team.
Printz, after receiving the unofficial election results Tuesday night in which Gooden outpolled him 720 votes to 454, called to congratulate Gooden and offer any help in the future.
“I don’t have to be an official to help Elkton,” he said. “I’m proud of my work and I did everything I could to make a stronger and smarter area with good finances.”
Printz, a retired employee of Merck & Co., said the political climate in Elkton has “gotten so treacherous” that he believes the change in mayors could be a good thing.
“It’s a natural order of events of evolution to go out with the old and in with the new,” he said.
He’s also not ruling out a future run for mayor.
“I don’t want to say no, but I’m going to take a breather,” Printz said.
Also elected to town offices in Elkton on Tuesday, according to unofficial results, were incumbent Councilmen Jay Dean, who will begin his fourth-term, and Jeff Jones, who still start his second term. Randell Snow, a former councilman and mayor, won the third council seat up for election.
They are joined by council members Steve America and Margaretta Isom, whose terms were not up this year.