Roanoke Mayor Lea reflects on first six months in office

ROANOKE (WSLS 10) - It's been six months since a new mayor took office in Roanoke. Sherman Lea was elected after David Bowers decided not to run for reelection.

Before becoming mayor, Sherman Lea spent more than a decade on the Roanoke City Council and said the new level of political experience has been rewarding.

"I've been encouraged by what I have seen taking place," said Lea. "My focus when I came into office is to make sure we continue to move forward from an economic development standpoint."

When it comes to Roanoke's economy, Lea said regionalism is a key focus, like working with surrounding areas on topics like broadband. He also discussed the hiring freeze the city announced on Tuesday.

"We are trying to take some proactive steps for what we anticipate may be a down year when it comes to revenue," said Lea. "Our revenue forecast is lower than expected so this is a proactive step to make sure we are only hiring and filling critical positions."

In addition to improving the economy, Lea said he wants to reduce violence. During the past several months, he has seen violent crimes in Roanoke rise due in part to incidents like the deadly shooting at Monster's Bar and Grill where several people were shot.

"What's so tragic about the homicides and murders that have occurred in our community throughout this year is that they are people that know each other," said Lea. "They are not random shootings and I think that can be resolved."

Lea points to rising graduations rates as one sign of progress. Moving forward, he expects the arrival of Amtrak to Roanoke to bring more positive change to the region.

"That's a point in our city and we are going to make sure that happens in 2017," Lea said. "I think we have a bright future."

On Wednesday, the public has a chance to speak with the  Lea. A holiday open house will take place in the mayor's office located on the 4th floor of the Municipal building from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.