CHRISTIANSBURG — Councilman Steve Huppert won’t seek re-election this year.
“This fall, I’m going to be 77 years old, and sometimes it’s time for people to move on,” Huppert said in a recent interview. “You’re always talking about getting new blood into the stream. That’s how I feel. Time for me to move on.”
Huppert was first elected to Christiansburg Town Council in 2004, but lost his re-election bid four years later by 41 votes. He won his return to council in 2010 by a margin of just 10 votes and has been on the elected body since. He received the most votes of any candidate during the 2017 election. The town’s municipal election was moved from May to November during Huppert’s tenure.
Huppert’s decision not to run is the first development in what could be a telling municipal election this November. Three other incumbents’ seats are on the ballot: Mayor Mike Barber and council members Merissa Sachs and Brad Stipes. Barber plans to run and the other two have not publicly announced their intentions.
Meanwhile, Councilwoman Johana Hicks, who led all vote-getters when elected in 2019, won on a campaign against the status quo, something that’s been on display with other council members. Hicks was backed by a group that has said it would like to get other candidates elected on the same type of platform.
Huppert acknowledged that the past year or so on council has been tough from a political standpoint.
“I think meetings have become a lot more strenuous than years before. Conditions have become a little bit more difficult,” he said while declining to point out anyone in particular.
While the past year has surely seen some positive developments, such as progress in the redevelopment of the Marketplace and council finally approving the park project, it has not been entirely problem free.
Several discussions over the past several months were rooted in concerns over the council code of ethics, and verbal clashes during meetings have not been uncommon. Then there is the pandemic, which has had an impact on some of the town’s key revenue streams.
Huppert, however, has during his time on council often attempted to avoid delving into some of the less flattering aspects of town government. He said he prefers to champion the positives.
“There’s no need to get into the bad things,” he said. “There are so many good things to talk about.”
Huppert, a Vietnam veteran, has been an advocate for commonsense gun control, particularly over the past few years. He’s also been a champion of several significant developments that have occurred within the town.
Among those projects are the ongoing revamp of the Christiansburg Marketplace, the recent approval of a multipurpose park on the old Truman Wilson property off of Peppers Ferry Road and the extension of the Huckleberry Trail in Christiansburg.
The Marketplace and the land for the park are located in a fast-growing section of Christiansburg already occupied by Uptown Christiansburg — formerly the New River Valley Mall — and numerous other shops, big box stores and restaurants.
Huppert said he’s certain the park will help drive up visits to retailers and restaurants as the recreational development is expected to bring more sporting events to the town.
Other initiatives Huppert supported during his time include the effort to return passenger rail to New River Valley, the Christiansburg Farmers Market, the town launching curbside recycling and the decision by a Google sister company to test drone delivery in the town.
On the passenger rail effort, the town has bought some land near its aquatic center to be used as a site for a station — assuming that Christiansburg is ultimately selected.
The General Assembly recently approved legislation to create a passenger rail authority in the New River Valley, an entity that would include representation from Christiansburg and share the cost of building and maintaining a station.