Apr 27, 2010

Candidate J.P. Vaughan

by Melinda Zosh

When he was eating lunch at the Reber-Thomas Dining Hall last week, Independent city council candidate J.P. Vaughan remembered a decision he made in 1957.

“I almost lived where this campus was,” Vaughan said. “There was a farm here, and the owners had a guest house, and they offered it to me for $50 per month. It was right where Doc Falwell’s little office was.”

General Electric (GE) had hired Vaughan, and from where he almost lived, he could see his work place, but there was one problem. 

He would have to cross the train tracks and a field to get there. It was too far to walk, but then one of the owners offered another form of transportation. 

“They had horses here,” Vaughan said. “They even said, ‘Look, we’ve got a horse here so trained that you could go to work, and he could find his way back.’”

Although the offer was tempting, Vaughan ended up moving to another part of town. The train tracks did not have a gate to block cars, he said, and it was too dangerous to cross the tracks. That was 53-years ago. 

“It is sort of ironic that I’m here now talking about city council, and I could have been living on this very spot,” Vaughan said. 

He does not consider himself a politician, he said, and this is the first time he is running for political office. After leaving GE, Vaughan worked for the real-estate business. 

“I think I’m average,” Vaughan said. “I had a very simple upbringing in a middle class working family.”

Vaughan has lived with this self image his entire life. A professor once stopped him on his campus at Hampden-Sydney College, an all-boys school in Farmville, Va. As a former CIA operative, he wanted to recruit young Vaughan to the profession.

“I said, ‘I’m just an average student, why would you pick me?’” Vaughan said.  “He said, ‘Mr. Vaughan, you could be anybody, anywhere, you’re ordinary. That’s why.”

A career in the CIA was a bit too mysterious for Vaughan, and he has not regretted his career choices since, he said.  If he had left Lynchburg, he would have never met his wife, Kay. She has walked side-by-side with her husband every step of the political process since J.P. Vaughan declared his candidacy on Feb. 24. 

E-mails flooded their inboxes after he made his candidacy public, he said. The messages were similar. 

“They said, ‘No one knows and loves Lynchburg like J.P. Vaughan,” Kay Vaughan said. “It’s such a compliment, but it’s also the truth.”

Contact Melinda Zosh at



Q and A with Vaughan


On improving the roads

Plans to improve those areas have already been made by council. I would want to follow up and monitor those plans, which include crosswalks for pedestrian safety and any pothole repairs.


On how many unrelated people may live in a single dwelling or share a single bedroom

The restriction in R1 and R2 zones were established to maintain the residential integrity of our neighborhoods. I approved those plans and helped place them into our zoning ordinance when I was on the Planning Commission.


On marriage

Virginia does not recognize marriage except between one man and one woman. Everyone must conform to Virginia law. I could not find any record of city council having ever voted on this issue.


On his relationship with Liberty

I have always considered myself a Liberty fan. Three of my children attended LCA in the early days of the school. I support and follow the sports, admire the volunteer efforts of the students and was a personal friend of Jerry Falwell Sr. who was a big help to me in the past. Specifically helping the students and faculty is a responsibility of the leadership at Liberty. However, I would certainly be fair and unbiased when any Liberty issues come before council.

On campaign funding 

The following can be confirmed through the State Board of Elections: 68.5 percent of my contributors are Republicans, 20 percent are Democrats and 11.5 percent are Independents. One hundred percent of the contributions have been from friends who simply care about me and the future of Lynchburg. Two PACs have participated (Lynchburg First and Lynchburg Association of Realtors), both are bi-partisan and all are my friends. I haven’t received any money from the other sources you mentioned.


On how long he’s been in Lynchburg

I am a lifelong resident of Lynchburg (74 years). I have been a realtor for 50 of those years which has enabled me to work with and for a diverse group of citizens. In addition, I was a volunteer football coach to hundreds of young boys whose families I still am in touch with. I believe I know and love this city better than anyone, and I know that my experiences and positions of leadership equip me to be a good council person.


On building community

I will give my time and talent to develop a team mentality on council with the objective to build a better, more inclusive city. I believe I already try to do my part with my extensive volunteer efforts, and I hope to encourage others to do the same.


On Liberty’s CUP status

I have said before that institutions such as Liberty deserve the right to build, manage and change within their boundaries as they see fit as long as it does not impact its neighbors and the environment adversely. The current zoning will certainly be evaluated, and the proposed institutional overlay will perhaps solve any perceived problems.


On long-term plans for Lynchburg and Liberty

I hope the city will grow responsibly, and I hope Liberty grows to reach its goal of 25,000 on-campus students. Good sound management (which takes time, patience and care), fiscal responsibility and the attraction of good businesses and jobs will help make this happen.


On his party affiliation choice

Being a true Independent made the choice to run easy. I believe city government can function better without partisan politics getting in the way. There will always be disagreements among council members, but we should not let others tell us how to solve those disagreements. We should work as a team with common goals.


On priorities for spending

Core services and infrastructure are also priorities for spending. Of course, these require constant monitoring and adjusting.


On moving the Ward III-4 polling place

This is a state issue, determined by the State Board of Elections, and is based on the results of the 2010 census. I would be fine with whatever they decide.


On carrying out campaign promises

I am not a politician, so I have not made any promises except to say I will approach each issue with an independent and open mind. I can only be myself, listen, be honest, work hard, do the right thing and treat others the way I want to be treated.

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