Apr 27, 2010

Candidate Joan Foster

by Melinda Zosh

She was walking through a store when a little book called “The Prayer of Jabez” caught her attention. Nine years and two terms in public office have passed since Lynchburg Mayor Joan Foster read that book.

“Jabez prayed to the Lord ‘Oh Lord, enlarge my territory that I may not do evil to others.’ He gave God permission to enlarge his territory,” Foster said. “This little book says, ‘Dare to pray this prayer, and if you do, be prepared for what will happen.’”

Foster prayed, and one day met with eight people to talk about city council politics over breakfast. Those eight grew to a campaign team of 200 people that year, she said. Yet, she never forgot Jabez’s prayer. 

“All through my journey ... I have asked the Lord to open up my territory and asked him what direction I was going to take,” Foster said.

Quitting was never an option for Foster — even when her opponents raised more campaign funds. She raised $10,000 in both of her campaigns. Most of her opponents raised nearly $40,000, she said. 

“The best part (of serving) has been the people I met and the bridges I built,”  Foster said. 

 Foster, who holds three degrees in education, will focus on the quality of life in Lynchburg, including education, she said. An outstanding education system will attract businesses to the city.

“In this time that is so difficult for us economically, we have to concentrate on education,” Foster said. 

Locally owned, small businesses comprise 85 percent of businesses in the community, according to Foster. Most of the city’s revenue comes from sales tax and food taxes.

Foster declared 2010-2011 to be the “year of the volunteer” in her State of the City Address. She hopes that community members, including retired teachers, will help with early childhood education. In the mayor’s reading club she reads to low-income children regularly. 

“Everything begins and ends with families. Many of our kids in the community do not have a good family system,” Foster said. “They need a significant person in their lives, a grandmother, aunt or just a Liberty kid that cares.”

Volunteering with children is one way Liberty students fulfill their CSER hours, and Foster appreciates their efforts, she said. 

“My experience with Liberty kids has been very positive,” Foster said. “I appreciate them.”


Contact Melinda Zosh at



Q and A with Foster


On improving the roads

There are currently several large improvement plans in design that should be under construction in coming months. These include the Wards Road Pedestrian project, which has approximately $1.2 million in approved funding for Phase One. Additional phases are under design with projected funding sources in place. Council recognizes the importance of this plan in terms of the safety for the students and other pedestrians that frequent the businesses and restaurants in that area.


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

This ordinance may be seen as restrictive to those who wish to rent. However, it should be understood that most property owners appreciate the intent. In many cases, rental homes are located in neighborhoods with other homes occupied by the owners. These properties will usually have more than the average number of vehicles and generate a greater amount of traffic among other issues. The interest of property owners should be protected in addition to maintaining the integrity of our neighborhoods.


On marriage

Social issues are not part of the business of city council. I really hope that they never are simply because issues such as these are very divisive. Council does not have the authority to change state or federal laws so to interject them into our process would not be productive nor in the best interest of our city.


On her relationship with Liberty

I have stated on numerous occasions that I appreciate what Liberty contributes to the city and have always advocated for better communication between the university and city government. During my time on council, I have supported most all of the projects that Liberty has brought forward and have always been open and responsive to the concerns of the university. I see no reason why this would not continue.


On campaign funding 

Our campaign has been funded primarily by individual citizens, and I am so grateful for their support. To date, there are no unions, large corporations or businesses that have contributed to our campaign. I encourage anyone interested to check vpap.org for finance information on all the candidates in the race.


On how long she’s been in Lynchburg

I was not raised in Lynchburg but lived for 23 years in Amherst County before moving to the city.  For the last 10 years, I have been a resident of Lynchburg and feel that our city is an outstanding place to live and raise a family. I initially came to Lynchburg to attend college, where I also met my husband of 41 years, Bobby.


On building community

Building unity and working for the common good is something that I have always strived for in our city. From attending neighborhood meetings to hear the concerns of citizens, meeting with business leaders about how the city can assist them in growing and creating new jobs, to initiating the Community Dialogue on Race and Racism, I am always looking for ways to improve communication and bring people together. 


On Liberty’s CUP status

It was clear that the CUP process while well intended often required unnecessary steps be taken by institutions to receive approval for projects which did not have an impact on surrounding property. Therefore, council began the exploration of an Institutional Overlay to simplify and reduce the restrictions for such places. I am confident when complete, this change will be well received and beneficial for all applicable institutions.


On long-term plans for Lynchburg and Liberty

My priorities remain to support and strengthen our public education system, continue our successful economic development programs and preserve our outstanding quality of life. This election will have an impact on both our city and Liberty in the coming years. Our city has remained strong and vibrant during some very difficult economic times in our country and now is not the time to turn back the clock. We have many accomplishments to be proud of as a community.

On his party affiliation choice

I am following the same principles that have been used in council elections for many years. In 2006, Delegate Scott Garrett, a Republican, chose to run as an Independent when he ran for city council. National politics and party affiliations are not necessary and can be a hindrance in doing the business of our city. Therefore, I am running as an Independent.


On priorities for spending

Quality of life. This is an area that encompasses infrastructure as well as the maintenance of our public places such as parks and trail systems. It has been noted that when considering a location businesses often place the quality of life as a priority because it makes the recruiting of employees easier. Having a livable city has contributed to Lynchburg recognition from business publications like Forbes Magazine.


On moving the Ward III-4 polling place

I want every voter in our city to have a convenient and accessible polling place. Voting is a responsibility that we should promote and encourage participation in whenever possible. After the 2010 Census is complete there will be a review of all the voting precincts in the city. I look forward to this report and am open to making changes as necessary.


On carrying out campaign promises

I believe that I have shown through my actions that I always work for the best interests of all of our citizens and that I do not make promises in a campaign for the sake of someone’s vote. As I have continued to do for the last eight years, I will work to be available and open to the concerns and needs of every citizen of Lynchburg.

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