An Interview with Mayoral Candidate David Jenkins

The Captain’s Log interviewed mayoral candidate David Jenkins, a Newport News City Councilman.


Why are you running for Mayor, Councilman Jenkins? 


“I’m running because I believe this city needs good leadership and I think that with the experience I have on City Council and my track record, I have a history of doing good things for our city and getting things done. The areas I want to work on are fighting gun violence & crime, I want us to support our schools, I want us to support small businesses, and provide business opportunities. I want us to do smart things when it comes to our environment and the health of our citizens, like taking care of the coal dust downtown and the bacteria in the reservoir and I want us to come together as a city and get things done.”


You are the only candidate that has an environmental platform, do you think Newport News can be a leader in the expansion of clean energy? 


“I believe we have a great potential here to be a leader in clean energy…I was on a call with the Sierra Club and we’re on track to become the first city where 100% of our school buses would be propane…We’re doing a lot of great environmental things here in Newport News.”


You mentioned clearing up the coal dust downtown, why do you believe that needs to be cleared out right away?


“Newport News has the largest coal port on the East Coast, without the coal port there wouldn’t be a city of Newport News. We’ve been having coal come out of that port for 140 years. But increasingly we are aware that the coal dust causes problems with children, it causes asthma, it causes problems with older adults as well and in other parts of the world when you have large coal piles like that, you cover them so you don’t have the dust come out. This is not a high tech solution, it’s not something we need to study intensely, we need to be partners with the coal companies and we value them being here but we need to mitigate the results of that coal dust. It’s hurting economic development downtown…”


You’ve mentioned opening up City Hall & broadcasting City Council meetings. It’s been a big source of criticism for Mayor Price that he hasn’t opened up, will you push to make the Newport News city government more transparent?


“Absolutely and I wrote an op-ed piece in The Daily Press last summer about that. It’s something that I fought for for three years. One of the great tragedies in Newport News, in my opinion, is during Covid when we had lockdowns, because city work sessions are required to be open to the public even if not televised. We didn’t do any work sessions at all with the Council during lockdown. So the Council was not informed by city staff about things going on in our city because people refused to allow work sessions to be televised…Our mayor, in my opinion, does not put a whole lot of weight behind citizen comments. That’s something very apparent in Council meetings where people come forward. I think that he might be worried about the comments that would be made by citizens if they saw the things being proposed in the city. I, on the other hand, welcome citizen comments. We may not agree, we may have a different point of view but I want to know what you’re seeing and your reaction to it anyway because you might be right. You might be looking at something I overlooked and I want to understand the best policies for our citizens…

The Black Lives Matter 757 group recently gave you their endorsement to be the next mayor, which surprised a lot of people. Why do you think they put their trust into you? 


“It kind of surprised me as well, but when we did Black Lives Matter marches, we did one at CNU and did one downtown, I was there. Other people on the City Council and other people in this race just weren’t. I’ve been out in the community and I’ve been listening to the issues that people had in all of our neighborhoods in Newport News. Someone once said “A big part of success is showing up.” I’ve been showing up. Prior to covid, I was definitely out there in the community going to more events than any other person in local government here. I love doing that because it lets me interact with people and hear what they’re thinking about city issues and I get to talk to them about what’s going on in government.” 


How will your administration act on issues that affect minorities disproportionately? Food deserts, housing segregation, police brutality. How will your mayorship deal with issues like these compared to other Virginia cities?


“We’re very fortunate to have Chief Drew here as our Chief of Police. He’s implemented a number of policies including a review of any use of force…Newport News was the first city in Virginia to have body cams for all officers. He’s also done a great job of getting the police out of the community where it’s building trust. We don’t have bad communities in Newport News, we have a few bad players in communities…

As far as things like housing are concerned, I wanna make sure we have affordable housing. I worked for 16 years in affordable housing before I came back to Newport News. I think that if we can put people in a position of being able to own their own homes even if they have modest means and be able to build wealth that way, that’s going to correct problems in the past with injustice. As far as food deserts are concerned, the biggest way I can see us fix it is not just putting a grocery store downtown but making sure that we have the housing stock downtown to where we don’t have so many empty lots. We have over 700 empty lots downtown… If we can get more people moving into that area, rather than moving out we’re gonna have increased retail, grocery stores who wanna be in that area…Right now I’m working with Economic Development and they are working to bring manufacturing jobs downtown, jobs that wouldn’t require a college degree to provide employment opportunities…


You have strong ties to labor leaders and business owners in the area, how do you plan on both expanding the Newport News economy and making sure the rights of workers are validated and respected.


“I don’t think you have to have a conflict between the two.I think good businesses want to pay their people well and retain good people. I think a strong economy is going to help businesses earn the money they need to pay their employees well. We’ll work it out. I don’t think it’s gonna be as big a struggle. The challenge we have is it’s not so much that businesses don’t wanna pay their people well. It’s not a problem of greed, it’s a matter of simple economics…If we build more business here, if we have more jobs, it’s gonna naturally decrease the number of people who are in the market for employment and wages will rise. With more people working in the area you’re gonna have more money out there for businesses to make sure they’re not losing profit or going out of business because they’re paying more to their employees. It’s a matter of getting the flywheel going and going in the right direction.”


You said you would battle gun violence with “Achievement Culture”, what do you mean by that? 


“A lot of times what you have is a feeling of hopelessness and helplessness that sometimes becomes entrenched in certain people. That can be because they had a few tough breaks in life, it can be a whole lot of bad things happen to you all at once. If you empower people to feel like they’re in control of their lives and that they can succeed, they’re a whole lot less likely to resort to gun violence. What I tend to think is that a lot of the people who are involved in some of these mass shootings particularly, they’re not expecting to survive the attack. This is their curtain call to the world. They have reached such a level of hopelessness and helplessness that they’re killing people. If we can somehow turn that around and say that “you can get out of even the most difficult circumstances and rebound” that will help some people. Of course I also believe in supporting mental health and I think that is a factor in some of the cases.”


How would you expand easier access to mental health care from the mayoral level?


“Well one of the things we’ve already done is we’ve appropriated city money to expand the bed capacity at Riverside Hospital. We’ve created the CareOne Unit that is run by the fire department. So let’s say someone is having a mental health crisis, rather than have a police car come up, you have a health care professional van that comes up and they’re able to intervene and counsel the person… It de-escalates the situation and you still have police there as backup to make sure the team is safe but they’re not the primary people…gun violence is a complex problem, it’s not gonna have one single solution. One of the things that I’ve supported is a grant program for grassroots organizations fighting gun violence. I proposed that to the City Council last December and they weren’t ready to consider it then…So I brought it back in January and Councilwoman Harris and I were the only ones who supported that measure. I proposed a $200,000 grant program to be run through the city to support grassroots efforts…the city was later able to come up with federal estate money and put together a grant program that was 1.8 million dollars and funded 19 local organizations…I really thought that would be an easy vote for the council particularly because one of the things that spurred me on it was I realized we were having a surge in gun violence. Last year, gun violence,both shootings and fatalities were higher than they were in 2016… The city got 67 million dollars in ARPA funds and part of that money was supposed to be used to fight gun violence and none of it was being spent on gun violence… The people at the White House with President Biden when he signed the bill had the expectation that a certain amount would go to fighting gun violence and towards grassroots organizations, as it did in most cities in Virginia.


With both Newport News and CNU getting new leadership, how will your mayorship work with our university?


“I think it’s important for us to have a good relationship with CNU. CNU has developed into a major university and I think it’s one of the things Newport News can be proud of. I’d like to see more interaction between the city and the college and have more engagement with the students and the community… I would like to see CNU students be able to do internships in our city, bring their skills to help our city, and get them interested in things they can do in the future other than running for office, because it’s not what everyone is gonna be called to do…it would be a good thing for both of us to work together better. I look forward to having a relationship with the President of CNU to where we can call each other at any time and support each other on projects…” 


How will you work with the school board, teachers, and parents to deal with issues like the nationwide teacher shortage and the culture wars?


“One of the problems we’re having is that it’s harder to be a teacher these days with the public involvement in education, but also it’s a generational thing. A lot of the people in public education are part of my generation. We are the last of the Baby Boomers and there just aren’t as many people following on after that and for a long time there hasn’t been an emphasis on drawing good people to education and offering them a salary to make it a competitive career…I haven’t seen the culture wars as severe here in Newport News as other cities in the Commonwealth, but there’s always that possibility. We have a really good School Board and they communicate well with the public and they’re out in the public a good bit so I think that prevents some of the culture wars, but a certain amount of this, I’m not sure how we’re gonna fix. People are so divided in their policies these days, they’re so unwilling to come together, it’s a real challenge. What I try to do is everyone knows they’re welcome to express their views, I may not agree but I’m not going to shut anybody down or not allow them to express reasonable views. What happens sometimes is people overreact to people who are saying something really negative and because they overreact it adds fuel to the fire. What I try to do on Council, when Council meetings get a little heated, is bring the level back to calm. Because having people yelling and screaming doesn’t help.” 


What do you offer to Newport News that your opponents do not? 


“The biggest thing I have to offer is I have a track record throughout my life and on Council of working with people to create great ideas, to turn those ideas into plans, turning those plans into reality and being accountable for those results. It’s really easy to come up with ideas, anyone can do that, but it takes real work to take an idea and make it a practical plan and make sure it happens. When I work with City Staff, I think I have more credibility. Because I understand where they are coming from on things. I don’t ask for unreasonable things and I can provide them with direction to get where they need to go. What I’ve done since I’ve been on Council is always bring back great ideas for our city when I’ve gone to the National League of Cities and Virginia Municipal League conferences. I’m always looking for better ways to do things and working with City Staff as a collaborator to bring those ideas when possible to Newport News… I don’t see us as ready for newer, younger leaders to come aboard. I really want to get more young people in government, I really want that to happen, but I want them to come in and get some experience before they become mayor or do all the wonderful things they do in their lives…


Is there anything else you would like the people of Newport News and CNU students to know about you and your campaign and your vision for Newport News?


“First, I want them to know that they need to get involved, because that’s how you make a difference in politics and government and how things are run… The best and easiest way to make a change is elect the right people, people who share your values and have your vision to where we need to be going. 

We are at a critical point in Newport News right now… It’s important we get a Mayor who’s active in things and not just someone who’s going to be sitting in the seat and just kind of there. We got too much of that on the Council right now. That’s not what I have done and it’s not what I’m doing now. Everywhere I have gone whether it’s the military or in business, I have a track record of success. I didn’t just wake up yesterday and decide to change the world, I’ve been doing it my whole life. I would appreciate their support.” 


The Captain’s Log reached out to candidates Tina Vick and Saundra Nelson-Cherry for an interview but has not heard back. Our interview with Phillip Jones was in our 9/13/22 issue. You can register to vote online by Oct. 17 or in person by Election Day on Nov. 8. For more information go to and