Council re-elects Tharp as mayor

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Tight budget, reversion to town status major issues

By Tom Wilmoth

    Bedford City Council will have plenty on its plate the next year as it considers whether to revert to town status and works to balance a budget in these tough economic times. Monday night council officially began its work for the year by swearing in those council members who were elected in November — including first-time member Steve Rush — and by re-electing Skip Tharp as the city’s mayor.

    “I appreciate the unanimous vote of confidence,” stated the 61-year-old Tharp, who was first elected as mayor in 2007. “I look forward to serving.”

    Council also unanimously re-elected Robert Wandrei as vice mayor.

    City Clerk Teresa Hatcher led the swearing in ceremony for Tharp, Wandrei, Rush and Jeffrey Hubbard.

    Council will begin the task of crafting a new budget next week as it holds work sessions to give city staff recommendations on cuts to make in the upcoming budget. This year’s budget process is expected to be challenged by reduced state funds for education as well as lower-than-anticipated sales tax revenue.

    “I’m an optimist,” Tharp said, adding that the city will get through this “the best way we can.” He said Bedford serves as a reflection of what is happening economically across the nation.

    Tharp, who heads up Tharp Funeral Home and Crematories, also serves as president of the Virginia Board of Funeral Directors and Embalmers. He said every area of government operations will be up for discussion as council looks at the upcoming budget.

    Tharp said the city continues to consider whether it would be in its best interests to revert to town status, some 40 years after becoming a city. Tharp said the city continues to study the issue and is waiting for a report from a consultant. That report is expected to be presented to council in the next month. He expects council to make a decision during the first quarter of this year as to whether to pursue the action.