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James “Jim” Kennedy first joined the James City County Board of Supervisors as a member of the local Republican party but said he began to distance himself from the affiliation in 2011 when some members he called “extremists” dominated the party.
Now, Kennedy said he is running to retain the Stonehouse seat as a new candidate, one who thinks independently, acts collaboratively and stands by his values.
“I’m hoping this election brings a new tomorrow, the new beginning of James City County: that we can end the animosities on the board, that we can put to rest all the dissent we see in the meetings, that people can come to the meetings and feel welcome, that our disagreements don’t have to be disagreeable,” Kennedy said.
Kennedy, 55, grew up in New England and said he lived on-and-off in the Historic Triangle before settling in Toano Woods 23 years ago. He is the chef and owner of Dudley’s Bistro in New Town, a culinary career he returned to after practicing opticianry for more than 10 years.
He said he did anticipate he would go into politics when he moved to the area, but after organizing a neighborhood group that successfully fought against a proposed asphalt plant in 1998, Stonehouse residents encouraged him to run for office.
Kennedy failed to unseat Andy Bradshaw, who was appointed to represent the Stonehouse District, in a special election in 1998, but said he won the seat by eight votes in the 1999 general election. Bradshaw successfully challenged Kennedy for the seat in 2003, but Kennedy won it back and has held it since 2007.
Kennedy admitted to playing a part in the extremism he observed in the local Republican party during his time on the Board of Supervisors, but said he has since apologized to former enemies and now works with them as allies, which includes Bradshaw.
“I’ve learned from those past mistakes,” Kennedy said. “I’ll never be an ideologue again, ever. I want to be both sides and I want to be a true independent.”
Kennedy said he intended to retire after his current term, but changed his mind when challenger Sue Sadler announced her campaign.
“If you enjoy everything you have in James City County today, and you enjoy living here, vote for Jim Kennedy. I’m one of the reasons why you have it,” he said. “And if you want to change it all and take it apart, vote for Sue Sadler, because she’s not happy with the way things are.”
If re-elected, Kennedy said he would focus on positive efforts that would maintain quality of life in James City County and encourage efficiencies in government. He noted combating public safety attrition, conserving water and improving parks as some issues he brought to the Board that members addressed together.
He said he has experienced a “tremendous outpouring” of support since launching his re-election campaign late in the summer and said he has received endorsements from real estate agents, homebuilders and retired James City Service Authority Director Larry Foster.
“I’m never going to lie to you. I’m never going to cheat you. I’m always going to tell you what I think and what I feel and you know where you stand with me,” Kennedy said.
Kennedy said his goal on the Board of Supervisors, if elected to another four-year term, is to make his 9-year-old daughter proud.
“[I want] to come back and take a look at properties we’ve saved, to show that to my daughter when she grows up, things that we’ve done that I’m sure she’ll be proud of, and say ‘You know, my dad had a part in that,’” Kennedy said.