Steve Morelli, a newcomer to politics, says he’s motivated to run because he has the time and experience to help his community and Augusta County as a member of the Board of Supervisors.
Morelli is one of three candidates for the South River District seat now held by Supervisors Carolyn Bragg. The Republican nominee for the seat, he resides in the Stuarts Draft area.
Bragg is stepping down to seek the county clerk of circuit court seat vacated by Carol Brydge, who earlier this year announced her retirement.
Morelli, an Army veteran, is a New Mexico transplant who made his way east to Virginia in 1985 on the advice of an older brother stationed in the commonwealth. Following his service, the father of a son and daughter and grandfather of two — and a third on the way — went to work for a utility company, retiring from Verizon in 2016.
The 56-year-old has called Stuarts Draft home since 2004.
Although this marks his first run for office, Morelli said he’s been active in the community, having either been a member of or working with chambers of commerce, the United Way and other civic groups. While with Verizon, he said, he was responsible for a large swath of territory, tasked with preventive maintenance on phone lines and cell sites while dealing with multimillion budgets.
“I had to make the tough decisions on who got new equipment and who didn’t,” he said. “I know how to build a business case.”
Although his prior political activity outside voting had been largely relegated to “coffee pot discussions,” Morelli said listening to Bragg speak during a public meeting followed by encouragement from Supervisor Pam Carter to become involved in the county’s broadband committee led him to begin thinking about running for office.
His experience working for Verizon, he said, has given him additional insight into issues about rural internet access, which would be among his top priorities if elected.
“Rural broadband is an issue, not just for Augusta County,” said Morelli, noting its importance to jobs and education. “Everybody should have access to the internet.”
A second priority, he said, would be finding a fix to the flooding of the low-water bridge on a rural road near McKee Foods in Stuart Draft. During the rainy 2018, the crossing flooded more than 100 days, he said.
The problem is that relatively few drivers use the road every day and the cost to fix the flooding has so far been considered too prohibitive for the Virginia Department of Transportation. Estimates, Morelli said, have placed the price tag at $3 million.
But for the folks who depend on the road, he said, it’s a vital link.
“That definitely needs to be addressed by VDOT,” Morelli said.
A third priority for Morelli if elected would be adding school resource officers where needed. He said he would work with the Augusta County Sheriff’s Office and Augusta County Public Schools to discuss budgetary concerns and where they believe the most good can be done with additional SROs.
“We want our kids to be safe,” he said.
As with other priorities, though, Morelli said it’s important not to overpromise during the campaign.
“It’s easy to promise things but you need to look at the budgets. I don’t want to promise things I can’t deliver,” he said.
In summing up his campaign, Morelli said he believes his hands-on experience makes him the best candidate for the district.
“I love getting involved,” he said. “I’ve been a strong leader … always there to lend a hand.”