By Debbie Adams
Vinton Town Council welcomed five new employees at their meeting on November 1. Deputy Police Chief Tim Lawless introduced three new police officers who have just completed training at Cardinal Criminal Justice Academy in Salem—Stephanie Walsh, Daniel Valladarez, and Trinity Otey. They were pinned by members of their family and then sworn in by Town Clerk Susan Johnson.
Officer Walsh graduated from Roanoke College in 2014 with a Bachelor’s degree in psychology and a concentration in East Asian Studies. She began her public service career as a 911 dispatcher for Roanoke County and the Town of Vinton, where she served for almost six years.
Walsh decided to become a law enforcement officer because she wanted to make the world a safer place for her loved ones. She doesn’t expect to change the world doing her job, but she hopes she can teach life lessons she has learned to the people she encounters without them having to face some of the hardships she has experienced. She looks forward to serving the Town of Vinton. Officer Walsh was pinned by her mother, Kelly Walsh.
Officer Daniel Valladarez was raised in the Town of Vinton and graduated from William Byrd High School in 2012. He studied for a degree in Student Ministries and Worship at Messenger Bible College in Dallas. He met his wife Casey at college, and they spent the next nine years traveling and serving in the youth ministries departments in different places around the country.
They moved to Roanoke in 2019 and have taken time away from the ministry to plant their family and raise their three children. His wife is currently a local daycare director. Prior to becoming a police officer, Valladarez served as Youth Pastor at Life Tabernacle in Vinton. It has always been his dream to be a police officer and he is grateful for the opportunity to serve as a member of the Vinton Police Department. He hopes to help create the same positive impacts as the officers before him. Officer Valladarez was pinned by his wife Casey.
Officer Trinity Otey is 21 years old. He wrestled for six years at William Byrd, where he graduated in 2019. In his free time, he likes to hunt and spend time with family and friends. Prior to becoming a police officer, he was a welder for two years. He and his girlfriend, Morgan Bohon, are expecting a child in March. He was pinned by Morgan and his sister, Briona Hurt.
Finance Director Andrew Keen introduced Vinton’s new Senior Financial Analyst, Carrie Kessler. She holds a double major in both Accounting and Finance from Radford University. Throughout her college career, she served in an internship role for The United Way of Montgomery, Radford, and Floyd as an accounting/finance intern. She later interned in Richmond as an audit intern for the Virginia Office of the State Inspector General.
Kessler most recently worked as an accountant for the Girl Scouts of the Virginia Skyline Council, where her duties included all aspects of accounts payable and receivables, budgeting, bank reconciliations, month analytics, and other duties as they came up.
Prior to working with the Girl Scouts, Kessler worked for Berglund Automotive for six years, where she earned two internal promotions and eventually worked as business manager for the Ford dealership in Salem. At Berglund, her duties included accounts payable, bank reconciliations, commission calculations, payroll, organization of financial statements, and many other duties.
Kessler is also a Notary Public and has held this designation since 2016. She lives in Roanoke with Joseph, her husband of four years.
Keen said that Kessler “brings a wealth of accounting and finance knowledge, much of which is in the non-profit sector, to our team and we are incredibly glad to have her onboard with the Town of Vinton.”
With her hiring, the Finance Department is now fully staffed.
Chasity Barbour, Director of Community Programs, introduced Caroline Loveland who will serve as Community Programs Coordinator for the Town of Vinton. She has a Bachelor of Arts degree from Warren Wilson College. She is certified in Serv Safe and has worked in the Hospitality industry for the past 10 years with her most recent job at the Beliveau Winery. She and her fiancé currently reside in Salem. Loveland says she is “excited about working in the Town of Vinton and learning how we operate.”
“We are truly blessed to have Caroline and she is already a great addition to the team,” Barbour said. With her hiring, the Community Programs department is now fully staffed.
Human Resource Director Donna Collins recognized Town of Vinton employees who are veterans. They will also be honored at a luncheon next week. Those present were Mayor Brad Grose, Police Chief Fabricio Drumond, Police Sgt. Brandon Alterio, and Officer Jesse Dibble.
Next on the agenda was the annual report from Randy Layman, President of the Vinton Historical Society. He expressed the appreciation of the society’s officers, directors, and volunteers for the support of Vinton Town Council and town staff, most notably the Public Works Department.
For the past several weeks, Public Works employees have been improving the sidewalks and curbing surrounding the Vinton History Museum, in the interest of the safety for staff and visitors.
Layman informed council that the historical society continues to update and create computer records for the complete collection of items housed in the museum, digitizing the inventory and making photos available online to the public in the future. This includes all the William Byrd High School composite photos of students, now being repaired and photo-documented.
The Vinton Historical Society maintains their social media presence with two Facebook pages, “Vinton Memories & History” (41,798 views in October) and “Vinton History Museum” (18,156 views in October).
Layman concluded his presentation by detailing a project long dreamt of by the historical society and museum—installation of an ADA compliant elevator to allow access to the second floor for visitors with special needs and senior citizens who have limitations where stairs are involved. The society has taken the first step in securing a design and architectural proposal from Hill Studio. This is a residential-type construct, not commercial, and carries a preliminary budget of $55,000. The society plans to undertake fundraising to get the project rolling.
Assistant Planning and Zoning Director Nathan McClung briefed council once again on the Town of Vinton Comprehensive Plan Amendment to adopt and incorporate by reference the Town of Vinton GAP summary—Route 24 Bike/Pedestrian Plan, May 2022. The plan has created a toolkit of potential bicycle and pedestrian improvements for Vinton. The Planning Commission will hold its public hearing to adopt the plan on November 3 and the town council public hearing will be held on November 15.
McClung pointed out that adoption of this plan will ensure that the town is eligible for VDOT funding for improvements, involving a plethora of projects, but doesn’t carry a mandate for moving forward with any particular project.