Debate prep accelerates

Published 1:55 pm Thursday, August 25, 2016

Both the town of Farmville and Longwood University are quickly gearing up for the vice presidential debate at the university set for Tuesday, Oct. 4 — only five weeks away.

Tuesday, Longwood released a preliminary schedule of some of the major debate-related events to take place on campus during the run-up to the debate and during Debate Week.

All events are open to the public unless otherwise noted, officials said in the release.

JORDAN MILES | HERALD Newly installed banners along High Street celebrate the upcoming vice presidential debate.

Newly installed banners along High Street celebrate the upcoming vice presidential debate.

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“The debate itself — and the simultaneous public watch party on Stubbs Mall — will be the culmination of a weeks-long stretch of academic and public programming that will engage students, alumni, local residents and visitors in the historic experience of playing host to this historic event,” Longwood officials said.

Farmville Mayor David Whitus said the debate will “definitely increase” Farmville’s visibility on a national level.

“Post-debate, it should increase … Longwood’s enrollment and certainly the number of applications, which will bring more people to officials said in a separate release.

Whitus said he hopes the debate will “increase tourism” here.

“And that’s the big thing. When people on a national level hear about High Bridge and Longwood and Hampden-Sydney and all the other great natural resources we have, that long after the debate, people will want to come and visit Farmville,” Whitus said.

In the release, he added, “As the debate moves closer, you can sense what a major moment this is for our community. These projects showcase what residents already know — that Farmville is a wonderful place to live, with so much to offer.”

Officials say remaining items on the to-do list for town beautification include power washing sidewalks, trash receptacles and light poles downtown.

“In addition to several miles of repaving completed in the last two months, a few additional paving projects remain to be completed, primarily around the Longwood University campus. Farmville has received matching grant funds to support this work from the Virginia Department of Transportation,” the release stated.

A special pre-debate townwide cleanup — similar to ones held biannually in the spring and fall — is set to take place in late September, according to the town.

“While some of the beautification initiatives are cosmetic, many of them will bring value to the community long after the last media van has rolled away,” officials said in the release. “Both the repaving projects and (a) redesigned website ( are projects that serve the dual purpose of improving life for residents and helping the area put its best face forward for the debate.”

Safety is prominent on the town’s radar, officials said.

“We are coordinating with our many law enforcement partners and resources to make this event a positive, successful and safe experience for our local residents and businesses,” said Acting Farmville Police Department Chief A.Q. “Andy” Ellington. “Due to this broad-based cooperation, the town’s objective is to be fully prepared for the security challenge of hosting the nation’s only vice presidential debate of this election cycle.”

According to the release, the town has received funds from the General Assembly’s budget to aid with debate preparations, and to offset any additional costs associated with public safety. Virginia State Police are providing substantial resources and working closely with Longwood and local law enforcement officials said in the release.

“Not only are local officials and leaders ensuring Farmville looks its best, but they are also intensely focused on providing the highest standard of safety for the community and its visitors,” according to the town.

“Farmville Police, Longwood University Police and the Prince Edward County Sheriff’s Office have been working closely with regional, state and federal public safety resources to plan and prepare for all traffic and security operations related to the debate, and to provide immediate response to any non-debate-related emergency calls for service,” town officials said.

Longwood said in addition to more than 30 courses offered this fall incorporating the debate in some fashion, the university has also made funding available to each academic department to host an event around the debate. 

“From the moment nearly a year ago (when) we learned we’d been chosen to host the debate, Longwood has been determined to make the most of this opportunity for our students, alumni, and local community, and to advance our mission of shaping citizen leaders,” Longwood President W. Taylor Reveley IV said.

A full calendar of debate-related events will be maintained at, according to the release.

“We’re hoping, like I said, for increased tourism, which will certainly help the tax base,” Whitus said. “If we have more people staying here and more people eating here and all that, it certainly will enhance the tax base. But, we hope people will get see Farmville in a different light, if that makes sense. It really is a great place to live, work and play. It’s always good to have the national spotlight on you. And they’ll also see our historical resources.”