The Roanoker - July/August 2017 - 11
Mayor Sherman Lea believes we all win when we can work together for the region.
MAYOR SHERMAN LEA never thought he'd grow up to be a
come together and do what you can do to make things better...if
mayor. However, he always wanted to be involved with civics on
you're not too concerned with who's going to get credit, you can
some level, thanks to his father, a community activist. As a kid, Lea
get a lot done."
attended segregated schools and went with his father to neighborLea is close with his family, including his two adult children
hoods to encourage citizens to register to vote.
and three grandchildren. His daughter, Erica, has been a teacher at
A native of Danville, Lea and his family moved to Roanoke in
William Byrd Middle School for the last 18 years. His son, Sher1992 as a result of his promotion
man Junior, runs his own busiwith the Virginia Department
ness as the largest African-Ameriof Corrections. Upon taking his
can employer in the city and acts
as an advocate for mental health.
kids to school, Lea witnessed students running across busy HerLea and his wife Clara have
shberger Road without a crossbeen married for almost 40 years
walk or assistance. Lea wrote a
and are "movie buffs," often
spending their limited free time
letter to the principal asking for
improvements; they asked him to
together at the movie theater (Lea
join the PTA and school board.
is a "big Samuel L. Jackson fan").
Lea served five years as chairman
They are heavily involved with
their church and choir and Lea
and has a number of other civic
says nothing is more important
activities, including city council,
on his resume.
Lea is excited about Roanoke's
"I think the school board, to
me, was probably the highest
future, citing the people as his
favorite part of the community.
civic role you can have...because
"We've got good, young people
education is a foundation for everything," Lea says. "I tell everyin our community that have the
one, especially African-American
right frame of mind. That's why
kids, that education can be the
I'm optimistic. We'll do well bebig equalizer. Get your educacause of them. I want to be in a
tion, work hard and it'll take you
position where we can help peoplaces you've never been. Educaple help themselves. Get strong so
tion is something nobody can
you can go out and do what you
Mayor Sherman Lea is excited about Roanoke's future,
take away from you."
need to do."
including stronger relationships with regional neighbors.
With his first year as mayor comEven the challenges of his position
pleted, Lea credits many successes to his team and council. He's
can't bring him down. He defines his leadership style as "customer
passionate about helping those in poverty, especially children who
service," wanting to listen to people and their issues. His phineed free lunches or worry about where to stay that night rather
losophy is "a new day brings new hope" and even when you get
than pay attention in class. He's interested in helping entrepreknocked down, you get back up and stay committed.
neurs succeed with their small businesses. He also lists regional"I wouldn't do it if I didn't feel like I was making a difference,"
ism as a significant accomplishment. He tries to meet monthly or
he says. "But I care about what happens in this city. I like the diat least quarterly with the Roanoke County Board of Supervisors
rection we're headed, the people in it, and we have a lot of potenand the Salem mayor.
tial...it isn't rocket science, it's just talking to each other! It's why
"It's about the valley, not just the city or one area...we're reachI work hard and make these meetings with community leaders so
ing out and have a regional partnership that's helping us," says
we stay in focus and think about what we can do together. We can
Lea. "We can do more together than we can separately. I ask evcompromise, but we win when we come together."
eryone to take a part. No one entity will fix the problems. Let's
JULY/AUGUST 2017 | 11