VACo Spotlight: Martha Hooker | Roanoke County Chairman

November 2, 2018

Q1. You’re in the middle of your first term on the Board of Supervisors, but you served for more than 20 years on the Roanoke County Planning Commission prior to your election.  Are there aspects of your current role that have surprised you?  What elements of your service on the Planning Commission prepared you best for serving in elected office?
Martha Hooker: I was appointed to the Roanoke County Planning Commission in 1992 and truly enjoyed my years of service seeing the process of community planning, including hearing from the citizens. It also gave me experience working with the Roanoke County staff and gave me a better understanding of how our local government works. I have been surprised at the behind the scenes work to build relationships and trust. I serve all citizens of Roanoke County and our votes impact them in their daily life. My years on the planning commission prepared me for working with citizens on documents and projects that will serve our community well.

Q2. You’ve taught marketing and business in the Roanoke County schools since 2002.  A marketing background seems like particularly great preparation for economic development efforts at the county level – have you found that to be the case?
MH: One of the many reasons I enjoy my job, beyond working with great staff and students, is the opportunity to get to know members of the business community and better understand how Roanoke County can serve them. Many of my students work cooperatively with business to learn workplace readiness and employability skills on the job. When I visit the students’ supervisors, I am better able to help the students understand the importance of those skills. I also work with registered apprentices who are learning specific skills to grow their employability value. I am hopeful that these programs will encourage students to choose to stay in Roanoke County beyond high school and college years. My job is another opportunity to get to know citizens who have invested their time and money in our community.

Q3. The pace of change in the business world seems to be accelerating, with new companies “disrupting” seemingly solid industries and so much competition for consumers’ attention.  How do you prepare your students for a future where change will be a constant?
MH: It is commonly known that teachers today are preparing 65% of students entering elementary school for jobs that may not yet exist. We are a fast-paced economy and students must learn to be good problem solvers and creative thinkers. Education used to be more about recall but now education is more about process and thinking outside the box. Teachers are encouraged to give interdisciplinary lessons where students can see the connections across subjects. We no longer live in silos.

Q4. In your view, what are the biggest challenges and opportunities facing Roanoke County in the next ten years?
MH: Roanoke County’s biggest challenge is to maintain our quality lifestyle and low-cost of living without raising taxes. We have an aging population that lives on a fixed income and we need more young people deciding to live, work and play in Roanoke County. We are working regionally to attract new industry while maintaining our current businesses. Our outdoor adventure culture has been taking off and growing in popularity among residents and visitors. The Appalachian Trail, Blue Ridge Parkway, Explore Park, our IMBA Silver-rated mountain bike trails, the many green ways and popular Roanoke River are all attracting a new vibrant community.

Q5. What are the must-do activities for a first-time visitor to Roanoke County?
MH: A first-time visitor to Roanoke County must hike the Appalachian Trail to McAfee’s Knob, Dragon’s Tooth and Tinker Cliffs (The Triple Crown) to have a real understanding of the beauty of this area. Mountain bikers will love our trails at Explore Park and Carvins Cove for all levels of experienced riders. All seasons are beautiful but the fall colors are my favorite. It is incredible!

VACo Contact: Katie Boyle

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