NEW KENT – As he pointed out the window of his restored 17th-century plantation house, John Poindexter asked a visitor to pay particular attention to the bend of the Pamunkey River. An old painting on his office wall shows the same curve in 1862, with about 100,000 Union soldiers camped alongside it.
A Texas-born industrialist and Vietnam veteran who owns a commercial truck and van manufacturing company, Poindexter says it was his strong sense of history that drew him to New Kent County, where his distant ancestors were among the first settlers. He dreams of one day buying Criss Cross, the cross-shaped house George Poindexter – a merchant, planter and ship owner – built in the late 1600s.
“It’s my goal to die here,” Poindexter, 74, said in a recent interview at Cumberland Plantation, the home base of the roughly 3,500 acres he’s acquired since 2012 as part of his return to New Kent. “It’s a heritage that matters to me.”
He’s not just interested in conserving New Kent’s past. He wants to shape its future.
Poindexter – who splits time between Virginia and Texas – is the chairman of a newly formed citizen advocacy group called Partnership for New Kent 2030, or PNK2030 for short.
In pursuit of its vision of “vigorous but balanced growth,” PNK2030 is backing an extensive slate of candidates in local elections in November, from the Board of Supervisors down to soil and water conservation district director. The group also registered a political action committee in order to be able to spend directly in county elections.
The partnership – which has a few dozen core members – says it wants to push the fast-growing county to adopt forward-thinking planning strategies. The group says expanding broadband internet access is a top priority, a step that could lure more businesses and commercial tax revenue. On its website, the organization says it has no partisan affiliation and “does not seek personal power for its members.”
Nevertheless, the group’s emergence has stirred concerns among skeptics who perceive it as being driven by affluent newcomers with significant business and land interests in the county. And some county officials say they didn’t need outside help to start planning ahead.
PNK2030 believes New Kent’s existing comprehensive plan – a legally required document meant to guide a locality’s growth – is outdated and inadequate. To rectify perceived shortcomings, the group intends to propose its own strategic plan.
Instead of becoming a county dotted with obtrusive dollar stores, food marts and truck stops, Poindexter said, New Kent could be an “oasis,” known more for its rural charm, wineries, horses and history. His fear, he said, is that New Kent “becomes an unsupervised extension of eastern Richmond.”
“The general opinion is that we’re reactive,” Poindexter said. “Rudderless.”