By Debbie Hall
Experienced leadership, dedication and the county’s success are prompting incumbent Joe Bryant to seek a fourth term to the Henry County Board of Supervisors in the November election.
“Reversion is going to affect” county and city residents, said Bryant.
“Our job is to try and negotiate the best deal for county citizens, whatever that may be. We will be doing everything we can minimize the effects on county residents. We just need to work together to work this out in a rational way,” Bryant said. If court battles are part of the equation, the costs of litigation would be expensive for both the county and the city, he added.
In terms of growing the local economy, Bryant said the county has worked with anyone and everyone to make advances in job creation and growing the tax base.
“Teamwork is how we have been able to accomplish” success on that front, he said, noting last week’s announcement that Crown Holdings, Inc. will invest $145 million to establish a manufacturing operation in Henry County. The initial investment is the largest ever announced in the county, officials have said.
That economic development announcement came on the heels of two others. The first is an expansion by Laminate Technologies, Inc. The second was by Vinton-based Advance Energy Solutions, Inc., which intends to locate a solar wind farm protection control panel operation in Henry County.
Many economic development projects announced in the county also mean additional revenue will be generated for the city, due to revenue sharing agreements in place between the two localities, Bryant said.
Interstate 73 remains a concern, and one that the board continues to work on, Bryant said. Currently, there are no new funds for the project, but it remains on the county’s radar, he added.
While the new jail will cost an estimated $70 million, Bryant said the investment was needed due to overcrowding and other issues in the current jail, which opened in 1974.
With a rated capacity of 67 inmates and 120 beds, the jail on average houses 180 inmate, with another 75-100 routinely housed in facilities outside of the area. The county must pay other localities to house inmates, he added.
Before moving forward with construction, and to ensure the county got the most bang for its buck, officials considered multiple sites in multiple areas, and compared sitework associated with each, before deciding on the former DuPont site.
The company also donated a portion of needed acreage for the new the new jail, and DuPont addressed previous environmental concerns at the site, he added.
While the price is high, Bryant said the county will save money in the long run, because construction costs have continued to rise since the project was approved.
Bryant also is keen on generating ideas for new projects.
“I was the one that introduced the thought of a county fair. I had no idea” the proposal would garner as much support as it did, Bryant said, and recalled he initially broached the subject many years ago.
At the time, “it fell over like a wet noodle,” he recalled with a chuckle. “I’ve been wanting a county fair since I first got on the board though. Now, we’re having one.”
The Henry County Fair will be held September 22 – 25 on the Martinsville Speedway grounds.
“I’m really excited about that and seeing it come” to fruition, said Bryant, 65.
“I also bring business experience to the table,” Bryant said, and added he has been the owner of Bryant Radio Supply, Inc., for 49 years. “I think my experience has helped the county.”
Bryant said he said he has relied on that business background many times during his tenure. For instance, “I am a conservative spender, always have been. I know from being in business you can’t outspend what you take in.”
Bryant said he also has learned and continues to learn many lessons while serving on the board, but one of the most important is working as a team.
“There is not one of us on the board who gets their way every time, and there is not one of us that gets things done in the county. In general terms, when one or two of us don’t get our way, it’s a done deal after we vote on it. We don’t ponder about it. We don’t have time.”
Although “the county has faced a lot of challenges in the last 10 years or so,” Bryant said he enjoys working for the betterment of county residents.
“We as a county have really struggled, but we’ve also done a lot of good things and worked through the challenges as a team,” Bryant said. “I think right now, we’ve got a good team on the board. I don’t know of a weak link we have.”
Bryant and his wife, Robin, have a daughter, Tennille Nichols, and a son, Joe “Joey” Bryant Jr. They also have grandchildren.