By Callie Hietala
Joe Bryant and Andrew Palmer may have different views about management of the county, but the two candidates for the Collinsville District supervisor seat are firmly united in how they view reversion.
The two squared off in a debate held at Hollywood Cinemas, filmed on a closed set by Star News and hosted by Bill Wyatt. At Wyatt’s urging, the candidates opened the hour-and-a-half-long debate by paying their opponent a compliment. Palmer congratulated Bryant on his business acumen as owner and president of Bryant Radio Supply, while Bryant told Palmer he admired his stamina during the campaign and his desire to work to better the community.
The men came together, too, when discussion turned to the issue of reversion, which both said they are firmly against.
“I have never been for reversion,” Bryant said. When asked if he would vote to approve the Voluntary Settlement Agreement (VSA) which has been reviewed by the Commission on Local Government (CLG), which both city and county both need to do to move reversion forward, he said he would not. “I was against it then, I’m against it now, and I will always be against it.”
Palmer said it was his understanding that if the three-judge panel rules in favor of reversion, only the city council can stop the process.
“If I’m elected and if the three-judge panel hasn’t ruled on it yet, I’m going to do everything I can to worry all five members of Martinsville City Council every day to get them to stop the process because they’re the ones that have the power. Communication is key to stop this,” Palmer said.
The next steps in the process require both city and county to hold one more public hearing on reversion and then adopt the Voluntary Settlement Agreement (VSA) by ordinance.
Bryant said that, at this point “the city council members are the only five people that can stop this,” adding that the supervisors needed to use their influence to encourage council members to do so.
Palmer said that, as he understood the issue, if a third supervisor were to join Bryant and Debra Buchanan, of the Horsepasture District, in voting against adoption of the agreement, it could delay the process, possibly even until Martinsville holds elections next year, presenting an opportunity for anti-reversion candidates for city council to be elected and put a stop to the process.
Bryant said, “100 percent.”
“We’re on the same page,” said Palmer.
Other debate topics ranged from annexation (which both men agreed would be bad for the county but speculated was a main reason for reversion) to their visions for the fate of Martinsville’s schools after reversion to Henry County Sheriff Lane Perry’s recent request for raises and bonuses to help retain law enforcement officers.
Both candidates expressed their support for first responders and law enforcement, though Palmer took issue with the way the supervisors responded to Perry’s request the day it was made. He said a more positive response was needed to indicate to Perry and his deputies, many of whom were in the meeting room, that they were supported by the supervisors.
Palmer said he would have used some of the county’s surplus funds to pay one-time bonuses to officers as a show of good faith, then begin working on finding funding for long-term raises. Bryant argued that he received word of Perry’s request a week before the supervisor’s meeting while he was busy with the ongoing Henry County Fair, and he did not have sufficient time to review or discuss it with the other supervisors before the meeting.