The Henry County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday was introduced to lobbyists from Cozen O’Conner Public Strategies, which will help ensure the county’s legislative agenda is heard with the Virginia General Assembly.
County Administrator Dale Wagoner described the lobbyists as the “boots on the ground in Richmond,” when introducing Julia Hammond and Heidi Hertz, of the firm.
Hammond said she has spent her career around the Virginia General Assembly “in the public sector working for members of the General Assembly, delegates in their offices, I was the lobbyist for” former governor Bob McDonnell.”
Hammond said Cozen has many different clients, including businesses, non-profits, healthcare, and local
businesses. Their Virginia office is based in Richmond.
Hertz is from Lunenberg County, Virginia and joined Cozen in January. She said she has worked in many sectors with state agencies, but most recently within former Gov. Ralph Northam’s administration as Deputy Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry.
In updating their efforts during the upcoming General Assembly session that begins January 11, “We are in the throes of session preparation. We have a little housekeeping business to do before it starts. We have two special elections coming up. One, to fill the seat for Del. Mark Keam in Northern Virginia who joined the Biden Administration, and then the senate seat vacated by Sen. Jen Kiggans,” Hammond said.
She predicted there will also be one if not two more additional special elections before session ends,
which is roughly the end of February.
Hammond said the firm keeps an eye out on news that affects the county when making decisions about
lobbying tactics and focuses.
“We will keep an eye to make sure any impacts to Henry County are positive,” she said, and added that “this week, the biggest news will be delivered by the governor when he delivers his budget to the joint
“He’s been very slowly rolling out some of those items. Some of the biggest ones of note for Henry County is the $350 million he plans to invest in site ready initiatives. He has also been kind of slow rolling out the workforce readiness changes. There will have to be a lot of budget items on that too,” Hammond said.
Hertz reiterated Wagoner’s ‘boots on the ground’ comment.
“We will be watching for any of the items that are in your legislative package when they show up in the
variety of different forms that they will. We’ll be watching in education for the New College Institute,
looking to lean in and support whenever the discussions lean that way,” Hertz said.
“Throughout session, we will be providing Dale and however you’d like us to disseminate information on
bill tracking, budget items, where they stand in the process,” Hammond said. “There may be questions that you get from constituents on completely unrelated things to what is included in the legislative package.”
Iriswood district board member Garrett Dillard asked how the lobbyists will ensure that Henry County’s
voice is heard just as much as those in areas like Northern Virginia and the Tidewater.
Hammond said that those areas do indeed have more legislators, but rural Virginia has two things going
“You have very passionate, very senior members of the House and Senate, and they hold a great deal
of sway, and we are friends and have worked with them. You also have through this administration, not
just the governor, but his appointees. They understand that rural Virginia did really deliver the
Commonwealth to Governor Youngkin and his team, and they are constantly looking for opportunities to show their thanks and their gratitude,” she said.
In other matters, the board:
Heard a report from the accounting firm of Creedle, Jones and Alga, P.C., which gave an unmodified opinion on its audit of the county’s financial records for the fiscal year that ended on June 30, 2022.
Kim Jackson, a representative of the firm, told the board that an unmodified opinion means the county adhered to the Government Auditing Standards issued by the Comptroller General of the United States. A review of financial statements found that the unassigned fund balance increased by $696,431 during the year, bringing the overall unassigned fund balance to $32,476,297. The unassigned fund balance is similar to a savings account.
The county’s financial policy requires it to maintain a minimum unassigned fund balance. The county has now exceeded that minimum by $9.1 million. Revenues from governmental activities outpaced expenditures during the fiscal year by approximately $5.7 million. Total revenues for the year were about $72.3 million. General property taxes comprise the largest source of those revenues, making up about 41.89 percent of all government activities revenue.
The total cost of all governmental activities for the fiscal year was nearly $66.6 million, with law enforcement and public safety among the county’s largest. Expenses totaled $21,199,420. Education, which totals about $17.6 million, represented the second largest expense.
- Approved a one-time $1,000 stipend for full-time County employees using savings realized from unpaid salaries for vacant positions.
- Approved two categorical transfers from the school’s budget to purchase five school buses, two passenger vans and to increase the school’s fuel budget. Transfers to the Pupil Transportation category included $888,600 from the Instruction category and $210,000 from the Administration, Attendance and Health category.
- Approved an additional appropriation of $1,491,500 received from the Harvest Foundation for the County’s universal broadband project.
- Scheduled the board’s 2023 Organizational Meeting for Jan. 9 at 5 p.m.
- Conducted a public hearing and adopted an electrical fee schedule for solar building permits.
- Conducted a public hearing and denied a request to rezone approximately 2-acres of the Blackberry District from Suburban Residential District to Commercial District.
- Appointed Curtis Millner to the Public Service Authority Board of Directors for a four-year term scheduled to end on January 5, 2027, and reappointed Stuart Bowman to the same term.
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