By Brandon Martin
Garrett Dillard will be one of four candidates vying for the Iriswood position on the Henry County Board of Supervisors this November.
Dillard, 50, is a native of Sandy Level and has dedicated almost 30 years of his life to education. As he looks to serve the community in a different capacity, Dillard said he will be set on “revisioning” the county.
“What makes me the right candidate is I’m a proven community leader, I’ve worked hard within my own community,” Dillard said. “I see myself as a visionary and as someone that is forward-thinking and future-oriented. I’m someone who is looking for solutions and I’m not someone that is looking to magnify the problems.”
Dillard said that he decided to enter the race to keep the county on the right track.
“This is an opportunity to work with the community and the rest of the board to keep Henry County moving in the right direction,” he said. “It’s an opportunity to be a voice for the citizens of the Iriswood District.”
A major portion of being that voice will include a renewed focus on the basics, Dillard said.
“I think there are some foundational things that we want to see improved,” he said. “Without dealing with those foundational things, it’s tough to do some of the more large-scale things.”
Dillard said a foundational item would be working to eradicate the drug and crime problems in the community.
“One way to help reduce drugs and crime in the area is to have a citizen board where people from different parts of the community meet with law enforcement, the Board of Supervisors and other agencies,” he said. “They can share the issues that exist within their communities and we can work together in those separate entities to find solutions to those problems.”
Along with more public input, Dillard said he would like to equip law enforcement with the tools they need to do the job correctly.
“Another thing is working with Sheriff Perry and finding out what it is his agency is lacking,” he added. “Do they need more up-to-date resources? Is pay an issue that causes us to not have enough deputies or the best-trained deputies? We need to make sure that we are providing them with what they need so they can do their job to the best of their ability.”
Dillard said that the schools are another vital partnership in the fight to reduce drugs and crime in the area.
“We should also be working with the schools to find out how we can create programs to start kids out when they are young to make them aware of the dangers of drugs, alcohol, crime and violence,” he said.
Through having these conversations, Dillard is hoping to uncover the root causes of the issue.
“Are people selling drugs because they are trying to make a living since their wages aren’t enough? Are they doing it just because they are bored? Maybe we need to put up some recreation centers and create spaces for kids to go and stay active,” Dillard said. “Are people using drugs because they are bored and just looking for things to do? If that’s the case, then we need to find ways to engage our youth so they will choose other options besides drugs and alcohol.”
By solving these issues, Dillard said other areas of concern will also be addressed.
“We need to work with education and the sheriff’s department to improve in those areas, so we can do things to attract businesses here,” he said. “Those types of things need to be addressed so businesses feel good about moving operations here.”
Dillard said that he views growing the economy as a persistent goal of any governmental organization. In his capacity, Dillard would try to set the community up for the future.
“We’re looking for some of those 21st century, higher paying jobs that require certain skills,” Dillard said. “In the medical field, there are lots of 21st century job opportunities. Think of jobs that require software and computer knowledge. There are so many modern jobs. We lost a big part of our economy when textiles and furniture were hurt years ago so we’ve got to revolutionize and bring other types of jobs into the community that are going to sustain us and be here for a while.”
While Dillard has his own ideas for how to make the county better, he said he would also like to hear other voices as well.
“I want to empower our citizens,” he said. “I think that we have a very good community and county. I want to empower our citizens so they are more involved in our process. They should have a say in local government issues.”
The most pressing issue moving forward will be reversion, but Dillard said he would like to look at it more as a revision.
“Part of my platform is going to be revisioning Henry County,” he said. “The county has very little to say as to whether reversion happens or not. Martinsville City controls that, so what we have to start thinking about is, if this is heading in that direction, what are the positives about reversion?”
Dillard said he recognizes the significant challenges that the county will face but he is also thinking about how to make the process work for the betterment of the area as well.
“Is the treasury going to grow and will there be more money to create opportunities? Can we use some of that additional tax money to do some of these projects that have been sitting on the table,” Dillard said. “People are worried about jobs. If the school systems merge and you end up having to cut teaching positions, is it feasible that the county would offer some early retirement incentives for some of those at the end of the ladder so that those that are just getting into education can keep their jobs?
“We can have those conversations and make the outcomes as best as we can for everybody so we aren’t going into it as it’s them versus us because it really isn’t,” Dillard said. “It’s them becoming part of us.”
Dillard and his wife LaTonda have three children: Caleb, Ciara, and Cadence. He graduated from Laurel Park High School and received his bachelor’s degree from Radford University and a master’s degree from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. During his down time, Dillard likes to play and coach basketball as well as write poetry.