By Callie Hietala
Andrew Palmer, a candidate for the Collinsville District seat on the Henry County Board of Supervisors, believes that relationships will help solve the biggest issue currently facing Henry County—reversion. “We have got to get along better with the members of city council and see if we can try to get on some common ground,” said Palmer, who is running against incumbent supervisor Joe Bryant.
Palmer said he believes if city and county officials started the reversion process on a level playing field, “the process would have been a lot simpler.”
He said he has already built good working relationships with some city council members as well as Virginia legislators.
“We need proven leadership that can guide Henry County through the process of reversion to make sure we are getting our fair share, that the city doesn’t run all over us,” he said, adding that “the way that the legislation is written for a city to revert to a town in the Commonwealth of Virginia is bad legislation. It is not fair.”
Though it may be too late for Henry County, “I want to make sure that as a supervisor, I’m staying plugged in with our Virginia legislators that represent us in Richmond” in part to change that legislation to help other localities that might have to confront reversion in the future, he said.
Budgeting and taxes are another huge challenge, Palmer said.
“We need somebody that can look at this budget, cut out wasteful spending, and keep this budget as conservative as we can get it,” he said, adding that it seems to him money is currently being spent in certain areas that would be better directed to elsewhere, including making sure Henry County deputies receive fair and competitive pay.
However, Palmer said he wants to make sure he provides for first responders without having to raise taxes for county residents.
One way he sees to tackle the issue is through a program rewarding fiscal conservation, he said. When the Board of Supervisors gives money to institutions like the public school system and sheriff’s office, any money that is not spent reverts to the county.
“It’s my understanding that if they don’t use all of it, it goes back to Henry County and then they (the county) can do something else with that money,” Palmer said, adding that he preferred to create a program through which institutions like those mentioned are rewarded for saving, hopefully moving away from the mentality that every penny given to a department has to be spent in that budget year.
“If they don’t spend all of their allocation, let them have it and roll it over to their budget for next year,” he said. That way, “if the county gives them the same amount of money as we gave the year before, they’ve already got a surplus” because of the money saved from the previous year.
During his time knocking on doors and talking to residents during his campaign, Palmer said he discovered many feel they do not have a voice in their local government, and that most decisions made by the county are made without representation from taxpayers.
He wants to see more public involvement in the process. “I want to make sure to be a voice for the residents of Collinsville,” he added.
Palmer would like to see supervisor meetings filled up with residents who are engaged and participating. If elected, he plans to host quarterly town hall meetings, centrally located in Collinsville, to let residents know what the county government is doing and to hear what his constituents would like to see get done.
“We have to be 100 percent transparent,” Palmer said. “There’s too much that goes on in county government without the citizens or taxpayers being informed.” He hopes the town hall meetings will help people feel like they are being heard.
To increase transparency and public involvement, Palmer said he would like to explore changing the date and time of the supervisors’ meetings, which are currently held on the fourth Tuesday of each month at 3 and 6 p.m. with a closed-session meeting in between. Much of the business of the supervisors takes place at the 3 p.m. meeting, which is difficult for many to attend if they work regular hours.
Also, Palmer said, “I think it’s poor practice for us to have our meetings the same day (Martinsville City Council) is having theirs.”
City council meetings begin at 7 p.m., making it difficult for those who own property or businesses in both city and county to attend both meetings. Palmer proposes holding the monthly meetings on a different day to avoid overlap with the city and moving the time of the meetings to make them more accessible to the public.
While Palmer commends the county on the work it has done constructing and attracting business to Commonwealth Crossing, he feels the county needs “more representation to attract retailers, restaurants, and housing” to the area. “It’s great to strike a deal with a manufacturer that will hire 350 people, but we have to have somewhere for (those workers) to live, somewhere for them to eat, and somewhere for them to shop.”
He said that, as he sees it, county and economic development officials are not concerned about providing any of those resources when working to attract new businesses, so employees are living and spending their tax dollars in other communities while commuting to Henry County to work.
Palmer said he has experience bringing restaurants and retailers to the area and helping with development from the ground up.
He said what separates him from his competitor is that Palmer will be more aggressive in recruiting these types of businesses to the area and helping them get established. Since he has done this type of work in the private sector, “I see how hard it is for these people to get what they need done through the county government side.
“I see the complications and I want to be a voice for the people so I can spur more development,” Palmer said, adding that “a vote for Andrew Palmer is a vote to give you a voice on the Henry County Board of Supervisors.”