Eric Phillips hopes to use his business, budget, and political expertise to guide Henry County through the process of reversion which is, he said, the biggest challenge currently faced by the county.
Phillips is one of four candidates running for the Iriswood district seat on the Henry County Board of Supervisors. Eric Bowling, Garrett Dillard, and Billy “Dean” White also are seeking the post.
Phillips said he entered the race because he believes he is uniquely qualified to help lead the county through the reversion process which, though he is against it, he believes is inevitable at this point.
Reversion is the reason he entered the race and “is the number one challenge facing the county because it presents a number of secondary challenges,” Phillips said.
The challenges include a potential tax increase for county residents to help pay for costs related to reversion (everything from the transfer and care of the city’s inmates to the transition of city data and documents to an increase in those the county would be required to provide basic services to) as well as future annexation, which could take away tax revenues from the county and, again, lead to a double town and county tax for residents of the annexed areas, he said.
“I am a business owner, I have a lot of large budget experience, I’ve been in executive management of Fortune 500 companies. It’s what I’m good at, it’s what I know. The only reason I’m running is because, of the four” candidates, “I am the most qualified person to help the county throughout that process to do as little harm and have as little impact on our citizens as possible.
As Phillips sees it, the only two ways to pay for reversion are cutting services or raising taxes. He hopes to help mitigate any negative effects to county residents by lobbying representatives in Richmond for state funds to help cover the county’s costs.
Since the Commission on Local Government (CLG) report found that Martinsville’s reversion to a town is in the best interests of the Commonwealth, Phillips feels that the state should help pay for the process. As chairman of the Martinsville-Henry County Republican party, he feels he already has the connections to successfully lobby for funding, though he hopes the current supervisors have already begun the process.
While he sees a difficult road ahead with reversion, Phillips thinks the county has done well with its finances and economic development, which he said was a multi-pronged achievement involving several entities working together.
He applauded the county’s AA bond rating, and the cash reserves it has built up, though he said some of that was only achieved due to an influx of federal COVID money.
Additionally, Phillips said he is passionate about citizen involvement and transparency in local government.
“This whole (reversion) process has been too much done behind closed doors. I don’t feel like it’s been nearly transparent enough,” he said.
If elected, Phillips would schedule monthly or, at least, quarterly interviews with each local media outlet to discuss upcoming issues on the supervisors’ agenda, let the public know what’s going on currently, and help clarify any issues.
He also advocates for a change in the way the supervisor meetings are conducted. Phillips said he takes issue with the way the current supervisors seemingly discuss and decide how to handle issues behind closed doors rather than in public. He alleged that everything, including which supervisor will make a particular motion, is decided before the public meeting begins.
“I think the public has a right to hear how the decisions are made, not just the final decision,” Phillips said.
He added that he prefers supervisors respond to public comments, rather than listening. Not receiving a response dis-incentivizes residents to comment. Phillips said he also would support several meetings each year devoted to supervisors responding to questions, comments, and issues brought up by the public.
He added that he has done his due diligence and is ready to hit the ground running on day one, should he be elected. Not only has he already discussed issues with current supervisors and delegates, but he believes he is politically savvy enough to know how to get the best deal for Henry County.
“I think I’m the most qualified and the most experienced person running for the Iriswood seat and my only reason for running is I want to help make Henry County the best place, to live, work, and raise a family in all of Southside and Southwest Virginia.”