Budgetary concerns and the financial health of Carroll County are at the forefront of the agenda for both Republican candidates in the race for the Laurel Fork District seat to the Carroll County Board of Supervisors.
Incumbent Joshua Hendrick and challenger Joe Neil Webb are facing off in Laurel Fork in the Republican Primary set to be held June 13. Because it is an off year for Constitutional Officers, the countywide primary this year will piggyback off the Virginia State Primaries for Governor and Lt. Governor. And since voters must make a choice to vote for the Republican or Democratic parties in the state primary, those wishing to vote in the countywide Republican Primary must ask for a Republican ballot at the polls. No Democrats will appear in the countywide primary this year.
Hendrick is in his sixth year serving as Carroll County’s Laurel Fork District Supervisor. He served as the board’s chairman in 2016 and has served on Carroll County’s Budget Committee for the last three years. During that time, Hendrick has worked tirelessly to help the county come up with a balanced budget while trying not to raise taxes, yet still maintaining the same level of services.
The current budget is the first one since Hendrick has been on the committee that the county didn’t have to use Carroll’s fund balance to balance the budget. That has resulted in a tax increase, but Hendrick said the county’s cash flow was at a point where it was the only option. Being fiscally responsible for the county has always been at the top of Hendrick’s agenda, and it is something he’d like to continue if re-elected.
“You deal with challenges where you have to make hard decisions and do the financially-responsible thing of a tax increase to stabilize the county. We also made every cost cut we could before implementing that measure. That was across the board, every department had to do some crosscutting last year,” Hendrick said. “The current budget was the same way. We took every cost-cutting measure possible we could come up with. There definitely have been some challenges that have been created that occurred before I was on the board and now we are trying to play catch-up with some of the deferred payments and things like that. Over the past couple of years, we definitely got a better grip on debt service and a plan to get us to about 2021 or 2022 when debt starts rolling off the books, which will help tremendously.”
Hendrick said he predicted the county’s current financial crisis when he first ran for office in 2011. He knew then Carroll would be facing financial difficulties in 2016 because that is when the QSCB payments for Phase III construction at Carroll County’s high school and middle school would become due, as well as many of the Public Service Authority’s project payments. With that in mind, he wanted to run again to see those things through when many of those debt service payments beginning coming off the books.
“Absolutely, I called my shot then that in 2016 we would have budget issues preparing for the Fiscal Year 2017 budget, and that is exactly when it hit. My vote was just one out of six, but all the measures we have done while I have been on the board, all the money spent was for economic development and we are starting to see a return on that money. We have Vanguard in there at the industrial park. Classic Creation was part of the money we spent, an active economic development project that is doing very well. I would like to be here when we get through our budget crunch, which unless state funding changes will be 2021 or 2022.”
Hendrick said the board has taken measures during his time to work heavily with the school system, sheriff’s office and treasurer to get the county budget better under control. Carroll has also been more aggressive in collecting delinquent taxes and working with the Blue Ridge Crossroads Economic Development Authority for economic development.
“It definitely takes a long time to take strides in this direction, but with folks working together more with the same goal in mind, we are providing the most services we can for the least amount of expense,” Hendrick said. “Another area of mine I’ve been trying to push is improving planning for capital improvement projects and we are making strides in that area. Another major accomplishment we have had over the past six years is the installation of the natural gas line. It helped secure 200 jobs with Mohawk, was able to provide service for some residential folks, and we’ve got the county complex hooked up to it. Those have all worked out very beneficial for Carroll County.”
Webb, 63, is a lifelong resident of Carroll County. Married to the former Bonnie Dwyer, the couple has two sons, Brian and Brandon, and two granddaughters. A 1972 graduate of Carroll County High School, Webb has associates degrees from Wytheville Community College in drafting and design technology and machine technology. Webb has been a machinist his entire adult life other than a nine-year tenure of teaching high school machine technology at the Wythe County Technology Center.
Webb said he is a Christian and attends Christ Chapel in Galax. Among his civic duties include a 20-year stint as a volunteer firefighter for the Hillsville Volunteer Fire Department from 1978-1998. He also served as a fire instructor with the Virginia Department of Fire Programs. Webb is also a member of the Hillsville Masonic Lodge #193 and a member of Kazim Shriner Temple in Roanoke, a member of the Grayson/Carroll Shrine Club, and a member of the Kazim Hillbilly Parade Unit.
Webb said he is running for local office because he wants to give people a choice.
“I’m a firm believer this country was founded on choices. I’ve never run for political office before, but I filed to give the people of the Laurel Fork District a choice of who they wanted to represent them for the next four years,” Webb said.
Webb said chief among his concerns are the county’s budget, the public school system and public safety.
“I’m very concerned at the current budget and the fact that even the auditor in the February meeting said the county’s financial health is in decline. I’m very interested in trying to work with the board and trying to get Carroll County’s financial health back above treading water,” Webb said. “I am very interested in the public school system. That is the backbone of any community. My wife is a teacher in the Carroll County system, just finishing up her 38th year teaching in Carroll. Another thing my heart is in is public safety. I’m a firm believer in making sure our fire and rescue squads have what they need to protect the citizens.”
Webb said he also wants to work toward more economic development and bringing more jobs to Carroll County to strengthen the tax base and take some of the real estate and personal property burden off the citizens.
“We’re sitting on an industrial park at Exit 19 that is ready to go. We need to court some big companies to go in there and put our citizens back to work,” Webb said. “I’m also a firm supporter of agriculture. Probably over 50 percent of Carroll County is agricultural. It is a big staple and I want to protect those people and make sure nothing happens to their industry and business.”
Webb said he would certainly appreciate everyone’s vote and support, but they will still be friends even if they don’t vote for him. He said he is not interested in making the supervisor’s race a mudslinging battle.
“It goes back to my theory of I want the people to have a choice and if they are tickled with government, then by all means put the candidate back in. If they are not happy with what is going on, I don’t have all the answers, but one thing I would like to do is have community meetings should I become a supervisor.”
Webb said he would like to have community meetings once a quarter at Laurel Fork’s three polling areas (Carroll County High School, Laurel Fork Fire Department, and Gladesboro School) to bring back information about what is going on in the county and with the board. He also wants them to be meetings where he can listen to the citizens.
“I want to give the government, the business of the county, back to the people. They are the ones paying the bill, and to be the supervisor, I am their liaison, their go between. And please, whoever you vote for, just get out and vote and do your constitutional duty.”
Allen Worrell can be reached at (276) 779-4062 or on Twitter@AWorrellTCN