Economic development and the need for additional police patrols are two common themes of the three Republican candidates in the race for the Fancy Gap District seat on the Carroll County Board of Supervisors.
With incumbent supervisor Phil McCraw not seeking re-election due to health issues, candidates Ronnie G. Collins, G. Greg Spencer, and Phillip R. McCraw (no relation to the current supervisor) will all be on the ballot 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.
Collins is the pastor of Hillsville’s Out of the Box Worship Center and the former Executive Director of the Joy Ranch Home for Children. Collins is a 1983 graduate of Carroll County High School and 2004 graduate of Liberty University. He also graduated from Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary with a Master of Arts Degree in 2010.
Collins has worked in many walks of life in his professional career, beginning as a dish washer before moving up to assistant manager for Western Steer in Mount Airy, N.C. and manager of 8 Day Jiffy Mart in Cana and Howard Johnson Hotel in Wytheville. His career in ministry began in 1991 and has continued ever since.
Collins said he is running for supervisor because he wants to continue to serve the community, but in a greater capacity than he is already doing.
“I already serve in the role of pastor and I feel I am called to serve my community and not just my congregation. We are already doing that in some ways through our Recovery Ministry and things of that nature,” Collins said. “I want to offer a work ethic – I consider myself an entrepreneur. I like to start things and grow things. I think our county will have to look at ways to increase revenue and increase services to our citizens without raising taxes. And in order to do that we are going to have go out and find businesses. They are not going to come to us, we have to go to them.”
Collins said he wants to see Carroll County capitalize on the large amount of “prime real estate” it has for business. He noted the Lambsburg exit off Interstate 77 has huge potential, especially with increased water capacity coming. He said neighboring Mount Airy, N.C. has built a goldmine off its connections to Andy Griffith, and Carroll County should capitalize off that as well.
“Cana and Fancy Gap have a lot of potential, all the way up (U.S.) 52 from Cana through Hillsville, really, but especially Fancy Gap. So many of our fruit markets have shut down and gone. But there is a great number of people coming to live on the parkway in summer homes and things of that nature,” Collins said. “I think there is potential there for a great deal of things we are missing. There is just so much that could be developed as far as 4-wheeling and all kinds of things. If there is some way to make money off that, we need to look at that. There is just a lot of potential we are not capitalizing on.”
Collins said when he ran the Howard Johnson Hotel in Wytheville, he was behind Cracker Barrel’s decision to locate to the city. They didn’t come looking for Wytheville, he went after the restaurant. He’d like to offer that same kind of business savvy to Carroll County.
“They said they had looked at Wytheville before and it was nothing they liked. I said, ‘Why don’t you come and look at what we have got,’ and in the end they got the land from the hotel,” Collins said. “I didn’t negotiate the deal, but I got them there. You just can’t sit and wait for those people to come. They are looking for opportunities all the time, but sometimes they just don’t know where to look.”
Another thing Collins said he’d like to accomplish as supervisor is to bring the community back together. Tops among that list would be getting back to holding community meetings once or twice year to listen to concerns of the citizens of the district.
“I don’t think I can clearly represent the people if I don’t talk to them – them hearing what I have to say and for me to hear what they have to say is a way to find cures for the problem. That hasn’t been done in years (in the district),” Collins said. “We had a meeting with (Sheriff) J.B. Gardner (at St. Paul School). We didn’t solve anything there, but we came away with a group of individuals dedicated to finding a solution to the problem.”
Collins said he’d also like to look into live-streaming board of supervisors meetings on the internet. The cost of doing that is very cheap and it also would allow more people to be involved in local government.
Spencer was born and raised in Carroll County, going to school at Lambsburg and St. Paul before graduating from Hillsville High School in 1968. He served his country from 1969-1971 in the Army’s Signal Corps before finishing his military career as a Specialist 4th Class. Spencer then went to work as an electrician, spending 28 years with Corn Products International in Winston-Salem, N.C. before retiring in 2012. He and his wife Carla are both members of New Beginnings Church, where he sits on the board of directors, serves as a Deacon, serves as a Bible teacher, and travels doing mission work in Nicaragua and South Africa.
Spencer said the reason he chose to run is because he is concerned about the community and he wants to be a voice for the people of the Fancy Gap District and Carroll County as a whole. He believes it’s a great opportunity to voice those concerns.
“I am concerned about how things are. Are things really wrong? Not necessarily, but is there room for improvement I think always,” Spencer said. “One of the things I would like to work on if elected is having a deputy not only in my district, but a deputy in my district 24/7.”
He noted citizens of the Fancy Gap District, particularly near Wards Gap, voiced their concerns at the St. Paul meeting with Sheriff Gardner about illegal drug trafficking going on in that area that they didn’t feel was getting the proper amount of attention. Because of that, having the presence of an officer in the district at all times is at the top of his priority list. Spencer said he is not a law man, but his brother-in-law, former Carroll County Sgt. Jay Williams, served 27 years in law enforcement in the county, so he does have a feel for it.
“If the residents of this county are feeling threatened, serious actions are going on in front of them and not being addressed to their satisfaction, that’s a concern I feel needs to be addressed. That would rise to the top of my list,” Spencer said. “Economics, policy and management are three other important areas I would focus on coming into office in this county. As good as a county can be run, there is always room for improvement.”
On the positive side of things, Spencer said he thinks the current supervisors are doing a good job dealing with the hand they were dealt. They weren’t handed an ideal situation and are dealing with a lot of debt incurred by the county. He also believes Carroll is doing well, per capita, for county government employees. Additionally, he has heard state representatives and a state senator say Carroll County High School is one of the top rated high schools in the state and the top-rated high school in Southwest Virginia.
“Virginia Tech calls upon CCHS for their expertise in the agricultural area and I was really impressed with that. So there a lot of things we are doing right and some things that need improvement,” Spencer said. “Mr. McCraw is not running again because of health issues. I want to step in because I feel like he has done a lot of good and I would like to carry on in his footsteps.”
Phillip R. McCraw lives on Brushy Fork Road in Cana. He was born and raised in the house next door, where he has farmed and raised cattle most of his life. McCraw, 72, graduated from Hillsville High School in 1963. McCraw is a member and Sunday School teacher at Oak Ridge Baptist Church in Cana. He and his wife, who passed away six years ago, have three children – two daughters who are nurses with Novant in Winston-Salem, and a son, who works for an automotive company in Winston-Salem. McCraw worked 40 years as a bread man with Kerns Bakery and Sara Lee before retiring at the age of 62.
“I was a bread man and fooled with cows and didn’t get to spend a lot of time with my wife or the children, but she was blessed to not have to work a job with me working two,” McCraw said. “I have been blessed to have a wonderful life.”
McCraw said there were several factors in his decision to run for supervisor. He said the county’s comprehensive plan looped him and many of his neighbors into a bit of a “zoned area,” causing disadvantages to those in farming in that area. He wants to resolve that issue to offer his neighbors some relief. McCraw said there are other issues with the county’s subdivision ordinance which were never addressed that also have caused some problems. He’d like to work on that as well.
“If elected, taxes is another thing I would love to see as low as we can have with the services provided we need,” McCraw said. “I would just more or less like to do for the county and our citizens what needs to be done to keep everything operating as efficiently as we can and as economical as we can. We have to have our schools and services provided for the citizens. Keeping the costs as low as we can and providing the services is a major priority with me.”
McCraw said he would also like to see citizens have more input in some of the decisions made by the board of supervisors and the Public Service Authority (PSA).
“Those boards are just scapegoats really,” McCraw said. “You can’t hold them accountable. If elected, I would probably try to be on the PSA as well.”
Allen Worrell can be reached at (276) 779-4062 or on Twitter@AWorrellTCN