Candidates for Surry Supervisors respond to Dispatch questionnaire

By: Michael Campbell | Twitter: @itsthesoup
Posted: November 2, 2019 | 3:45 p.m. 

CORRECTION: In the October 30, 2019 print edition of The Sussex-Surry Dispatch, under Question 4, a portion of candidate Michael Drewry’s response was inadvertently placed at the end of candidate Melvin Lyttle, Jr’s response. Michael Drewry’s full response to Question 4, “What are some examples of your commitment (personal and professional) to the community?” should read as follows: 

On a professional level, I have a doctorate in law which I utilize to assist local citizens and area local governments with their issues. This interaction allows me to hear the needs and ideas of area citizens and to see what is succeeding in other localities. I want to use this knowledge to bring positive ideas to our own community. Politically, I want the power to reside in the citizens. I meet with citizen groups monthly to share information and ideas. To increase awareness, I have started mailing a quarterly newsletter to district citizens. To obtain citizen ideas and thoughts, during the past year and presently, I have mailed a survey to district citizens to ask for their thoughts. In recent months, I am going to citizen homes asking for their opinions and handing out a survey. Civically each fall, my wife and I host a community picnic on our farm. We hope this is an opportunity for citizens to get to know one another better and share a meal. During the past year, my wife and I have donated food grown on our farm to local food banks and churches in the area. This included the making of over 200 quarts of Brunswick stew last winter which we passed out to district and elder citizens. We hope our efforts will result in more community spirit and unity in our locality.

Melvin Lyttle, Jr’s  full response to Question 4, “What are some examples of your commitment (personal and professional) to the community?” should read as follows: 

As a County resident, I have been the Pastor of a church in Surry where we supported some county programs and agencies that provide assistance to the needy. As my children grew older and participated in sports, I coached Rec League football, basketball and baseball for over 5 years; served over 5 years on Surry Recreation Board; as well as provide mentorship to school age children in the county and volunteered with county elderly programs and Head Start. As an employee of Surry Nuclear Power Station assisted with various Volunteer activities.

This version of the candidate questionnaire reflects the corrected response layout. We apologize for any confusion this typo caused. 

SURRY – Ahead of the November 2019 General Election, The Sussex-Surry Dispatch afforded candidates in contested races the opportunity to take part in a short questionnaire where they could all answer the same questions and have their responses printed for prospective voters.

Candidates received the questions during the same 24-hour window earlier this month with a deadline of October 17 at 5 p.m. for their responses to be returned. The questionnaire was distributed to candidates digitally and sent to the email addresses that were on file in recent Virginia Department of Elections candidate records. If a candidate did not have an email address listed, phone calls were made to the candidates to request their email address so they could receive the questionnaire.

Below are the unedited answers of Surry board of supervisors candidates who took part in the questionnaire and provided their responses by the October 17 deadline.

1. Why are you running or seeking re-election to local office?

Felicia Bailey – Carsley District: I am running because I would like to see more accountability and respect for all citizens and businesses throughout my community. Accountability for the decisions being made on how governing bodies manage taxpayer dollars; and respect for your constituency. After all, when you serve others you should be held accountable for the decisions you make on “their” behalf.

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Kenneth Holmes – Carsley District: I am running for reelection because of a commitment to the future and progress of Surry County.

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Michael Drewry – Dendron District: I am a candidate for re-election to continue to push my position that the power of local government should reside with the citizens. It is also my belief that the issues we face in our county will only be overcome through unity and all citizens participating.

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Melvin Lyttle, Jr. – Dendron District: As a member of the Surry County Board of Supervisors (Dendron District) I will do everything in my ability to work to attract and develop county businesses and job programs, assist to strengthen and rebuild our education system, strive for unification of Board Members, expand Senior Citizen Programs and improvement of County roads and highways

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Timothy Calhoun – Surry District: What I have witnessed in recent Board meetings were actions from many members sitting complacent, to open and blatant hostility from some Board members towards other Board members. As many of the citizens expressed their concerns during the monthly meetings, some Board members behavior and body language seemed to express an “I don’t care” attitude. The feeling I get from some of the current Board members is, “we will do what WE feel is right for the County”, regardless of the opinions of the county residents. Talking with many district and country residents, they have expressed the same concerns and feelings. Surry County is a changing community and it is time for change in our current County’s leadership. We need strong leaders on the Board to provide responsible government operations and business opportunities, while preserving the rural community we all love.

John Seward – Surry District: I am seeking re-election to continue in service to the people of Surry County and most specifically the Surry District. I feel that the board has made great strides in growing our community, providing needed services, and acting in a financially responsible and responsive manner to our citizens. With my twenty years of experience and local government knowledge, I feel I am the best candidate to continue to do this.

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2 – What do you feel is the most pressing issue for Surry County and how will you address it?

Bailey – Carsley: To develop or die. Those are the 2 choices that individuals have in life. Accountability, respect, communication and always being willing to learn are key to developing. It is important that we do not reject the opportunity to grow in a physically, mentally, financially/economically, and spiritually way as a community. If we do not strategically embrace development, our community will perish.

Holmes – Carsley: The two most pressing issues are increasing jobs in the county and developing better housing. This will help to increase the population of the county.

Drewry – Dendron: The issues in our community are population and school enrollment decline. Which I believe comes from the lack of amenities for citizens and lack of economic growth and jobs. The issues with our local government are that the power of decision making has been concentrated in our county administrator and county board for too long. I want the power to reside in the citizens. I believe it is the only way we will change the direction of our county. It has been said that one person can inspire but it takes a community to enact lasting change.

Lyttle, Jr. – Dendron: The future of Surry County depends on growth. I will strive to be a catalyst in working with the other government officials as well as officials in the surrounding counties to do what needs to be done to plant the seeds for that growth ensuring Surry County has a prominent and prosperous future.

Calhoun – Surry: Work to restore the Board of Supervisors to a functioning board to work in unity with each other, rebuild the Community’s faith in the Board of Supervisors and government offices and execute responsible decisions to help improve OUR County. Work to bring unity within the county.

Seward – Surry: The most pressing issue facing Surry County is its declining population. We need to take steps to encourage and help reinvigorate the community to include promoting businesses for citizens to work and shop. Economic growth in Surry is not just about creating jobs but also gaining back the needed retail markets lost in years past such as a grocery store, a hardware store and possibly a pharmacy. I believe this is where we need to focus our efforts for future growth.

3 – If elected/ re-elected, what are some of your priorities once in office?

Bailey – Carsley: One of my main priorities is to create and use tax dollars to assist with initiatives that bridge the generation gaps, specifically with our youth. Without a tactical investment in our young citizens, you truly have no future. We have to teach our youth that you can live here by choice not force. This includes providing programs in our school system and community (e.g. recreation center, library, and civic organizations) that teaches them to build their community, not tear it down. It also starts within in the walls of their homes. Family, is the heart of all communities. Providing the necessary services and opportunities for families to thrive within the walls of the community is paramount. There are a lot of things in life that are learned behaviors. What are we teaching?

Holmes – Carsley: Again my two most pressing priorities are more jobs and better housing. We lose too many of our residence as a result of these reasons.

Drewry – Dendron: I want to continue working to bring the community together and work on citizen participation. It is okay to have different ideas and to disagree. It should be done civilly and respectfully.I will advocate for every fall, citizens in each district gather to discuss and develop priorities for their district and the county. Then every January, all the participants gather to develop annual priorities that will be utilized to develop the county budget and goals for the new year. Each citizen has their own unique experiences and skills. We need citizen unity and participation to reverse the present economic and population trends in our county. Power in a few will not solve our issues. I strongly believe that power in our citizens will!

Lyttle, Jr. – Dendron: First and foremost, strengthening the Surry County Education System helps build our future leaders. These leaders stay or return to grow and build our community. With strong leadership, we can and will attract, develop and retain businesses that will create job opportunities throughout the county.

Calhoun – Surry: Conduct county business in the open. Consulting Constituents on County activities. Timely posting of county agenda, minutes and information. Provide open, honest and two-way communication with my district, Board Members and county residents. Make every opportunity possible for the residents to communicate with me and I with them. Strong financial reporting, Ensuring accurate and only needed expenditures, Spending within the county’s means. Work with the Board Members to accurately prioritize the itemized budget to safeguard the spending is within the county’s means.  For any expenditure that is requested for new projects, the Board should assure a positive return on investment before approval.  Not spend monies unwisely.  Ensure no tax increase(s). Economic Development: Actively seek it, Responsible incentives, Welcoming approach. Proactive counties change their prosperity and halt their population decline through creative, financially-sound and sustained economic development initiatives.  Key steps in this direction include bringing broadband access to a much broader area of our community and creating a welcoming business environment that actively attracts and pursues business investment in our county.  This will result in increased job creation and financial stability for county residents and local government alike.

Seward – Surry: If I am re-elected, I will work with the other Board members to do the best job we can with the funds available to provide the needed infrastructure such as water, wastewater treatment, broadband service, and more to attract businesses and people to both stay in and come to Surry. The current Board has accomplished much of this by successfully negotiating with HRSD for our wastewater treatment, securing two county owned water systems, and funding both wireless and fiber broadband service.

4 – What are some examples of your commitment (personal and professional) to the community?

Bailey – Carsley: To continue to be a voice for our youth. To continue to uphold my moral standards that are fair, unbought, and unbiased. To assist with holding the leaders and professionals in Surry County accountable for their actions and decisions that directly and indirectly impact the whole county. To connect with resources on the local, state, federal, and private levels that will help give more opportunities to our citizens. As stated by George Bernard Shaw, “I am in the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community and as long as I live, it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can”. My passion is for the betterment of my community.

Holmes – Carsley: I supported the state of the art library, I supported the purchase of the waterfront property and the development of the industrial park. I am a strong supporter of our public schools.

Drewry – Dendron: On a professional level, I have a doctorate in law which I utilize to assist local citizens and area local governments with their issues. This interaction allows me to hear the needs and ideas of area citizens and to see what is succeeding in other localities. I want to use this knowledge to bring positive ideas to our own community. Politically, I want the power to reside in the citizens. I meet with citizen groups monthly to share information and ideas. To increase awareness, I have started mailing a quarterly newsletter to district citizens. To obtain citizen ideas and thoughts, during the past year and presently, I have mailed a survey to district citizens to ask for their thoughts. In recent months, I am going to citizen homes asking for their opinions and handing out a survey. Civically each fall, my wife and I host a community picnic on our farm. We hope this is an opportunity for citizens to get to know one another better and share a meal. During the past year, my wife and I have donated food grown on our farm to local food banks and churches in the area. This included the making of over 200 quarts of Brunswick stew last winter which we passed out to district and elder citizens. We hope our efforts will result in more community spirit and unity in our locality.

Lyttle, Jr. – Dendron: As a County resident, I have been the Pastor of a church in Surry where we supported some county programs and agencies that provide assistance to the needy. As my children grew older and participated in sports, I coached Rec League football, basketball and baseball for over 5 years; served over 5 years on Surry Recreation Board; as well as provide mentorship to school age children in the county and volunteered with county elderly programs and Head Start. As an employee of Surry Nuclear Power Station assisted with various Volunteer activities.

Calhoun – Surry: I feel that I have answered this question in my responses to the three (3) above questions. In summation, I commit to provide and maintain open, honest and two-way communication with the Board Members and residents, unity with the Board Member and residents, prioritize the itemized budget to safeguard the spending is within the county’s means, extend broadband throughout the county, create a welcoming business environment that attracts and pursues business investment and work diligently to ensure no tax increases.

Seward – Surry: I am a lifelong resident of Surry County. My wife, Anne and I have raised our two children, Hannah and Nick, in Surry and operate four different businesses here. I have served the community over the years as a volunteer fireman, a member of the Surry Volunteer Rescue Squad, and on multiple County, Regional, and State Boards and Commissions representing my community. I am a proud graduate of Surry County High School, Class of 1979. Please allow me to continue to do these things for the County that I love and I thank you for the opportunity to serve you over the past twenty years.

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