Surry leaders focus on transparency, addressing citizen concerns

By: Terry Harris | Email: Click Here
Posted: January 14, 2019 | 2:15 p.m

SURRY – The regular January meeting of the Surry County Board of Supervisors was brief but productive, due in part to some innovations recently introduced by interim county administrator Sandy Wanner.

The meeting began with the regular January reorganization, during which Michael Drewry was elected as the 2019 chairman and Judy Lyttle was elected as co-chair. The board then agreed to meet at the same time as they regularly have done – the first Thursday of every month, and adopted the protocol that if weather or some event should interfere with the regular schedule, the meeting will be moved to the same day of the following week.

One item of note during the meeting was the extension of Mr. Wanner’s contract, which was due to expire, to the end of March.  According to Wanner, the county will be interviewing six finalists very soon as part of the selection process for a new county administrator, with the anticipation that the candidate selected would begin in early April.

Two innovations recently introduced by Wanner and implemented at the meeting were of particular interest.  The first was a pre-budget public hearing, during which local citizens had the opportunity to speak out with requests, comments, or ideas that might affect the upcoming budget. The second was the new administrator’s report, during which Wanner addressed citizen questions that had arisen during or since the last meeting.  He described both as a “new attempt to get Surry citizens more involved in Surry – to address citizens not feeling listened to.”

Describing the changes after the meeting as being important in the effort to make all citizens feel involved in their government, Wanner said, “It gives us the opportunity to respond to factual things – not emotional things – but things to which I can give a definitive answer.  It’s to let the public know that we are listening.  That action is being taken in response to their concerns.”

“It lets people know both what’s going on in their county and what we’re doing about their concerns,” he added.  “It allows an opportunity to put out information like the upcoming job fair for the Solar Plant on Jan. 10 at the Surry County Resource and Employment Center. They plan to have representatives on site looking to fill both hourly and salaried positions, like excavator, bulldozer, rear dump, scraper, and roller operators as well as skilled general labor between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m.” 

“We’re going out of our way to make sure that citizens can contact us about local concerns,” Wanner continued. “Like at this meeting we let everyone know that we have corrected a technical glitch where people couldn’t get information from the website because of a problem with the software.  And I’m seeing emails coming in to board members, so I know we’ve been correcting problems.  In the last month, I’ve met with the Concerned Citizen’s Group, visited with someone who called about a business concern, and I have been open to citizens on issues with the town of Claremont, for example.  I want people to know that I’m there and I’m willing to meet with people.  I want to know what the concerns are, and to see how we can address them.  I take my calls directly without people having to go through screening.  When people call the county administrator’s office to talk to me, if I’m in the office, I answer it myself.”

Copyright 2019 by Womack Publishing
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