Surry voters turn out as local races highlight ballot

By: Terry Harris | Email: Click Here
Posted: November 14, 2019 | 3:00 p.m.

SURRY – In Surry County, Registrar Sharna White reported that more than half of the registered voters turned out for the November 5 election which resulted in the re-election of Sheriff Carlos Turner, the unseating of a 20 year veteran on the Board of Supervisors, and a shake-up at the School Board at a time that a decision about the next School Superintendent is on the horizon.

Sheriff Turner, who defeated challenger R.M. “Rocky” Barbee with 67.55% of the votes cast, said afterward, “I was super excited about how it turned – that the good people in Surry county came out and voted and voted in big numbers.”

Asked about his plans going into the next term, he responded, “We will continue to be accountable at the Sheriff’s Office, working with the community, continuing to be transparent in our operations and also to be community-engaged. I want to assure everyone that I will work with everyone on things in Surry County, regardless of whether they voted for me or not. That does not matter. What matters is that we have fair law enforcement through the entire Surry County, and my door is always open to everyone to come to see me at any time.”

In the contested races for Board of Supervisors, Chairman Michael Drewry (Dendron District) defeated challenger Melvin A. Lyttle Jr. with 71 percent of the vote, and had this to say afterward: “I feel good about it from the fact that I had a clear message that I was telling the citizens in the district I represent. I basically went door to door and talked to people, and it sort of gave me a feel of what was happening in peoples’ lives. My message was one of citizens participating in the government and everybody coming together and having a voice, so I was real pleased with the 70% win. I feel like the citizens have given me a clear message of what they want, so this coming new term I want to spend a lot of time trying to again promote people participating in the government and work towards the citizens improving the county together, trying to come up with ideas of how do we get to know one another. It’s only by doing that can you gain trust because we really don’t have a central place to see each other. My main thing is a lot of these rural counties have a lot of challenges and Surry County has them. Our population is dropping and economically we don’t have that many things going on, so I think we can solve it, but it takes the whole community coming together. I heard a quote a while back that a person or two can inspire but it takes a whole community to enact permanent change and I believe that.”

In the Surry District, W. Timothy “Tim” Calhoun won with 57 % of the vote, defeating past board chair John Seward. When approached for comment Calhoun said, “I’m real excited. I’m looking forward to being able to make some good positive changes for my district and county, first to bring unity to board members, secondly one of my goals is to be very transparent. Be able to have open and two ways communication with residents. I want to try to have as many open district meetings as I can for my residents, to be able to make myself available to them. I really want to make sure that the county spends money wisely and not to incur additional unnecessary debt, and then I want to welcome and try to bring in economic development. I spent 38 years in accounting with the power company, responsible for capital expenditures and budgets. With economic development, we need to increase our population because it is decreasing as we speak. Our school students has decreased quite a big number over the last 5 or 10 years. With economic development that would allow for graduates of high school and college to come back to their homes – back to Surry – and remain part of where they grew up.”

Mr. Seward, a 20-year veteran of the board, also made a statement following the election which means his retirement from the Board of Supervisors.

“Now we’ll be able to celebrate my daughter’s birthday,” Seward said. “For the last 20 years, I’ve been missing our daughter’s birthday, because the Virginia Association of Counties Conference is always the weekend after the election.”

Then, on a more serious note, he added, “There’s been a lot of groundwork laid over the last 8 – 10 years. I hope they will capitalize on that – on projects like HRSV taking over our wastewater treatment, broadband, the marina and restaurant project, adding retail – things like that. I just hope they will keep trying to move those projects forward. But for me personally, I’m so busy it won’t take me but about a month to not miss it. I really would like to say thanks to the people who supported me for the last 20 years. I’m proud of serving you.”

The other contested seat was held by incumbent Kenneth Holmes, who defeated Felicia L. Bailey with 53 % of the vote. Holmes could not be reached for comment before deadline.

Three School Board seats were contested, which is particularly significant this year as the new board will select the next Surry County School Superintendent.

Dr. Marion Wilkins, herself a former Surry County Schools Superintendent, won the Carsley District seat over Sue Anne Fibish with 65 % of the vote. When reached afterward for comments, she said, “I was very elated to be re-elected. I want to serve my community and by having experience in education I feel that I can use some of that experience in Surry County to continue to move forward.”

“As we enter the next four years,” she continued, “we are looking for a Superintendent, so all of the board members will be actively involved in selecting a Superintendent for Surry County Schools and that’s a very important responsibility of school board members. And the other thing is I’m looking forward to us expanding our offers for the students in our area through technical education. We started the Concurrent Program with John Tyler Community College this year where the students are at John Tyler part of the day for five different areas – like welding – and then they come back to Surry for their academic classes. I want us to expand that just a little more. I’m very excited about that program!”

In the other two contested races, Faye Clark Perkins (Dendron District) defeated Lorraine P. Davis with 50.74% for the Dendron District seat on the board of Education and Valencia Jones “Missy” Williams won the Surry District seat over Harold L. Jones Jr. with 73% of the vote. Neither could be reached for comment before this story went to print.

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