Surry’s Interim Administrator sees great potential through increased communication

By: Terry Harris | Email: Click Here
Posted: October 18, 2018 | 3:45 p.m.

SURRY – Sandy Wanner brings a great deal of varied experience to the table as he begins serving as Interim County Administrator of Surry County.  He also brings a great big smile and a determination to keep the county moving forward in positive ways, as he explained during his very first week on the job.

“I have had a varied and exciting life in local government, and prior to that served in the U.S. Marine Corps for 21 years where I worked for the Joint Chiefs of Staff and earned a Masters of Science in Administration with an emphasis on public administration,” Wanner said.  “I knew of Surry through serving James City for 28 years  – 14 of those as James City County Administrator – and now I feel really honored to serve the citizens of Surry through their elected officials, working with the staff.”

Asked if he had encountered any surprises as he began the job, he said, “Well, some issues are not resolved yet, some are contentious issues – the grocery store, the building of a new rescue squad EOC, but I’ve been getting out. I am a believer in staff meetings for an information exchange, so I met the staff Monday, and Tuesday I started a staff meeting.  I’ve also found it interesting that Michael Thornton who is superintendent of schools, was the finance director of the Williamsburg James City School System when I was county administrator in James City County.  Being educated as a teacher and working for two school systems in my earlier life, I have an affinity for their needs, and one of the issues here is that they have a declining enrollment, which harms them on certain state revenues.” 

Wanner beginning to settle into his new office the first week on the job.

Wanner shared that through his previous experience with James City he is familiar with protocols for power plant emergencies and he worked with Surry County on upgrading the ferry. As for his favorite thing about the area, he said, “It’s the history – the people. I think that it’s a place that has real opportunity – one of those hidden gems.  We’re in two camps in the planning districts, and I think people forget about us. I’m looking forward to keeping us moving forward in things that the board has already established in their vision…  Looking forward, I’d like to be able to get the tourism market a little more knowledgeable. I would like to also be successful in completing projects that are already underway.  The Rescue Squad EOC building, the improvement of the build-out of the new seafood restaurant at the Marina, get a win at attracting some business for economic development

“Again,” he added, “I’d like to have the staff continue to build our communication and definitely communicate with our citizens.  I’ve heard citizens say they don’t know what’s going on and I’d like to improve communication channels.  It’s important to hear from citizens and get the word out to the citizens early about whatever issues come up.  I would like to see the board – they’re the elected representatives – have retreats to set the vision, to have citizens understand what the vision is and that the budget is the instrument that moves some of that vision forward.  I would like to be able to say when I leave here that I have left in place for the next permanent administrator a framework for the budget for the upcoming year.”

Wanner said that he also plans to review “some existing documents to make sure that we’re in the 21st century, get some currency here.  Show the staff we’re taking on some of the issues we’ve seen – make sure the staff is fairly treated – meet ongoing needs and address issues that have been festering.” 

“All of us who are in public service have an obligation to live up to the expectations of honesty and ethics and integrity and put forth the best recommendations,” he said, “but some of the stuff takes a lot of time.  I think this is what frustrates citizens sometimes. I took a tour trying to identify issues, and learned that we don’t have good communication when an officer or firefighter leaves the vehicle.  When communication becomes spotty like that, we don’t want the firefighter or the citizens in danger.”  

“They’ve got a lot of good things going on,” he said, with his signature smile. “There are a lot of things that have raised some citizen interest.  I’m going to do my very best in the time that I’m covering this search to keep the county moving forward.”

Copyright 2018 by Womack Publishing
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