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For Halifax County Board of Supervisors, one race breaks the calm

SoVaNow.com / November 06, 2017
With the election Tuesday, there’s only a smattering of competition for Halifax County local offices. But the lone contested race for Board of Supervisors did set off a few sparks in a candidates’ forum Wednesday in South Boston.

While standard topics dominated the otherwise sedate discussion — jobs, agriculture, education, spending and taxes, among others — incumbent ED-6 supervisor Larry Giordano ventured afield to challenge the motives of the write-in challenger for the seat, Stanley Brandon.

Alluding to a past comment by Brandon that he was “spurred on” to seek the office after meeting with some hundred local residents, many upset by having green trash boxes removed from the community, Giordano pointedly asked: “Does that mean he had no intention of running until that night … that he had not given any thought to, or have any concern about how Halifax County was doing before he was spurred on?

“I thought that Mr. Brandon would have come at least to a few of the Board of Supervisors meetings in order to see how the board was working and the challenges that face Halifax County.” Giordano closed by saying, “Well, no one had to spur me on to run … I see the challenges that Halifax County faces and I will continue to work diligently to help Halifax County to grow to be a place where residents want to stay, and new businesses want to settle,” Giordano said.

Brandon declined to respond directly to Giordano’s comments, and instead highlighted his roots in the community. “I grew up here … I raised my family here,” said Brandon. “I have served in my community and continue to give my time unreluctantly.

“I hope my track record speaks for itself … I want to become the people’s choice for the people’s voice,” said Brandon.

Aside from Brandon and Giordano, other candidates for Board of Supervisors who participated in the forum were Hubert Pannell, incumbent supervisor in ED-2, and Jeff Francisco, who is running unopposed in ED-3, where longtime supervisor Tom West is retiring. A separate portion of the Wednesday program at the Southern Virginia Higher Education Center was set aside for candidates for School Board.

All candidates agreed that Halifax County needs to attract new businesses to grow the tax base, and that the IDA is going a good job, but could do better. Pannell expressed his excitement that Southstone Behavioral Health is coming to Halifax — the subsidiary of Acadia Healthcare is establishing a treatment center for adolescent teens at the former Carlbrook School campus — and bringing 20 jobs.

Each of the candidates acknowledged the challenge of creating new jobs in Halifax County. “It’s an uphill battle to get industry to come here,” said Francisco, who suggested that IDA should work with existing businesses that want to expand. Giordano added that the IDA should focus on smaller companies.

Brandon would like to see better incentives to lure small businesses. Giordano pointed out that some counties, like Pittsylvania, have a larger tax base from which to offer generous tax incentives to draw new business to the area. Halifax is not similarly positioned, he said.

Francisco raised a related issue: having a workforce that is prepared to meet the needs of incoming industries and businesses. He cited the problem of too many workers who fail drug testing, shrinking the supply of available labor, and called on the county to increase availability to substance abuse and mental health programs and strive to reduce drug dependency.

One subject of shared agreement was the need for workforce training, because the county cannot attract employers unless people are trained and ready to go to work. “We have to be proactive in linking education systems to our jobs,” Brandon said. Francisco suggested that to get hands-on job training for high school students, schools should connect them with existing businesses to work side-by-side with experts.

The future of Halifax County High School drew little comment during the forum, as did the topic of the Courthouse. Pannell said that we have to decide right now whether to build a new school or remodel the current building, and that in general Halifax County needs a plan to maintain its school properties. Giordano said that according to a survey, the HCHS building could last another 20-25 years, but that the interior needs a lot of work. Pannell said the Board of Supervisors can be “reactive or proactive.”

Pannell said that when he joined the board three-and-a-half years ago, the Courthouse was the big ticket item. “People don’t understand the time and energy trying to decide how much money we needed and who would build it,” he said. Giordano added that the Courthouse had been the main focus for five years, and that with a few minor adjustments, the project should be underway soon.

The topic of taxes and the budget led to a discussion of agriculture and forestry in Halifax County. Francisco has a strong agriculture background and is a consulting forester. Giordano and Francisco agreed that agriculture and forestry are key to growing the tax base. “Halifax County has been an agriculture community as far back as anyone can remember,” said Giordano.

Francisco offered recent Farm Bureau statistics that showed in 2017, agriculture contributed $70 million in revenue to Virginia and forestry contributed $21 million. In addition, 70 percent of Halifax County is forestland, up 30 percent in the last four years. He said county residents need to view their land and trees as investments — money in the bank.

Giordano talked about the growing importance of agritourism, which includes wineries and farms open to the public for tours and education. He highlighted Hudson Heritage Farms on River Road as an example of a successful agritourism venture. Hudson Farms offers classes and seminars at their working farm. The recent Veterans Farmer Conference there drew 120 participants, he noted.

Brandon commended the board for taking a proactive approach to encourage and enhance agriculture and forestry, and said he wants to see the county create a balanced economy of agriculture and industry.

Asked by moderator Nick Long to discuss other topics that had not come up yet in the forum, the candidates spelled out some of their priorities.

Francisco raised the issue of public safety. He credited local fire departments with doing a good job but the county needs more EMS and law enforcement personnel. Turbeville and Halifax have only one paid person. First responders can be in South Boston in three minutes, but the wait is 20 minutes for Hunting Creek. Francisco also pointed out that there are only five deputies working four shifts covering 850 square miles.

Giordano brought up the issue of back taxes. He said the county has hired a law firm which adds its fees to the collection amount. To date, Halifax County has collected a significant amount of money, he said.

Giordano also said Halifax County should do a better job of highlighting local attractions. He said VIR was voted one of the 10-best race tracks in America, and Halifax has won awards for the Tobacco Heritage Trail and Banister River blueway project.

Brandon said he would like to see vacant buildings in the county developed into offices and offered to small businesses. Halifax County should strive to be the best county in Virginia for growing small business, he said.

Francisco brought up the importance of creating a positive first impression for visitors to the area and said Halifax and South Boston should be revitalized. He would also like to see the towns of Scottsburg, Clover and Virgilina given facelifts.




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Comments

Don’t vote just because someone was “born here rised hre” . Most of that is the continuation of Halifax’s ills with our economic situation as “ buisness as usual” has left our buildings and infrastructure in decay, sweetheart deals for locals- IDA, and other similar negatives. Vote for the person best for the assignment. If you kep voting fo rthe same old same old it is not going to get better.

Comments

New Beginnings, Hey Larry "G" has been on the job for four years and you are correct it is time for a new beginning, Stanley Brandon. Mr. Brandon is truthful, something that is not easily said about Mr. "G". Mr. "G" said I PROMISE I WILL NOT RAISE TAXES, it was the 1st thing he did. Lets not vote for "G" because he was born in New Jersey either. Mr. Brandon is like a breath of fresh air, it's time for "G" to go home and rest and let a more energetic man do the job. This is a critical election for this county, it's time for a change and Stanley Brandon will bring that change!!!!

Comments

Giordano said:
and I will continue to work diligently to help Halifax County to grow to be a place where residents want to stay, and new businesses want to settle,” Giordano said.
Not doing a great job bringing businesses to this county, and more people dying than are being born; kinda hard to get ahead like that.
Stanley Brandon, a better choice.


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