First Posted: 10/28/2009
ARARAT, Va. Most political candidates talk about the need for jobs these days, but Roger T. Hayden does so with an eye toward the future focused on ways in which technology can make it brighter.
A huge, high-paying manufacturing company employing hundreds of people might be on everyones wish list, but Hayden who is seeking the Dan River District seat on the Patrick County Board of Supervisors views the situation from a logical perspective.
I think the larger companies are basically going to be hard to get into the county, said Hayden, 62, a Claudville resident running against Janet Epperson for the position Supervisor Jonathan Large will step down from later this year.
Hayden agreed that the first problem we have right now is jobs. But with large corporations difficult for rural communities to secure in todays competitive environment, he advocates other measures instead, including technology-based opportunities.
Getting more jobs in the county should be our number one priority, and working with small business and improving the job base that we have, said Hayden, a longtime county resident who has varied experience in the local employment arena.
He worked for more than 22 years with Proctor Silex in Mount Airy and another 15 or so with Rotometrics Inc., a company in Meadows of Dan. The candidate also was employed part-time for 32 years by the county Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service (ASCS).
Hayden now drives a school bus, a job I really love because I love working with children.
The employment outlook for those young people as well as their parents is one of the reasons he is campaigning for supervisor, with the race to be decided when county voters go to the polls on Tuesday.
The main reason I am running is to make Patrick County a better place for our children and grandchildren to live and work, he said.
Internet A Key
Along with trying to promote small business, the county should provide a climate for high-tech employment opportunities, the candidate believes.
I would like to look at the technology jobs, said Hayden, who arrived at an interview this week with a laptop computer in hand. I think technology is the future. As part of that outlook, he supports trying to lure database-oriented businesses and call centers to Patrick County.
Small companies like that would be a benefit to us, Hayden said. Technological improvements of recent years also could help more county citizens establish home-based offices and businesses.
Hayden thinks a key to such opportunities is making high-speed Internet connectivity available in all areas of the county. While this is accessible in some sections of Patrick, we need to give everyone an equal chance, he said.
The candidate already has been involved in such a project as a member of the Red Bank Ruritan Club, director of the Claudville Computer Center and chairman of the Patrick County Broadband Task Force. The new computer center at the Ruritan building offers five terminal stations for free public use, allowing local residents access to education, training and other Internet-based resources.
Recently, Hayden and others worked with the federal government, computer suppliers such as Dell and Microsoft and additional resources to establish the nations first television white spaces network in Claudville. This has resulted in a wireless Internet network for businesses in the community and Trinity Christian School located nearby, providing a broadband alternative to slow dial-up services, costly satellite delivery and fiber or copper lines that are both impractical and expensive.
The TV white spaces channels that are at the heart of the system were made available through the transition from analog to digital broadcasts earlier this year. The Claudville project will test the feasibility of white space technology for possible use in other areas.
Hayden said he has spent countless hours during the last six years lobbying for and pursuing high-speed Internet service to Patrick County.
Tax, Budget Issues
Advances in technology also would further another of Haydens objectives if elected, making county officials more accountable to citizens.
Our government needs to be more open to the people, said the candidate, who wants to see public records including budgets, tax maps, real estate records and similar information available online.
One development Hayden finds troubling is a recent large increase in the property tax rate that came on the heels of a countywide real estate reassessment. Tax bills grew by an average of 49 percent, based on his calculations.
It was too much of a tax increase at a time when people are struggling to keep their jobs and are unemployed or have dropped completely off the unemployment rolls because theyve given up, he said. So we need to find ways to equalize taxation in Patrick County.
Thats a sticking point right now, the Claudville resident added of taxes, especially in areas such as the Dan River District which contain large farming tracts and are levied heavily as a result. Meanwhile, those far-reaching communities get little back in the way of services and feel neglected in that regard, according to Hayden.
One example involves having to help fund a county transfer station for waste at Stuart, which is not easily accessible to residents on the southwestern end of Patrick, who also must pay for a private trash-collection service at their homes.
Hayden also advocates examining other county expenditures for possible waste, although he doesnt want to alarm anyone about reductions in services at this point until the situation has been thoroughly analyzed.
We need to look at all budgets and see if theres programs or areas where we could save money, he said. We should try to operate more within our means.
Hayden thinks the educational system in Patrick County is very good and deserves further support along with community colleges that are playing a key role in training people in rural areas. Patrick Henry Community College now operates a satellite campus in the county seat.
Hayden holds an associate degree in applied science from Surry Community College, but added, basically Im still continuing my education.
Familiar With People
Along with adequately serving citizens of the Dan River District, Hayden believes he can identify with Patrick residents as a whole through his longtime work with the ASCS, which involved frequent travel to farms in all corners of the county.
So I got to know the general public of Patrick County very well, which included building a rapport with those citizens and earning their trust and respect, he said.
It all boils down to this: I will work with the people of the Dan River District and listen to their problems and concerns and try to help them, Hayden pledged in outlining the aims of his candidacy. And I feel like Im in touch with the needs of the Dan River District.
He added, I want to work with the people. I cant do it alone I need your help.
Regardless of who is elected supervisor Tuesday, Hayden thinks an array of challenges will await that individual.
But, he said, Ive always liked a challenge.
Contact Tom Joyce at [email protected] or at 719-1924.