It’s campaign season in Virginia, which includes plans by a member of the Patrick County Board of Supervisors to seek re-election as its representative for Ararat, Claudville and surrounding areas.
Roger T. Hayden, 69, has filed to run for a third four-year term as supervisor for the Dan River District, a seat he first was elected to in 2009. The filing deadline for the 2017 county election in November was Tuesday at 7 p.m., and no one had tossed a hat into the ring to run against the incumbent as of late Tuesday morning.
Hayden said later Tuesday that he would like to continue being a voice for citizens in the Dan River District on taxation, emergency medical response, communications and other issues.
“I think as far as the taxes part, we’ve got that kind of under control right now,” said the incumbent, who added, “I’ve never voted for a property tax increase.”
Patrick County’s taxation situation seems stabilized at present, Hayden said, after the majority of the county supervisors voted to increase the tax rate from 55 to 57 cents per $100 of assessed valuation two years ago.
“But I’m still watching taxes and especially our debt,” the Dan River District supervisor said of a need to maintain a conservative fiscal policy. This included his and other supervisors’ rejecting plans this year by the Patrick County school system to borrow $2 million.
Hayden said he “will not support any more tax increases or debt, as Patrick County’s economy is still in decline — citizens are struggling with lower income.”
Hayden said another concern of his involves an issue faced by localities around the nation, a decrease in volunteers for rescue services.
The Dan River supervisor said his district is blessed with three rescue squads and fine personnel manning them, but they need help.
“I proposed to have a backup system in the Stuart area,” Hayden said, along with a subsidy program to aid volunteer squad members who run calls.
“Even though they are volunteers, they still should be compensated for their time and fuel,” he said, which can involve members having to drive their personal cars to a squad station to deploy rescue vehicles.
“That’s something I’m real interested in working out,” Hayden added of the subsidy plan.
Transportation is another issue on which Hayden wants to continue to make progress.
“Here in the Dan River District, we have more dirt roads than all other districts put together,” he said of the county that has five legislative districts.
Roads in his district placed on a six-year funding plan for paving and other improvements include Ararat Highway, Farmers Road, Squirrel Creek Road, Pine Spur Lane, Deer Run Road, Fish Farm Lane and Mills School Road, with Handy Mountain Road to be added to the list.
“I would like to stay on the board to make sure these get paved,” said Hayden, a 50-year resident of Cox Ridge Road in Claudville with his wife Mabel. They have two grown children who work in the educational field.
One issue that consistently has defined Roger Hayden’s service as a county supervisor is his support for increased access to Internet service in the county — which hasn’t been easy.
“I think the biggest problem I’ve ever dealt with is trying to get the broadband high-speed Internet,” he said Tuesday.
“When I started in office eight years ago, I got little to no help trying to get (that),” Hayden recalled.
“We had dial-up and the challenge was getting the politicians to understand the importance of it,” he said of high-speed service and efforts to convince fellow officials there was much public interest in that, especially to meet modern business demands.
“High-speed Internet service is as important as electricity,” Hayden mentioned of the need to provide connectivity throughout Patrick in addition to Stuart, the county seat, which has progressed from dial-up to high-speed Internet. This was accomplished through a partnership with Century Link, funded by Tobacco Fund and Connect America grants at no cost to county taxpayers.
More than 20 new substations have been installed in the Willis Gap, Ararat and Claudville areas of Patrick along with others in the 694 exchange to provide Internet connectivity to 95 percent of county households.
As of today, he pointed out, Century Link also is upgrading the county’s 251 and 694 exchanges to higher speeds.
If re-elected, Hayden pledges to continue efforts to improve technology and communications, including cellular telephone services.
In any election year, the economy is always at the forefront, which is true in Patrick County with the loss of textile and other industries in recent years.
“We must secure businesses that provide a living wage for our citizens,” stated Hayden, who lost his job due to NAFTA (the North American Free Trade Agreement).
To aid that mission, the Dan River supervisor serves on a number of regional economic-development and planning groups.
Despite the high-tech goals that have been among Hayden’s priorities while serving on the Patrick Board of Supervisors, he believes citizens have a simple desire for their county government:
“People want lower taxes, less debt, accountability and transparency of elected/appointed officials and taxpayers’ money.”
Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.