CLAUDVILLE, Va. — The Patrick County Board of Supervisors has faced some tumultuous times recently, but that isn’t deterring the Dan River District representative from seeking re-election.
Roger T. Hayden has filed to run for another four-year term representing that district, which includes the Ararat, Claudville and Willis Gap communities. Hayden said he wants to continue being a watchdog against higher taxes and try to make headway against some of the county’s prevailing problems linked to the economy.
Hayden was elected to the county board of supervisors as a political newcomer in 2009 and now that his term is winding down, said it has been an interesting experience. “I think it was very informative,” Hayden said this week, adding that he believes he has lived up to his goal of representing Dan River District citizens and their unique interests.
“I’ve kept my promise not to raise taxes while I was in there, and I haven’t,” Hayden said of his time on the county’s five-member governing board.
Patrick has not been immune from the financial distress that has affected governmental units all over the country, and this remains a challenge, according to Hayden, who worked for nearly 40 years in local industries and is in his mid-60s.
He considers job growth the top priority, especially given the county’s poverty status. “Two-thirds of our children live below the poverty line and even a larger percentage are borderline. This is a direct relationship of their parents losing jobs due to the demise of tobacco, textile and furniture industries.”
However, Hayden, who has resided with his wife Mabel on Cox Ridge Road in Claudville for more than 45 years, believes there is hope. “We are making some progress for more employment opportunities.”
Along with serving as a county supervisor, Hayden, a former part-time employee of the USDA Farm Service Agency, is a member of various commissions involved with planning and tourism growth in the area.
He also has worked to increase Patrick County’s connectivity to high-speed Internet service, which has progressed from 20 to 95 percent in coverage.
Tension has existed in recent years between the board of supervisors and Patrick County’s school leadership, centering on issues including funding.
Hayden said the supervisors have sought more accountability from educational officials regarding budgeting and believes that is occurring. “They are complying with that.”
The supervisors aren’t trying to run the schools, but want to ensure “quality, cost-effective education,” said Hayden, who has two grown children who are products of Patrick schools. “Once the board of supervisors approves the money the school board has, it’s up to the school board to spend the funds.”
One addition Hayden supports is having school resource officers at all campuses.
In addition, he wants to continue improvements in county safety and school mobile communications, and said a plan is in motion to construct a new tower in the Dan River District to fill voids in service.
At times, clashes have occurred among the supervisors themselves, notably between Karl Weiss of the Blue Ridge District and Locke Boyce, Peters Creek District representative. Most recently, Supervisor Hayden was caught in that cross-fire when Weiss is said to have tried to “bully” him into changing his vote on an issue in which Hayden sided with Boyce.
Boyce made public that encounter, which occurred in a closed session, leading him and Weiss to exchange verbal barbs. This included Weiss charging that Boyce was a “loose cannon” who could hurt the county’s ability to attract new industry because company representatives can’t depend on sensitive negotiations in closed sessions being kept secret.
“Well, I think the rhetoric is all political,” Hayden said this week of such conflicts. “I don’t think that all of us share the same ideology.”
However, Hayden objects to recent reports that the Patrick County Board of Supervisors has become “dysfunctional.”
“I disagree with that — I think we’ve done a lot of things well,” he said. “I don’t think that (the bickering) is affecting the functions of the board.”
Another problem Hayden wants to see addressed involves the paving of roads in the Dan River District. It has 90 miles of dirt routes that are maintained by the Virginia Department of Transportation, more than the other four districts in the county combined.
“This day and age, all county DOT roads should be paved,” said Hayden, who added that he is constantly working with the DOT on this issue. “We have made some progress,” he said, with resources limited.
“We depend on the state to pave the roads, and the state has cut back on funding.”
Holding The Line
Hayden believes the supervisors should keep real estate taxes stable, but said citizens need to understand that tax cuts must be accompanied by slashing the county’s budget. Any reductions should occur “in areas that least affect the majority,” he said.
“People tell me they are not willing or financially able to pay higher taxes or fees” and are struggling to provide basic needs to their families, Hayden said of avoiding further burdens on county resources.
The incumbent also thinks Patrick should avoid going into debt, since its debt-service-to-revenues ratio is at its limit. “As a young man born on a dirt farm, I quickly learned to do the best with what God gave me.”
Along with the responsibilities of balancing the county’s budget and seeking to maintain quality education, law enforcement and other services, Hayden believes a supervisor should work to safeguard citizens’ individual and property rights under the U.S. Constitution.
With the candidates’ filing period not ending until June, Hayden could face opposition come election time. But he expressed appreciation for Dan River District voters having the confidence to elect him in 2009, and hopes that will continue with another term.
Reach Tom Joyce at 719-1924 or email@example.com.