Association taps Phillips

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Surry County Board of Commissioners member Larry Phillips was recently tapped by the North Carolina Association of County Commissioners as the statewide agency’s president.

That comes a year after he was named the agency’s president-elect, a post he’s held for the past 12 months while preparing to take over as president.

Phillips, who serves in one of two Mount Airy district seats on the Surry County board, has been a Surry County commissioner since 2012, including serving one term as vice chairman. However, Phillips lost in the spring primary to Bill Goins and will have to relinquish his county seat at the end of the year.

It wasn’t clear if he will be able to serve out the rest of his term as president of the statewide association, or if he will have to step down when he loses his Surry County board seat.

He ascended to the North Carolina group’s top job during the organization’s 111th annual conference late in August, held in Catawba County.

Shortly after being named to the post, Phillips announced his presidential initiative, which seeks to leverage a strategic partnership between the association, the UNC School of Government, and the city and county management association to identify “critical areas of leadership training needs for county professional staff and develop succession planning for key department positions to cultivate the next generation of county leaders,” the agency said in a written statement.

“We must make a strategic commitment to equip the next generation of leaders with the concepts of exercising leadership while closing existing leadership gaps,” Phillips said.

During the meeting Kevin Austin, Yadkin County commissioner, was selected to serve as president elect for the upcoming year, which puts him in line to take over the top job when Phillips’ is finished.

The conference provides a forum to conduct official association business and offers educational and networking opportunities for commissioners and county staff. The theme for the conference was “Reimagine Your County’s Possibilities,” to encourage counties to spark change and work toward imaginative solutions to common issues and challenges.

Noran Sanford, founder of GrowingChange, kicked off the event with a keynote speech about his organization in Scotland County. GrowingChange empowers at-risk youth through an innovative community based project to transform decommissioned prison facilities into sustainable farming and recreational sites.

Nationally acclaimed author and journalist Sam Quinones also addressed attendees to discuss his book, Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic. He described how counties have long been at the forefront of a challenging process to rebuild communities that have been impacted by the opioid crisis.

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