Don’t believe everything you hear

Published 9:02 am Wednesday, January 12, 2011

by Stan Clark

Although I usually refrain from replying to inaccuracies such as those expressed on the future of Isle of Wight County in recent opinion columns by John Edwards of the Smithfield Times and in comments by Al Casteen, these particular comments were so unjustifiably pessimistic that I felt that I must respond since Isle of Wight County’s future is actually very bright.

The following are not intended to be comprehensive but rather highlights of the positive nature of county affairs.

Our water agreement with Norfolk ensures a stable water supply for the next 40 years and maybe longer, which is very important since new ground water permits are not available from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Environmental Quality despite the International Paper closure.

Our surface water agreement with Norfolk will allow industrial intermodal and industrial facilities to take hold in and around Windsor and in the southern end of the county. The IP property will be repurposed, largely due to the efforts of county staff and elected leaders at the local and state level. Potential new facilities mean even more revenue and job growth over the next five years, which will supplement and surpass the IP losses.

The opinion article failed to note that Smithfield Foods had one of its strongest years in 2010, and that tourism in Isle of Wight is at record levels. It also failed to note that we will complete a new Smithfield Fire Department, courthouse and animal shelter at low construction costs not seen in a decade.

In 2010, Isle of Wight citizens had a county government (both county staff and board of supervisor members) that not only took care of business here in the county, but was active at the regional, state and national levels as well.

Over the last 10 years, the Isle of Wight County Board of Supervisors has worked to impact state and federal legislation before it becomes law. We have been proactive, not reactive. Supervisors in Isle of Wight County are active in the Virginia Association of Counties to protect our interests in Richmond.

This is where we fight tolls and work for a statewide transportation funding formula. In the National Association of Counties, we fight unfunded federal mandates and the massive misuse of tax dollars at the national level, as well as oppressive, unfair and expensive EPA regulations that push up water and sewer costs.

Phillip Bradshaw was VACo president and on many committees.

Board of Supervisors Chairman Thomas Wright III was chairman of the Western Tidewater Water Authority and the Western Tidewater Regional Jail, and he has almost singlehandedly started a national effort to bar the use of plastic bags as being farmer unfriendly and environmentally unsound. Wright and I serve on several VACo Steering Committees that are pivotal in lobbying the General Assembly, and I serve on the NACo transportation committee and resolution committee.

This year I was elected chairman of Hampton Roads Planning District Commission, a federally mandated organization to do regional transportation planning to qualify for federal highway administration transportation dollars and another chance to voice opposition to tolls. Although Supervisor JoAnn Hall is a new member of VACo, she already has committee involvement.

Isle of Wight County is well positioned for the future. When our economy rebounds, which it will, our economic incentives will encourage economic investment in Isle of Wight County as opposed to other localities. Those who think economic development isn’t a competitive process are simply uninformed.

Isle of Wight County is positioned to compete, and we will not only compete, we will win, we will have economic growth and new job opportunities, and we will further diversify our tax base. I believe we will see this begin to happen in this spring. Already, one of our current businesses, American K-9 Interdiction, has asked to expand its Walters facility, and Mike Duman and Blanchard’s Tire have expanded to Carrollton from Suffolk.

We are a very frugal county, but we cannot fail to plan and invest in our future (for example, water, education, administration of justice, law enforcement, fire and rescue).

Voters and readers should beware of naysayers with no ideas and no answers. It’s easy to say “no” or write some simplistic jingles, but much more difficult to keep taxes as low as possible and realistically govern with an eye toward the future and a brighter tomorrow.

STAN D. CLARK is an Isle of Wight County supervisor. He can be reached at