Eggs & Issues event highlights local government

Published 4:24 pm Friday, April 21, 2023

The Franklin-Southampton Area Chamber of Commerce’s Eggs & Issues event has hosted state legislators in the past, but it had a local focus this year. 

Leaders of the Franklin and Southampton County governments were featured Tuesday morning, April 18, during the event, which was held at Camp Community College’s Workforce Development Center. These leaders explained their roles and their goals for the community to area citizens, including students from Franklin High School, Southampton High School and Southampton Academy, who were also invited.

Including the students, there were more than 75 people in attendance for the event, which was presented by the chamber, the college and Franklin Southampton Economic Development Inc. and sponsored by Dominion Energy.

Running from 7:30-9 a.m., Eggs & Issues started with a breakfast catered by the FHS and SHS culinary programs.

Attendees fellowshipped as they ate, and the formal part of the event began at 8 a.m.

Welcoming everyone and setting the stage for the local government officials were Chamber President Marshall Rabil, CCC Director of Workforce Development Dr. Antoinette “Toni” Johnson and FSEDI Board of Directors Chair Meghan Councill.

Franklin was in the spotlight next. Sharing details about themselves and their roles were Franklin City Manager Amanda C. Jarratt, Mayor Robert “Bobby” Cutchins, Ward 1 Councilman Mark R. Kitchen, Ward 2 Councilman Ray Smith, Ward 6 Councilwoman Jessica G. Banks, Ward 3 Councilman Gregory McLemore and Ward 4 Councilman Dr. Linwood Johnson.

Introducing themselves and their roles in relation to Southampton County were County Administrator Brian S. Thrower, Northeast District Supervisor Christopher D. Cornwell Sr., Northwest District Supervisor and Board of Supervisors Vice Chair William Hart Gillette and Southwest District Supervisor Lynda T. Updike.


Rabil then posed a few questions to the elected representatives, giving them brief opportunities to respond, if they chose to.

The first question was, “What do you see as opportunities for collaboration between the city and the county?”

McLemore responded with a word — tourism — and then elaborated on it.

“Virginia’s participation in the act of slavery made Virginia stand out of all the states in the United States, and Southampton County stood out even more, so I think we can take something negative and turn it into something positive and capitalize on tourism, if we work together,” he said.

Cutchins said that as Franklin and Southampton are collaborating on a radio communications system for fire and rescue and police, more collaboration is possible due to the amount of land that the county has — land for the growth of business development and more homes.


Rabil then asked the elected officials what they would identify as underutilized community assets that would draw people and businesses to Franklin-Southampton.

Smith pointed to the Franklin Municipal Airport.

“I think we have a lot of people coming here that fly and use our airport and then they have to go somewhere else to either rent a car or get a hotel or whatever their needs are,” he said. “So one of the biggest opportunities we have in the city is to exploit our airport.”

Cornwell said, “(U.S. Route) 460 and 58 both traverse our county to the north and south and the Port of Virginia with its ever-expanding boundaries should be capitalized on whenever possible.”

Gillette noted an abundance of old buildings in the county that used to be businesses, and he envisioned the possibility of putting these buildings to use as sites for training people in trades.

He also emphasized the importance of taking advantage of grants that are available.

Updike highlighted the importance of cleanliness in attracting people to the area.

“I think if we’re going to grow this county and this city, we need to pick up the trash,” she said.

McLemore said the community’s greatest asset is its young people, and it is important to find ways to improve the city and county to help its young people want to stay.


Rabil next asked, “How are we getting ready for the growth that we want our community to see?”

Johnson replied, “Basically we’re getting ready for the growth by building a workforce. A workforce is very important. You can’t have growth without a workforce, and that comes from the college and the high schools. Trade is very important to build a workforce.”

He noted that once a locality has a workforce, then it can bring in corporations of all natures.

Banks said, “In addition to trade, I’m a very big advocate for education, so not only with trade but educating — make sure we’re pouring into our youth. If you want to see growth, you have to start with our youth.”


Rabil asked the elected representatives to name one product, service or store they use that is not in the city or county that they would like to see come to the area.

Banks and Gillette both said Chick-fil-A. Updike said a nice hotel.

Smith said, “The need for overnight housing here is overwhelming. It’s overwhelming to the point where we’re going to get to a position if we can’t get a private industry to do it, we’re going to have to use some other method, whether it be economic development, whether it be building into the city or the county. We’ve got to have some housing. My son probably has 20 people a day looking for overnight housing. We don’t have either a camping facility, overnight housing facility or any place for people to stay overnight, and it’s hurting us economically to a point I don’t think we realize.”

Kitchen noted he would like to see “safe, clean, on-schedule, reliable public transportation,” which prompted applause.

Johnson agreed that public transportation is quite important and then emphasized the need for a supermarket in the city to help meet a need found when shelves of existing grocery stores are empty.

“All of those things require people,” McLemore said. “I think if you have people, Chick-fil-A may come here, same way we’re getting Dunkin’ Donuts, we’re getting Wawa. And to me, we need an industry that’s going to attract people, and the easiest industry for us to target without building is tourism.”

Cutchins offered a final word: “The biggest thing we need is unity to where we can all work together and make it all happen. There’s a recipe that can be developed and put together. We’ve just got to do it.”