Board chair publicly criticizes Surry’s new administrator

Published 6:09 pm Tuesday, August 6, 2019

By Frederic Lee

Staff writer 

SURRY — The chairman of the Surry County Board of Supervisors said he’s considering resignation and regrets voting in favor of hiring County Administrator Jonathan Lynn.  

Chairman Michael Drewry said that Lynn hasn’t developed the community relations necessary for the job in the five months since he started, citing an instance that took place at the Surry County Animal Control that led to Chief Russell Savedge being put on an indefinite administrative leave.  

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“About five months ago, I cast my vote for what I believed was what the majority wanted in the district I represented,” said Michael Drewry at the Aug. 1 Board of Supervisors meeting, confirming after the meeting that he’d been referring to his vote to hire County Administrator Jonathan Lynn. 

The vote was 3-2, with Board members Judy Lyttle and Giron Wooden voting against it at the time. {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

“In the recent months, I’ve become aware that my vote has caused dissention and division in our community, it hurts me to see my actions do such,” said Michael Drewry, then apologizing to the Savedge family for how they’ve been treated by Lynn. 

During public comments, Christina Savedge, wife of Surry County Chief of Animal Control Russell Savedge presented the Board with a comment that was read by Amy Drewry, the chairman’s wife. 

Christina’s statement discussed how her husband had been put on administrative leave from his position as chief without verbal or written warning by Lynn and interrogated by Virginia State Police for an incident “because of a he said, she said situation” that hadn’t been properly handled.

Michael Drewry said that, to his knowledge, Russell Savedge’s administrative leave involved his conduct on the job when dealing with stray cats at L.P Jackson Middle School. 

In an interview on Aug. 2, Christina Savedge said county officials haven’t provided Russell with any additional information about his administrative leave, and that he wasn’t allowed on county property or else he would have been at the Aug. 1 Board of Supervisors meeting.   

“They won’t answer us. They won’t tell us what’s happening,” said Christina, adding that Russell’s been part of the department for over nine years. 

Lynn said that he couldn’t comment on the situation involving Russell Savedge, but confirmed that it was being investigated by the Virginia State Police, and that no charges had been filed, to his knowledge. 

Amy Drewry said that she’d volunteered to read Christina’s statement since it was “very difficult” for Christina.

Surry District Supervisor John Seward responded to Michael Drewry’s statement at the Board of Supervisors meeting. 

“I have heard in your comments in the past that led me to believe that you don’t think we have the best interest of Surry at heart, or the decisions that we made in the past weren’t for the best interest of Surry, but I want to clarify one fact… You’re wrong there.” 

“I’m a lifelong Surry guy. I’ve got nothing but the best interests of Surry at heart. You’re not,” said Seward.  

Michael Drewry said that he grew up on the Surry County/Sussex County border at his grandparents’ farm before moving away, and returned there 20 years ago. 

“I think it’s a leadership issue that we have right now…and I think it’s your leadership,” said Seward to Michael Drewry, adding “I have never in my 20 years on the Board experienced things in such a disarray as it’s been since you became chairman this year.”

Michael Drewry said that he wasn’t proud of his performance as chairman of the Board, and if it were the public’s desire, he would resign. 

“When I got on the Board, I wasn’t in agreement with the County Administrator, but I never considered rallying the citizens against him,” said Seward in an interview on Aug. 2. 

“I respect Mr. Lynn and I think he’s going to do a good job if we let him do a good job,” said Carsley District Supervisor Kenneth Holmes, adding that the county administrator serves for the good and will of the Board of Supervisors. 

“He deserves more than a four-month, five-month chance,” said Seward. 

Michael Drewry said that after elections this November, he’d like to see an interim county administrator come in. Four of the five Supervisors are running for reelection, with Wooden from the Claremont District not seeking another term.   {/mprestriction}