Year in Review July-December

Published 5:23 pm Tuesday, January 4, 2022

It was a long year full of ups and downs for Isle of Wight and Surry counties. Here’s a look back at the stories that dominated the headlines for the second half of 2021. The retrospective for January through June ran in the Dec. 29 edition. Stories are listed on the date of the edition in which they ran.

July 7 — Isle of Wight County’s Board of Supervisors expressed no appetite for allowing collective bargaining in the county after a change in state law ended a ban on public sector employees bargaining collectively with local governments.

July 14 — Smithfield’s Town Council voted 5-2 to grant approvals needed for the 812-home Mallory Scott Farm development. The developer, Napolitano Homes, gained permission to build 107 townhouses, 198 duplexes, 507 single-family homes and shared amenities on more than 500 acres along Battery Park and Nike Park roads.

July 14 — Smithfield Foods announced plans to end slaughtering operations at its hometown meat-packing plant on North Church Street.

July 14 — Sam Edwards III, owner of Edwards Virginia Smokehouse, announced that his family has agreed to sell the fourth-generation family business after 95 years. The brand now is owned by Burgers’ Smokehouse of Missouri.

July 21 — Isle of Wight County School Board member Vicky Hulick announced she planned to step down from her elected role in August due to her family’s move out of the Newport District.

August 4 — The Virginia Diner announced it would invest more than $4.5 million to nearly double production of its iconic gourmet peanuts.

August 11 — The Bank of America said it would permanently close its Smithfield branch in November, citing a growing preference for online banking and the company’s desire to reduce redundancy.

August 18 — The U.S. Census Bureau released figures from its 2020 census, announcing that Isle of Wight County’s population stands at 38,606, with Surry’s at 6,561. Those numbers were a 9.5% increase and a 7% decrease, respectively.

August 25 — Isle of Wight County formed a seven-member redistricting task force to present options for redrawing the county’s voting districts.

September 8 — The Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles announced plans to construct a new, 4,800-square-foot customer service center on South Church Street in Smithfield on a vacant parcel adjacent to the Dollar General Store. The new facility will replace the shuttered building at 912 S. Church St.

September 29 — Isle of Wight County’s Board of Supervisors voted to approve a new guaranteed maximum price of $36.8 million for the replacement Hardy Elementary School.

October 6 — The Virginia Department of Health set hearings for Oct. 13 to decide whether Riverside Health System would receive needed approvals to build a 50-bed hospital in Isle of Wight County.

October 13 — Charles Wills, 18, pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter and reckless handling of a firearm in the March 30 death of Austin McMillian, 18.

October 20 — Isle of Wight School Board Chairwoman Jackie Carr withdrew from her candidacy for re-election just days before the vote, and School Board member Julia Perkins also resigned from the board the same week.

October 20 — The hearings regarding Riverside Health System’s proposed hospital in Isle of Wight County drew widespread support.

October 20 — Dr. Corey L. McCray was hired to become the next president of Paul D. Camp Community College following an extensive search.

October 27 — The Virginia Department of Health recommended denial of the Riverside hospital proposal.

November 3 — Alvin Wilson resigned from the Isle of Wight County School Board on Oct. 26. He had already planned to step down at the end of the year.

November 3 — Riverside appealed the decision on its Isle of Wight hospital, and an appeal was set for Dec. 10.

November 10 — Big winners on Election Day included John Collick, who won election against Jackie Carr for the Carrsville District on the School Board; Michael Cunningham, who defeated Todd Meier for the Hardy District on the School Board; Emily Brewer, who easily won re-election to the House 64th District; and Rudolph Jefferson and Don Rosie, running unopposed for Board of Supervisors. Ronald Howell won a seat on the Surry County Board of Supervisors.

November 17 — Court documents came to light alleging prior excessive force by ex-Windsor Police officer Joe Gutierrez, who was fired in April after footage showed him holding a Black and Latino man at gunpoint and pepper-spraying him during a traffic stop.

November 24 — The Isle of Wight County Sheriff’s Office acknowledged the existence of body camera footage and internal affairs reports purporting to show Gutierrez engaged in excessive force against an elderly Black driver but declined to share those records with the newspaper.

December 1 — The historic Wombwell House was demolished. It was built circa 1840 on what is now West Main Street.

December 8 — Officials made a last pitch for a hospital at a press conference Dec. 6 ahead of the scheduled Dec. 10 review by the Virginia Department of Health.

December 15 — The fact-finding conference by the Virginia Department of Health featured lawyers for Riverside arguing the merits of their case, along with calling eight witnesses to testify.

December 15 — Isle of Wight and Surry counties would shift significantly Democratic under a redistricting plan the Supreme Court of Virginia released on Dec. 8.

December 29 — Charles Wills was sentenced to serve three years in prison for the fatal March shooting of Austin McMillian.

December 29 — Surry County announced it has achieved universal broadband access, as anyone in the county who wants access to high-speed internet can now obtain a fiber optic connection to his or her home through Ruralband.