Surry vice chairman resigns

Published 5:37 pm Monday, April 11, 2022

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to correct when Howell began his elected term. In special elections, Virginia law allows the winning candidate to take office as soon as he or she qualifies rather than waiting until January.

Ronald Howell Jr., vice chairman of Surry County’s Board of Supervisors, abruptly resigned from his seat at the conclusion of the board’s April 7 meeting.

Howell, who was elected to represent the Carsley District in November, was just a few months into his first elected term in office. He’d been appointed earlier in 2021 as the late Kenneth Holmes’ successor.

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Despite his newness to the board, his fellow supervisors voted him to become the board’s new vice chairman at their January organizational meeting under Chairwoman Judy Lyttle.

“This decision comes beyond my control and should not in any way reflect a diminished desire to serve,” Howell read from a statement. “In fact, it has always been my intention to continue to serve. However, in the best interest of all parties, I must share with you this difficult and unfortunate decision to step down from this seat.”

Howell, a lifelong resident of the county, was named by the Biden administration in January as the new state executive director for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Virginia Farm Service Agency. When asked by Claremont District Supervisor Robert Elliott whether his resignation was connected to his new federal appointment, Howell said his service on the Board of Supervisors had been “vetted” by the Biden administration, and was “mutually exclusive.”

A day after the meeting, county staff posted an announcement to Surry’s website advising that any Carsley District resident interested in succeeding Howell in an appointed capacity until a special election can be scheduled to send a letter of interest and a resume to Surry County Board of Supervisors, Attn: Carsley District Appointment Interest, 45 School St., Surry, VA 23883 or email the requested information to

Letters of interest and resumes must be received by 5 p.m. April 14. Candidates need only be qualified voters in the Carsley District.

The full text of Howell’s letter of resignation is reproduced below:

Public service is a calling. It is the advocacy around issues that support and protect those we serve. I’ve often stated it’s truly a pleasure to serve the people of Surry County. Without the citizens, county government could not be successful, for there is nothing more precious than brightening tomorrow by improving the lives of people today. I took that maxim to heart at the start of this journey, even now, and will into the future. It has therefore been gratifying and an honor to serve, always feverishly working toward that goal. As a public servant, I know that achieving a promising future for Surry County can only be obtained through productive community relations, listening to the voices of citizens and representing conscientiously, equitably and with integrity.

I am humbled by the vote of confidence and support that the citizens fo the Carsley District gave me to serve and to represent them. As John F. Kennedy once remarked, leadership and learning are indispensable to each other. I have learned from my constituents in others, from community, business and religious leaders, which has enabled me to be a better person, a better citizen and a better leader. As mentioned in Ecclesiastes, to everything there is a season and a time to every purpose under the heaven. This evening it is with heartfelt emotion that the season has come for me to resign my position as vice chair and Carsley District representative of the Surry County Board of Supervisors effective at the conclusion of this meeting. Please note that this decision comes beyond my control and should not in any way reflect a diminished desire to serve. In fact, it has always been my intention to continue to serve. However, in the best interest of all parties I must share with you this difficult and unfortunate decision to step down from this seat.

I am tremendously proud of the meaningful work this board county administrator and staff do each day on behalf of citizens. This is evident by targeted investments for capital and business development, infrastructure planning and public support. As a lifelong resident of Surry County I am pleased of the county’s efforts to improve the quality of life for its residents, to see a renewed focus on tourism and greater emphasis on attracting people of all ages, especially young professionals and growing families. I am content to reflect, to remember and to smile to have been part of these and other endeavors. While there comes the time when the baton is passed in this marathon journey that we call public service, it has truly been an unforgettable experience. To be one of a five-member board of such acumen and professionalism, I wish my fellow board members the absolute best as they continue to put the needs of their citizens first in the future decisions they must make. Though I regret that I find myself at this crossroads I am committed to finding other ways to give back to this community that has given me so much in this season of my life. I trust that the person that should succeed me will carry such care and passion to serve the Carsley District, the citizens of Surry County and to ultimately make Surry County a better place to live, work and play for current and future generations.

Regretfully submitted,

Ronald M. Howell Jr.