Surry Board of Supervisors Dendron District candidate: Amy Drewry
Published 9:43 am Wednesday, October 11, 2023
Editor’s note: Amy Drewry is running against Brenton Byrd for the Dendron District seat on Surry County’s Board of Supervisors. The Smithfield Times sent the following questionnaire to both candidates.
Occupation: Independent Documentarian, Farmer, Small Business Owner, Wife, Mother, Grandmother, Friend and Citizen
Prior elected offices held: None, but prior experience in citizen engagement and campaigning
1. Can you briefly summarize why you decided to run for the Board of Supervisors?
While producing RURAL for public radio on the hollowing out of rural America, I was exposed to many diverse benefits and challenges rural communities everywhere face and to some of the brightest minds thinking deeply on the subject. The interviews with these folks provided many creative ideas on how to tackle, and turn around, our population decline. Attracting young people is a challenge, we have be creative.
Second, despite our aging and dwindling population, our taxes in Surry County have increased three years in a row with the approval of our present board, which is surprising given the population decline within our county.
Third, I am concerned with division between citizens that I see in our society and county. Rural communities don’t have the luxury of division, we all know, and need, one another. I want to assist government actions that foster an environment of citizenship and participation.”
2. What should be Surry County’s top priority right now?
Supervisors and staff need to be out in the county, talking with a diverse group of citizens, discovering what are their needs and wants. Positive actions by county leaders to obtain citizen input on county priorities would help in the process. Creating an annual citizen forum where any citizen may speak as to what they believe is an issue, and how it can be solved. Creating citizen-committees to research solutions and develop action plans would be a good first step, ending with a document that is used as a guide in drafting the budget. Most of all, creating an atmosphere of respect and inclusion where citizens gladly give their time and energy to help. Let’s welcome the talent.”
3. What more can Surry County do to ensure a timely response to ambulance calls?
“It is my understanding from the budget process that the county has begun to address this issue. The county included money for an additional rescue squad crew. This idea came from citizens speaking during the budget public hearings. It is an example of the benefits of citizen input and the county leaders listening.”
4. Did the supervisors make the right decision in June by lowering the real estate tax rate to 71 cents per $100 in light of reassessed property values, and postponing a $4 million, two-year plan for parks and recreation improvements? Why or why not?
“Calling it a lower real estate tax is a misnomer. After the 2023 reassessment, where real estate assessments rose, the rate should have been dropped below $.71 per $100 to keep citizens from paying higher taxes to the county. In reality, taxes have increased. Happily the additional funds are designated. Thanks to citizens speaking up, some funding will go to the rescue squad crew, of which I am very supportive.
As far as taking out a $4 million loan for a swimming pool, many of Surry county’s elderly residents are in need of home infrastructure repairs and basic housing needs. While perhaps a pool is wanted to attract citizens to our county, we need a creative, out of the box, thoughtful solution to make this happen. I am only one citizen and I have several ideas. Taking on more debt that results in higher taxes isn’t one of them.”
5. Does Surry County contribute too little, too much, or just enough local money to its school system?
“The Surry County School District is a jewel in our community, the leaders over the last 50-plus years have prioritized education and worked hard to create excellent, well-funded quality education for our kids. The County receives very little funding from federal and state revenue for its school systems, so a large amount of educational funding is in taxation of citizens. Because education is very important and a jewel in Surry County, leaders of course should always look for ways to lower expenses, but not at the expense of the education of our youth.”
6. Did the supervisors make the right decision in April when they amended Surry’s comprehensive plan to limit solar farms to 10% of the county’s developable land? Why or why not?
“The comprehensive plan is a planning guide. It was correct for the county to hold public hearings on the energy section of the plan, and to adopt wording and guidance for our elected leaders to use from citizen input. Because rural areas support most of the country’s energy grids, and dirty industries target rural areas, much careful consideration should be taken in agreeing to any industrial uses for our agrarian lands.”
7. What can be done to reverse Surry County’s decades-long trend of declining population?
“If the answer to this were known, and easy, you would not be asking this question. What we do know is that everything we have done over the past 50 years has not stopped this hollowing out. We have to begin thinking in new paradigms, calling on all our diverse residents to contribute and create connections that include at least 3 types of citizens, elected leaders and staff: Those who are alike, some moderate outsiders and a disruptor or two.
This is how the most successful organizations are structured and how big problems are solved. We have an opportunity to role model possibilities and let go of our fear of change. The ideas are out there, we need to listen. Surry County has many great people. Together the citizens can implement ideas to reverse the present trends. Citizens must engage and we have to create avenues for this to happen.