By Taylor Boyd
In an unopposed bid for the Dan River District seat on the Patrick County Board of Supervisors, Brandon
Simmons said the most important challenge facing the county is finances.
“The problem is we have so many people still leaving the county, and unfortunately our age group is dying out and there’s not enough coming back to replace it. We don’t have any new jobs and we’re lacking on infrastructure,” said Simmons, 38.
Simmons said he also thinks the top three concerns for every supervisor should be public safety, public education, and infrastructure.
“We can’t keep taking away from these things. Education, hands down, should be the number one investment for every locality and state because we are investing in the future employees, business owners, local leaders, and state leaders,” said Simmons, who currently is a member of the Patrick County School Board.
Simmons believes the county can’t keep taking funding from public safety because it will continue to be needed.
“Infrastructure goes back to finance. We have to have more money to help with that,” he said.
These challenges can be addressed by the county by changing how it thinks and operates during budget season – from cutting to creation, he said.
“The first thing that should come to people’s mind on the county side is where can we create more revenue, where can we bring in more revenue, what do we have coming in, and where can we create more? Then once you see how much you’ve got and how much you can bring in, then you can start looking at the cuts,” he said.
Another solution, he said, involves the Transfer Station.
“We’re losing over $400,000 dollars a year and have been there (at the station) … I know we did last year and maybe the year before. There is absolutely no reason that should not have been addressed and fixed many years ago,” he said.
While he notes that the county should not be making money, Simmons said he believes it should at least break even.
“Until that’s fixed, there again robbing Peter to pay Paul. It’s taking away from education, taking away from public safety to even out that $400,000. Then, they have to find ways to cut everywhere else to pay for other things,” he said.
Simmons said he is unaware of the contributions still funded by the county, but he wants to see if there are any that can be eliminated to improve the budget.
He also said that some county departments must be restructured or form partnerships with other departments, to potentially reduce the number of employees.
“I don’t want to see anyone lose their job, but when times are tight, you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do,” he said, adding he’s “willing to do what has to be done to make things work.” That includes cutting positions.
Simmons said he believes the county could have saved money with the county administrator position by offering a lower salary that is more in line with the workload.
“I don’t have a problem with our administrator. I’m not knocking the person that’s in our administrator position at all, but I feel that we had the opportunity to save some money there,” he said, and added a previous administrator was responsible for at least three different positions for similar pay.
Infrastructure, EMS, public safety, and other issues also are among challenges facing the county, but “a lot of the problems we have now go back to finances,” he said, and added the county excels with the school system.
He also said the quality of public safety in the county also is great, considering funding.
The downside, “the sad truth is, we also excel at losing out at creating opportunities and creating more jobs,” he said.
Simmons believes increased transparency between the Board of Supervisors and the public is needed. “I don’t think we truly hear everything that we should be hearing at the meetings. Once I become a supervisor, I want to make sure we are giving out all information that we possibly, legally can,” he said.
He also believes meetings should be better advertised and attendance should be encouraged.
The board also must make sure it improves livestreaming efforts and works to ensure the meetings can be heard by viewers.
Supervisor meeting do not “need to be on the Tourism page of Facebook. Nobody knows where to find it. The county should be its own” social media page, he said.
Simmons said he hopes his accomplishments on the school board over the past four-years will help earn the support of voters. During his tenure, Simmons helped cut unnecessary spending and jobs and implemented free breakfast and lunch for every student in the school system. He also worked in Richmond and locally with getting the one percent sales tax passed to create revenue for future school capital improvements.
Since being elected to the school board, Simmons has supported and encouraged public input.
“There have been countless nights in the last four years that I’ve been on the phone upwards of 12 o’clock at night talking to members of the public on certain things with the school system,” he said.
Simmons also supports local organizations like the Ruritan clubs, inviting local board members to come and talk about issues facing the county and school division.
“Anyone who’s paid attention in the last four years will know that I don’t mind speaking out or saying or doing what needs to be said or done. I’m not afraid to stand up when I need to, and I will be a strong, loud voice, not only for the Dan River District, but for the rest of the county,” he said.
Simmons attended Blue Ridge Elementary School and Patrick County High School. He has been married to his wife, Claire, a nurse, for 16 and-a-half years. The Simmons’ have three children – Tobin, 8, Landree, 6, and Ellie, 18 months.
He currently owns and works at Rabbit Ridge Gun Shop & Range in Ararat.
In his spare time, Simmons enjoys playing golf, hunting, fishing, and playing with his children. He is interested in helping the community and county grow.