By Taylor Boyd
The Patrick County Board of Supervisors in a 4 to 1 vote on Aug. 17 named Geri Hazelwood county administrator.
When casting the dissenting vote, Jane Fulk, chairman and of the Dan River District, said her no vote was due to “the reasons I gave” to the executive committee. Fulk did not elaborate.
The remaining board members, including Crystal Harris, vice chairman and of the Smith River District; Clyde Deloach, of the Blue Ridge District; Clayton Kendrick, of the Mayo River District, and Denise Stirewalt, of the Peters Creek District, voted in support and Hazelwood, 44, officially assumes her new post on Sept. 1.
Her vision for the county is to “promote economic, and social stability and quality of life by providing progressive, quality improvements,” she said.
To that end, Hazelwood said she believes “having communication across all the boards and working together” will help achieve this goal. “We have some really strong boards and passionate people for this county.”
Her first order of business is to “set up meetings with each of the elected officials, hold strategic planning meetings, and establish visions for Patrick County with my board.”
Within her first 100-days, Hazelwood said she hopes to continue networking efforts with the municipal governments within Virginia. Networking and meeting with other jurisdictions are important steps to move the county forward, because both help to improve the knowledge of the best ways to deal with COVID-19, she said.
It helps to understand, “how we do these things and navigate because it’s not a normal situation that we may have been in six-months ago,” Hazelwood said, adding that the COVID-19 pandemic “has changed the way that we’re doing things.”
She also wants to get the county back to a “new normal,” but as many, does not yet know what that will look like.
Hazelwood said another goal is to get the county fiscally stable.
The county has suffered from fiscal stress for the past few years, as budget shortfalls forced the board to procure Revenue Anticipation Notes (RANs) in case the proceeds were needed to help meet the county’s fiscal responsibilities.
Hazelwood said her goal is for the county to be fiscally stable within 5- to 10-years under her leadership. “It’s no small feat,” Hazelwood said, “but we’re moving in the right directions.”
Hazelwood said she also wants to meet with the state legislature to share concerns and needs of the county in the first six-months of her position.
“I don’t know what they may be at this time,” she said, because concerns and “goals are changing by the day.”
Hazelwood also wants to continue the networking and outreach by meeting with the communities of each district to solicit input.
“It’s important to involve everyone in the county in moving the county forward,” Hazelwood said. However, she isn’t sure if these meetings will be possible due to COVID-19.
Her three- and six-month goals will be incorporated into her plan for her first year in office, Hazelwood said, adding that she hopes to soon have an opportunity to meet with the board and discuss the vision for the county.
Once that occurs, “I think I’ll have a better idea of my one-year projections,” she said, adding that she wants her goals to line up with the board.
“We need to be on the same page so we can make Patrick County successful,” Hazelwood said.
She also wants the county to continue being progressive and be a place where people want to visit, come back to, and potentially choose to stay.
“I want the county to be a place where we can have young people go out and start their careers, and to then come back to Patrick County and share their knowledge and wealth with us to keep us progressive and moving forward,” she said.
Hazelwood has served as interim county administrator multiple times, including her most recent stint, which began in January, after the board declined to renew the contract of then-county administrator Tom Rose.
“I have been working sincerely towards this goal” of serving as county administrator, she said. “I am very glad to have achieved it.”
She explained the board required two rounds of interviews before she was selected to fill the post.
“I just want to do the job to the best of my ability every day,” said Hazelwood. “I want to be able to grow and to learn and continue to educate myself to make myself a more valuable (asset) to this operation.”
Because the position is constantly changing and evolving, Hazelwood said she wants to stay on top of it by being a “life-long learner.”
Hazelwood graduated from Liberty University with a B.S. in Business and Marketing. She hopes to continue her education by pursuing either an MBA or an MPA degree, but wants to talk to her board first because “it is something that would require quite a bit of my time and, my first priority is first to see where we want to go as a county.”
She began working in Patrick County in May 2007 as the administrative assistant in the Building Inspection Department. She was promoted to the assistant county administrator and clerk to the board.
Hazelwood joined the Virginia Municipal Clerk Association (VMCA) and the International Institute of Municipal Clerks (IIMC). She received her certification as a municipal clerk three-years into that role.
She also formerly volunteered at absentee polls but is no longer able to that due to her position.
Hazelwood has been a resident of Patrick County since 1979, when her family migrated from West Virginia. She currently lives in the Blue Ridge District with husband, Chris. Their son, Trevor, 21, attends the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, and daughter Madeline attends Patrick Henry Community College. The family enjoys outdoor activities such as hiking, swimming, and visiting lakes, Hazelwood said.