By Taylor Boyd
Alan Black, who has served as the County Attorney, is set to step down from the role on June 30.
“I’ve been doing it for a long time, and I’m 66-years-old, so just getting rid of that part of my practice that involves late night meetings. That’s enough, let somebody else have it,” he said.
“I’ve enjoyed the work, and I think it’s important work. I did enjoy representing the Board of Supervisors, and I will continue to represent Social Services, I’ve been doing this since 1993 without a break,” Black said.
Working on the local hospital’s bankruptcy in the late 1990s was the highlight of his career as county attorney, Black said.
“The county put a lot of effort to keep the hospital afloat, and it lasted awhile, but it was complex, difficult work where every objective and goal that we had ran into a dead end, and it was more complicated that we could have anticipated,” he said.
“I worked with some really good county employees, and I’ve had good, warm, friendly relationships,” with many. “I think that part is the best part in my history of doing the work,” he said.
Black said he thinks the quality of representation will pick up when Guynn, Waddell, Carroll, & Lockaby, P.C. in Salem take over the position.
Jim Guynn “and his partners and associates are all very experienced local government attorneys. They’re all well liked and well respected and if I could provide any institutional memory or any kind of help I will,” Black said. “I welcome them coming here. I think it will be a good thing for the county to have them representing the county and they’ll do a good job.”
The board issued an RFP (Request for Proposal) after being asked by members of the community who wanted to know why the board didn’t advertise for the position or have a review of the position, Clyde DeLoach, of the Blue Ridge District, said.
“We wanted a contract, that was the first thing we said. We didn’t really have a contract with Alan. There was something there, but it really didn’t do much of anything. So, we had him draw up a contract, and we signed that to run until the end of this month,” DeLoach said.
The second thing the board did, he said, was advertise for the position. Black was eligible to respond to the advertisement but chose not to do so.
“We interviewed three people, or law firms you might say. We interviewed Jim Guynn, out of Salem. We interviewed Wren Williams (of Schneider & Williams, P.C.), and Chip Slate (Harold E. “Chip” Slate – Attorney at Law),” he said.
DeLoach said the board decided against any of the local firms and opted to go with Guynn’s firm.
“He’s done work for us before, he does work for VACO (Virginia Association of Counties), and he does work for several other counties around Virginia. So, he’s the one we decided to go with,” he said, adding that Guynn’s firm is among the top two in Virginia for this type of law.
“It was our feeling that would give the county the best kind of representation that we want,” he said.
DeLoach said that while Guynn will be the primary attorney, any member of his firm could potentially represent the county.
“It was part of his presentation that he has experts in different fields, and that if maybe one of them could do a whole lot better job on a particular thing, that he could and that would be who would take it,” he said.
Despite the firm being situated outside of the county in Salem, DeLoach said he is not concerned about Guynn’s ability to attend board meetings.
“The one thing that was brought up was that he could attend every meeting, but if something did come up, he could send a partner to represent the firm,” DeLoach said, and added the workload would be manageable since most of the work can be handled electronically now.
“The one drawback is that he is not right here, but he is in a sense because he’s a phone call away and Geri (Hazelwood, county administrator) said she already talks to him all the time, so all she’d have to do is pick up the phone. If they want a paper read, they can fax it to him. There’s all kinds of ways to do that,” DeLoach said.
Hazelwood said the county issued the RFP in mid-March. At a May 24 meeting, the supervisors approved entering into an agreement with the firm for legal services, effective July 1.
“As of today, we are budgeting $43,000 for those services,” Hazelwood said, adding the board is scheduled to adopt the budget on June 14.