For two decades, Virgil R. Hazelett’s name was practically synonymous with the county he ran.
The West Virginia native came to Henrico in 1972 as the county’s first traffic engineer. He rose to become the second-longest serving county manager, holding the county’s top non-elected post from 1992 to 2013.
By the time Hazelett retired, he was responsible for the running of a county with more than 10,000 workers and an annual budget of more than $1 billion. As the county grew during his tenure, the budget more than doubled, but he held staff growth to only a little more than 1½ times during the period.
Hazelett’s reputation is built on the county’s recent history of financial stability and economic development. His approach included an emphasis on coordinating information between county staff and board members to avoid surprises at board meetings.
“It’s an overall item that I’m probably the most proud of, and that is the growth and development which has provided an excellent level of service to the citizens of the county at the lowest possible cost,” he said.
Henrico focused on attracting high-quality development and made sure that needed infrastructure was in place or would be in place before new development was finished, he said.
Hazelett, one of the most powerful officials in the area, was sometimes seen as an adversary to regional cooperation. But he was crucial to a number of regional deals struck during his tenure, including the expansion of the Greater Richmond Convention Center and a 1994 agreement that brought closure to a bitter dispute between Richmond and Henrico involving water supply.
And his administration started the Cobbs Creek Reservoir project, a multicounty endeavor designed to take care of the county’s water needs for the next half-century.
Hazelett was influential with the county Board of Supervisors, most of whose members had held seats for years by the time Hazelett retired. As a result, he was able to help pave the way for the orderly transition to his successor, John A. Vithoulkas.
Just before he retired, Hazelett said he regretted the county’s "no" vote on the 2005 meals tax referendum. Shortly after he stepped down, his successor, with Hazelett’s help, was able to earn a "yes" vote from county voters for a meals tax.
Hazelett also supported a training program to help prepare county employees to rise through the ranks.
Hazelett is mostly, but not completely, out of public life. He remains part of the county’s delegation to the Richmond Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
“I do enjoy the people that I work with when I’m representing the county and enjoy having a little finger in the regional aspect of what’s going on,” he said.
Retirement offered him the chance to spend more time with his family, he said. He has been busy “catching up on relationships,” including spending time with his grandchildren and at the beach.
“I’m spending a lot of time with my wife," he said, "which is something I was not able to do for 21 years as county manager."
IN HIS WORDS
I'm always reading about Abraham Lincoln and Thomas Jefferson — I have used the lives of these two individuals as a part of many presentations while working. I read most fiction books of David Baldacci and John Gresham. I just finished "The Relationship Principles of Jesus" by Tom Holladay. This book could teach us all how to treat our fellow man and make a difference in daily life for everyone.
Lincoln and Jefferson. These two individuals were both humble and carried out government at the highest level of service to their fellow man.
Alternate profession or course of study
I would love to teach at a university or professional level. I have always enjoyed teaching and interacting with people who are hungry to learn and prove themselves.
Something you'd like to do
I have always wanted to travel to Australia. I cannot tell you why, but the country has always fascinated me.
Something that might surprise others
I enjoy piano music so very much. For many years, I had CDs in my vehicle to listen to while driving that would relieve the day-to-day stress.
I am so very proud to have worked with the Henrico County Board of Supervisors in planning and developing Henrico County, while improving the level of services to the citizens at the lowest possible tax rates. Over my 21 years, the quality of services and growth was second to no other locality, while the Board of Supervisors worked so hard to reduce the tax burden on our citizens as much as possible.
Favorite thing about Richmond region
The region has so much history and diversity while it continues to evolve into a new era. It constantly changes while it remains the Richmond region we all know and love.
A small moment in life with a big impact
The birth of our two daughters has always stood out as a huge impact on my life. Each birth brought a human being closer to me than ever imagined. Those two events reinforced my need and desire to make a difference in the lives of those around me and those closest to me. My professional life changed with those births and created a drive in me that could not be satisfied. I wanted do do my very best and make a difference for those around me. While life moved on and the daughters grew older, my love for Henrico County and its citizens grew stronger. I could not think of a better opportunity or place to be than home in Henrico County. I believe I have made a difference in lives in this community. No one could ask for more.
VIRGIL R. HAZELETT
Position: retired Henrico County manager
Born/hometown: July 13, 1945; Huntington, W.Va.
College: West Virginia Tech (bachelor's degree), West Virginia University (master's in civil engineering)
Family: wife Shardale, daughters Meredith and Margaret, two grandchildren