HANOVER – Aubrey “Bucky” Stanley will begin his 37th year as a member of the Hanover County County Board of Supervisors with a gavel in his hand.
The Beaverdam District representative was unanimously elected by his fellow board members at an annual organizational meeting held last week.
Henry District supervisor Sean Davis was elected vice chair for the upcoming year.
Outgoing chair Canova Peterson handed over the gavel after issuing his exit remarks that began with his appreciation for his colleagues for their support during his 12-month tenure, his second as board chair.
He also reflected on a year that presented its fair share of challenges, some of them continuing as the new officers take charge.
“2019 had definitely been a memorable year,” Peterson said. “We have dealt with primaries, conventions, and general elections. We’ve been visited by outside groups hoping to cause disruption, unsuccessfully I’m happy to say.”
He also noted the exit of county attorney Sterling Rives and pending retirement of county administrator Rhu Harris, and the school board’s continuing lawsuit filed by the local chapter of the NAACP regarding the names of two schools in Hanover County Public Schools.
“With all these happenings, a lesser board may have found it difficult to keep their attention on good, representative government,” he added. “I’m so proud to be part of a board that never lost its focus.
Peterson said the many successes of the past year are a tribute to his colleagues and their hard work, and said he hoped his efforts fulfilled their high standard.
“I have worked hard to live up to the confidence you have shown in me, and I hope I have met your expectations,” Peterson said as he surrendered the gavel to Stanley.
Citing a long list of upcoming events and issues, Stanley said the issue of selecting a new county administrator is among the top priorities.
“That’s going to be a tough act because all of us have an idea of what we’d like to see in a new county administrator,” Stanley said. “We’ve been so used to Mr. Harris for so long and he’s been a part of this county growing the way it has.”
He also noted some immediate items that require attention like the Cedar Lane zoning issue and two school board appointments.
Regarding the hiring of a new county administrator, the board will begin its Jan. 22 meeting at 3:30 p.m. with a workshop session to hear an update from a firm hired to assist in the search for a new leader.
The chair described himself as “old school”, noting he prefers a phone conversation to an email.
“A lot of people will email me and say things that I don’t think they would say just talking to me,” he said.
Stanley said he prefers to delegate and urged board members to address issues in their jurisdictions.
“If it’s in your district, take charge,” he said.
In other matters, Commissioner of Revenue Scott Harris asked supervisors to consider an adjustment to the county’s Senior and Disabled Tax Relief program.
Citizens must be 65 years old or permanently disabled to qualify for the relief, and currently earn less than $50,000 annually and have less than $200,000 in accumulated wealth.
The relief is based on the applicant’s income with those with less than $10,000 annual income pay no real estate taxes, while someone making $50,000 receive a 25 percent reduction.
Harris said more than 1,300 Hanover residents participate in the program that costs the county around $1.4 million annually.
The program has not been adjusted in a dozen years, and Harris asked the supervisors to increase the maximum levels by $2,500.
“We want to be responsible to the needs of our citizens,” Harris said.
The board adopted the adjustment by a unanimous vote.
During a citizens comment period, Cliff Parker told the board a recent issue regarding his wife and an unruly student in her Hanover County classroom has been resolved, but he still listed his complaints concerning discipline in the county’s schools.
“My wife is a teacher,” Parker said. “She’s been harassed, intimidated, and assaulted in her classroom for the last four months. After five police reports, four board presentations, two letters to a principal, and a meeting with Dr. [Michael] Gill [superintendent of HCPS] and Mr. [Chris]Whitley [HCPS public information officer] the issue has somewhat been resolved.”
Parker hinted that rules and regulations, privacy requirements and the like combined to allow troubled students to hide behind what he termed smoke and mirror “excuses.”
He suggested removing troubled elementary students from classrooms and placing them in a special school.
“We need consequences and we need respect in the classroom — respect for teachers and respect for other students, and respect for the learning environment,” Parker said.