Buckingham District 5 candidates answer questions at forum

Published 5:09 pm Wednesday, October 18, 2023

Three candidates running for Buckingham’s District 5 Board of Supervisors seat participated in a forum on Tuesday, Oct. 17. They answered questions and allowed residents to get to know them. 

The forum was sponsored by Yogaville Environmental Solutions (YES) who provided some questions and then allowed audience members to ask theirs too. The three candidates are Harry Bryant, Sherry Ragland and Joe Breland. We’re going to go through their answers one at a time. 

Harry Bryant

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Bryant is the incumbent as he has served on the board for the past eight years. As a board member, he has served on numerous committees including solid waste management, finance and personnel. Bryant said his focus is on creating a solid education for the children and enticing clean energy into the county which will also create jobs for graduated students.

 “I try my best to do what’s best for Buckingham County and its citizens,” he said. 

Multiple residents wanted to know his stance on gold and metallic mining, as well as keeping the county rural yet profitable. Bryant said he a big believer in clean air and energy and acknowledges that all good farmland shouldn’t go to solar farms and similar projects. 

He assured everyone that the board is not interested in bringing gold mining to the county as it is a “dirty and disgusting” process. Since these companies need a special use permit, he sees the process easily stopping there as the board and planning commission will not approve it. When asked directly, he said he would do everything in his power to stop gold mining. 

On the topic of communication, Bryant encourages everyone to tell the board their needs. When working with the board, he sees respect as the biggest way to have a relationship with the other board members and give the respect you want to get back.

“As a supervisor, you have to compromise and you have to disagree without being disagreeable,” he said.

On the topic of mental health, he attributes it to not enough communication and education on it as some professionals are limited on how much they can talk about it. He also attributes it to the ongoing drug problem. 

Bryant fully supports doing what he can to keep young people in the county. He wants to get an industry in to entice people to come and stay as most leave to find a job. Currently, the county is already working on salaries to help retain people and stay competitive. 

Sherry Ragland

Ragland has lived in Buckingham her entire life and is currently finishing her time on the school board after 16 years. She’s worked for 25 years with the Peter Francisco Soil and Water Conservation District, arguing that gives her an understanding of budgets and human relations. Ragland helped get the new bus garage for the schools, building the complex that all students use, she said. 

“Buckingham is my home and I care about what happens not only to District 5 but to the entire county,” she said.

As a Buckingham native, Ragland said she wants to keep the county rural while still allowing for controlled growth. She hopes to build upon what Buckingham already has and go from there. 

When it comes to metallic and gold mining, she is concerned about its effects on the James River and the Chesapeake Bay. She plans to talk to the Board of Supervisors and residents to see what people want. When asked if she’s willing to say she’ll stop it no matter what, she responded that if that’s what her constituents are asking her to do, then yes. 

When it comes to communication, she wants to make information more accessible to the public through a website or an app. She wants to have a little space on the website that just tells people what happened at meetings as the website isn’t the easiest to navigate and find information. She also wants to do better at advertising local businesses and programs. 

“We have a lot of businesses that we could be promoting,” she said. “I feel like there’s so much more we can be letting folks know about.  The board of supervisors are the hub of the county so I feel it needs to be a little more friendlier on the website.”

When working alongside the board, she foresees a good relationship as she already knows the members and the ones running for election. She plans on having open communication and taking from her time as the school board knows the importance of still being neighbors at the end of the day.

For mental health, she acknowledges that Crossroads is a great resource but not everyone has transportation to get the help they need. She wants to reduce the stigma as everyone struggles and provide closer resources by tapping into social services. 

To keep younger people, she sees the two main parts to this as housing and jobs. People need affordable housing and as both of her daughters work outside the county one has already moved for work. She also knows the importance of wifi as students need it for homework and some adults need it for work. 

Ragland would love to hire a grant writer who can help get funding to do things that are needed to get done. 

Joe Breland

Breland is very interested in helping citizens be a part at the grassroots level. He wants to tap into powers that he believes people are not using, including the power of the grand jury. This jury has investigative powers to investigate crimes, usually with the Commonwealth’s Attorney. Breland argues that people can use this power without going through the Commonwealth’s Attorney and can have the power of oversight over the Board of Supervisors or the School Board. 

“We don’t have a lot of power over what goes on in Washington D.C. or the world,” he said. “But here in our little county, we have an opportunity to work together.”

When it comes to mining, Breland agrees that getting resources is a good thing but not at the expense of negatively affecting the waterways and property values. 

When it comes to how he would work with the board of supervisors, Breland said he would share ideas and talk about the different perspectives everyone brings. He knows everyone has lived different lives with different perspectives and said he recognizes the importance of listening and learning from others. 

Breland is also interested in investing in the residents of Buckingham through microloans. According to Breland, this process won’t cause tax hikes because money will come back in as people pay it off. This way the county can work as its own bank to help residents create businesses for the county.

“We’re fostering our people,” he said. “We’re trying to keep the rural identity of the county but we have to make the county produce. We have to be productive.”

Breland kept coming back to the subject of the grand jury. When it comes to local government decisions including mining and other perceived oversteps, the grand jury, he said, is a way for citizens to do their own investigation and put a stop to anything they feel isn’t right. Specifically, when it comes to gold mining, he calls the grand jury a fail-safe. He also cited it as a great way for civic participation.