After falling short in a razor-thin race for the Republican nomination in the Virginia 24 House District last November, Jimmy Ayers is seeking a second term on the Amherst County Board of Supervisors.
Ayers, the board’s chairman and District 3 member, came close to tasting victory in a firehouse primary in November but lost the bid by a single vote against Del. Ronnie Campbell, R-Rockbridge, who went on to win the seat vacated when U.S. Rep. Ben Cline was elected last year. Despite some people calling for a recount, Ayers didn’t formally challenge the results and said a few days after the firehouse primary he wished Campbell well.
A former Amherst County sheriff of 20 years before his retirement in December 2015, Ayers won his first term as a write-in candidate in November of that year. He said his first term was quite different transitioning from law enforcement to serving on the county’s top elected board. He filed to run for another term Monday and is qualified to appear on the ballot, according to Amherst County Registrar Fran Brown. No other candidates have filed to run for the seat by Tuesday’s deadline.
Ayers said he would like to see positive growth in Amherst County, which he said needs to attract more revenue from businesses and ease the burden on county taxpayers.
The county needs to retain more of its youth and is seeing little business growth, he said. Many residents, especially seniors, are living on fixed incomes, he added.
“We as a community need to look at other ways to provide income for the county,” other than taxes from residents, he said.
The looming closure of the Central Virginia Training Center in Madison Heights is another major challenge for the county, Ayers said. The state-run center for residents with disabilities is set to close in June 2020 and many of its dozens of buildings are in need of renovation or demolition, he said.
County and area officials want a future use to come to the property and generate revenue for the region. Ayers said the county cannot afford for the site to become a detriment post-closure.
“It is a very large campus with a lot of large buildings that are in disrepair,” Ayers said. “It will be a challenge for this county if it’s not handled in some form of an appropriate manner. That’s a big item on our plate facing us in the very near future.”
He said another challenge facing the board is maintaining quality employees after a study earlier this year showed salaries for many positions are below the market average compared to other localities.
Adjusting them would cost more than $400,000 and is an item the board didn’t contribute funding toward in the upcoming budget that begins in July. County Administrator Dean Rodgers has said with that pressing issue, he is likely to propose a budget next year that would contain a staff-recommended tax increase.
“We have got to get some wheels turning to see some positive change in this county,” Ayers said.
Despite the challenges, he said he enjoys serving on the board and does not foresee another run for state office in the future.
“The county has been my life my entire adult life,” Ayers said. “The county is where my heart lies.”
Reach Justin Faulconer at (434) 385-5551