Big changes this week in Pulaski County government

There have been big changes in Pulaski County government this week.

Ingles District Supervisor Laura Walters is the new Chairman of the county’s Board of Supervisors – the first woman in county history to hold that position – following the announcement Tuesday evening by former Chairman Joe Guthrie that he has been selected by Governor-Elect Glenn Youngkin as the Commonwealth’s new Commissioner of the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

Guthrie’s acceptance of the appointment means he will soon have to resign his seat on the board representing the Cloyd District.

All the changes on the board occurred Tuesday evening when the supervisors met for their annual organizational meeting in the Pulaski County Innovation Center off Viscoe Road in Fairlawn.

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Now former Board of Supervisors Chairman Joe Guthrie and new chairman, Laura Walters. (Mike Williams/The Patriot)

When the time came during the meeting for a member of the board to nominate a chairman, as promised outgoing Robinson District Supervisor Charles Bopp nominated Guthrie for another year as chairman.

Guthrie, who has served two straight one-year terms as chairman, then announced he would have to decline the nomination because of his appointment by Youngkin.

Guthrie’s selection to lead the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services was announced officially by Youngkin’s staff in an email to the media just moments before Tuesday’s meeting.  The email also announced that Matt Lohr had been named as the next Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry.

“Agriculture is the Commonwealth’s largest independent industry and plays a crucial role in Virginia’s economy and communities. Matt and Joseph bring decades worth of hands-on experience that will give Virginia a competitive advantage in the agriculture industry. Together, we will deliver for our ranchers, farmers, and all Virginians to help ensure our farmers and ranchers thrive,” said Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin.

Following his announcement, Guthrie then placed Walters’ name in nomination for chairman of the board, a move that was approved unanimously by the board.

“I’ll do everything I can to keep us moving forward and do what’s best for our citizens,” Walters said.

Next, Guthrie nominated Draper District Supervisor Dirk Compton as vice chairman of the board – a move that was approved unanimously as well.

On his appointment, Guthrie told the board he was “honored and delighted” that the Governor-elect has selected him to become the next Commissioner of the Virginia Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services.

“I have accepted his offer,” Guthrie said.

“I look forward to working as part of Governor-elect Youngkin’s team to enact his vision for a better Virginia, which the people of the Commonwealth chose when they elected him.

“Prior to being sworn in as Commissioner, I will need to resign from the Pulaski County Board of Supervisors. It is for this reason that I am declining to be considered for re-election as Chair. I greatly appreciate the confidence that my fellow Board members have shown in me to elect me to two consecutive terms as chair, and the willingness that they have expressed to elect me to another annual term. It has been one of the great honors and joys in my life to serve as chair of this board with these board members and for the people of this county,” Guthrie said.

He continued, “I will remain as a member of the Board of Supervisors for a period of time until my other responsibility precludes it. As I know more, I will share it with the members of the board so they can begin the process for an appointment for my office.  I have confidence that Ms. Walters, Mr. Compton, and Mr. Travis along with the new Supervisor from the Robinson District will select a high-quality Supervisor to fill the Cloyd District office and those five Supervisors working together will continue to make great strides in making Pulaski County the best place it can be to live, work, raise, and a family, and retire.”

Guthrie concluded noting that, “At the request of the transition team, I will respectfully decline any interviews or further comment until after the inauguration.”

Tuesday’s meeting was the final one for Robinson District Supervisor Charles Bopp, whose time on the board ended officially at midnight Tuesday.

At the board’s December meeting, Bopp had announced he would be giving up his seat on the board due to health concerns. He said earlier this year he had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease, and felt it best to end his time on the board now with two years left on his term.

Bopp, vice chairman of the board, had expressed the desire to remain on the board through the organizational meeting so he could have the opportunity to once again nominate Guthrie as chairman.

The county has been receiving applications from Robinson District residents interested in serving on the board. The board will select Bopp’s replacement who will serve until a special election is held, likely in November.

The winner of the special election will have one year to serve to complete Bopp’s term before a new election for all supervisor seats in 2023.

County Administrator Jonathan Sweet said Wednesday the board has continued its meeting to January 11.

“On January 11, next Tuesday, the supervisors will conduct interviews of all interested candidates for the Robinson District seat. Their intent following the interviews is to make a determination on the 11th and while they are convened in executive session. They will come out of executive session and potentially take action on an appointment so the individual selected can serve at the board’s next regular meeting on Jan. 24,” Sweet said.

At some point, after Guthrie leaves the board, the remaining supervisors will have to conduct the same process to fill his seat representing the Cloyd District.

Also Tuesday, the board unanimously reappointed Ashley Edmonds as the Clerk of the Board; Markie Quesenberry as Deputy Clerk, and County Attorney Tim Kirtner as Parliamentarian.



Guthrie one of several appointments announced this week by Gov.-Elect Youngkin

Staff and Wire Report

In announcing Joe Guthrie’s appointment as Commissioner of the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Governor-Elect Glenn Youngkin’s staff outlined Guthrie’s experience which qualified him for the position.

“Guthrie was raised on his family’s farm in Pulaski County, and received his bachelor’s degree in agricultural economics from Virginia Tech. He was named Virginia Tech’s Man of the Year as the outstanding graduating senior in 1989. He earned a master’s degree in 1991 in agricultural economics and international trade from Massey University in New Zealand, where he studied as a Fulbright Scholar. In 2007, he was awarded the Eisenhower Fellowship in Agriculture to research international trade of beef from Australia and New Zealand.

“Joe has ten years of experience as an elected official. In 2011, he was elected to a four-year term on the Pulaski County School Board. In 2015, was elected to a four-year term on the county’s Board of Supervisors. He was re-elected to the Board of Supervisors in 2019 and elected Chair of the board by his peers in 2020 and 2021.

GlennYoungkin Inauguration Logos Approved 04 “He currently serves as a Senior Instructor at Virginia Tech and has been teaching courses in business management, finance, communications, and leadership in the Agricultural Technology Program since 2007. He also owns and has operated a beef cattle and hay farm in Pulaski County. He has over 25 years of agricultural business management experience that he has brought to the classroom, which he now brings to the administration.

“Joe has served as the president of Virginia Tech’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Faculty Association, president of Pulaski County Farm Bureau, and president of the Virginia Cattlemen’s Association. He was appointed by USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack to the National Cattlemen’s Beef Promotion and Research Board and was appointed by former Governor Bob McDonnell to the Virginia Cattle Industry Board.

“Joe and his wife Carol have three children and live on the family farm near Dublin.”

Guthrie’s appointment came as Youngkin named several new members of his administration ahead of his Jan. 15 inauguration.

“I am excited to welcome this group of leaders with a record of experience and serving others. These qualified individuals with various backgrounds bring vast experience that ensure we will deliver on our Day One promises,” Youngkin said.

Among them was Jeff Goettman, who has served as the transition director post-election and has been tapped to serve as chief of staff, according to the news release.

Goettman formerly worked in private equity, at the U.S. Department of Treasury and as the executive vice president and chief operating officer at the Export-Import Bank of the United States.

Richard Cullen, a prominent Richmond lawyer and former Virginia attorney general, will serve as counselor to the governor, the news release said.

Cullen has spent most of his nearly 50-year career at McGuireWoods, where he is currently a senior partner, leaving only to serve as U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia from 1991 to 1994 and as Virginia’s attorney general from 1997 to 1998, according to a news release from the firm.

He specialized in government investigations and white collar defense at McGuireWoods, representing such clients as then-Vice President Mike Pence in special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe of Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

Youngkin announced the selection of Craig Crenshaw as secretary of veterans and defense affairs of Virginia. Crenshaw, who retired from the Marine Corps as a major general, has over 30 years of experience in logistics products and services, the news release said.

He also announced that Matt Lohr, a former state delegate, fifth-generation farmer and former Commissioner of the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, would serve as his secretary of agriculture and forestry.

Youngkin also announced this week the selection of:

— Rebecca Glover, who most recently worked on media relations campaigns the Brunswick Group, as deputy chief of staff and communications director.

— Eric Moeller, currently a partner at McKinsey & Company, as “chief transformation officer,” a role not described in the transition news release.

— Daniel Gade, who retired from the Army as a lieutenant colonel, ran unsuccessfully for U.S. Senate in 2020 and works as a professor at American University, as Commissioner of the Department of Veterans Services.

Youngkin, who defeated former Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe in November, will become the first Republican to serve as governor since Bob McDonnell, who was elected in 2009.

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