Last month County Manager, John Vithoulkas, hosted a breakfast to present the “State of the County” address to area business leaders. The event began with Anthony Romanello and the Economic Development Authority recognizing legacy businesses in Henrico that have been around for fifty years or more. The County Manager then took the stage to begin his speech highlighting the county’s accomplishments in 2022, including voter approval of a $511 million bond referendum, $51 million in tax relief for residents, significant development and redevelopment projects, and the establishment of the Henrico Sports & Entertainment Authority to attract more sports tourism and entertainment to the county. We asked a few employees to share their thoughts on the speech:
What were your thoughts on the State of the County information shared?
“I was surprised by the extensive efforts within the county to seek ways to grow and not remain stagnant. My surprise was not because I would expect anything less of Henrico, but rather the many ways the county seeks to improve the lives of the citizens by really listening. I live in a different county, and I wish they were as receptive and willing to put in the work for their citizens as Henrico is.” – Michelle Richards, Sheriff’s Office
“I thought it was an excellent strategic move to open the State of the County address for Henrico County with businesses that have been here for 25+ and 50+ years. That set the stage for the County Manager’s speech, followed by outlining the highest approval rate of 87% from County residents for the recent bond referendum since the bond referendums started in 1953. That catches your attention! The citizens of Henrico County clearly believe the County Manager is listening to their needs and delivering well-thought-out plans throughout the county. The single slide that showed more than 20+ projects starting throughout the county because of the 2022 bond referendum approval was impressive. One page provided visual confirmation that funds approved by County residents are being distributed throughout the entire county, not just one or two of the districts.” – Michele Greep, Division of Fire
“Information shared included the new era of learning in education at the ACE Centers. Students, families, and employers collaborate in education to prepare students for the future. Public, private investment, and County collaboration in business, parks, and many other projects.” – Abiodun Solanke, Juvenile Detention
How do you see this impacting the employees of Henrico?
“In the short-term, it is, of course, more work and responsibility to meet these goals we have set out. But in the long-term, it will create an even better community to be a part of- more enjoyable and providing a sense of pride.” – Michelle Richards, Sheriff’s Office
“The County Manager has a vision that wholistically supports the county and its citizens. He is listening to the citizens of Henrico County, and his building blocks are safety, education, emergency response, medical support, senior citizens support, first-ever public 24/7 detox center, mental health services, tax relief, sports & entertainment center, growth, transportation, clean environment, and the list keeps growing.” – Michele Greep, Division of Fire
“Low tax rates – rebate for surplus tax revenue for the County residents. Tax relief/ credit for seniors. Improvements in [the Maggie Lena Walker Apartments] and public housing communities in Henrico. Means and opportunities of how County employees can be part of the county’s future. Increasing revenue and growth in quality of life – for instance, roads in new development/projects to ease how we move around in the county. Public transportation, Gayton roads network, and bicycle lanes in the county.” – Abiodun Solanke, Juvenile Detention
What are you excited about?
“Personal bias here: the rehabilitation center that has been proposed. Henrico is not alone in its struggles with the opioid crisis and working for the Sheriff’s Office has given me a first-hand look at the sheer volume of citizens battling it. I am excited to have alternatives to jail/incarceration and provide more help for recovery. Also, the educational opportunities. As a big supporter of continued learning, I’m thrilled that the county is investing in not only advanced educational opportunities for children but also adults within the county.” – Michelle Richards, Sheriff’s Office
“Various investments in the future of Henrico range from school, park, public safety, flood prevention, and drainage projects. $511 million bond referendum approved by citizens. Quick action to resolve issues in the county, for instance, the contamination incident that could potentially impact private wells. Environmental efforts and standards – solar panels installation in schools, eliminate single-use plastic bags.” – Abiodun Solanke, Juvenile Detention
Is there one thing in particular that stood out to you?
“One item that really stuck out to me was the moment of silence to pay respect to HPD Trey Sutton killed in the line of duty. The totality of the County Manager’s vision for Henrico County is clear that the people come first.” – Michele Greep, Division of Fire
“Henrico County Manager John Vithoulkas recognizes the role listening plays in leadership. Many people, especially in management, make Henrico County machine run. Also, the recognition of the Henrico County Board of Supervisors and a moment for Officer Sutton’s passing. Rising violence in the community and efforts to address/curb this situation, starting with the youth summit. Trust of the community in terms of community partnership in the education field and other areas in the county.” – Abiodun Solanke, Juvenile Detention
What do you think employees who did not attend the breakfast should know?
“County leaders are listening and doing much more for the county than what may be known. It’s easy to get tunnel vision for our own departments and agencies, but there’s so much more going on all around the county.” – Michelle Richards, Sheriff’s Office
“Employees that missed his speech should absolutely listen to it when they have a moment. It is packed full of information about our future!” – Michele Greep, Division of Fire
“It is an opportunity to meet major stakeholders in the county and be apprised of what is going on and future policies and goals in the county. Recognition of businesses or companies who have been doing business with the county for over 50 / 50+ business legacies. Establishment of the Henrico Sports & Entertainment Authority.” – Abiodun Solanke, Juvenile Detention
Anything else you would like to add?
‘I’m proud to work for Henrico, and I’m hopeful to see how we progress with these new ventures.” – Michelle Richards, Sheriff’s Office
“The County Manager really knocked the speech out of the park!” – Michele Greep, Division of Fire
“Opportunities to listen and watch the State of the County are available online. I would love for the County administration to provide more opportunities through ballots extended to non-supervisors from different departments to attend the State of the County address in person. This allows for the broad participation of County employees in person. I doubt if many county employees have heard about Henriconext, and the Detox Center for addiction services.” – Abiodun Solanke, Juvenile Detention
As the County Manager said at the beginning of his speech, “Local government is an active exercise. It requires perpetual motion, constant listening, and always, always, always assessing and reassessing what we are doing.” These are our responsibilities as employees of the County. They keep us in sync with the needs of the residents of Henrico County and help us make the County a better place to live, work, and be. The successes listed in the address are our successes and would not be possible without a dedicated and diligent workforce. In the words of the County Manager, “We’ve got a long way to go, but we have prepared and equipped for the journey. I invite you to join us.”
You can view the whole speech on the Henrico County Government YouTube Channel.