State of the County- A Community Celebration

“I don’t know how else to say it, but this is a community celebration,” County Manager John A. Vithoulkas said in welcoming the estimated 400 guests at the Henrico Sports & Events Center on November 16. “Today is a celebration of the work efforts of our staff, of exceptional public service and all of this is … is driven by the policies and the goals and the aspirations of our Board of Supervisors.”


After a musical introduction by the Henrico High School marching band, the County Manager thanked the current Board of Supervisors for their hard work, with special mention to Patricia O’Bannon and Frank Thornton, who are both retiring after 28 years on the Board. He also thanked Tommy Brannon for his eight years on the Board and welcomed the recently elected members: Jody Rogish (Tuckahoe), Roscoe Cooper (Fairfield), and Misty Whitehead (Three Chopt).

Along with the different setting of this year’s event in the brand-new sports arena, there was also a new format. Instead of the County Manager speaking for the duration, he introduced the first of seven speakers– all department heads or other County officials, each highlighting accomplishments in key service areas: education, finance, economic development, tourism, infrastructure, housing, sustainability, and public safety.

First, Dr. Amy Cashwell, Superintendent of Henrico County Public Schools (HCPS), introduced the new school board and spoke of the top five things we need to know about HCPS:

    • We put students first
    • Henrico Schools is a sound return on investments
    • We are dedicated to safety and wellness
    • HCPS is a great place to work
    • HCPS is future-ready

Second, Brandon Hinton, Deputy County Manager of Administration, took the podium and spoke of the current 401 capital projects, including the rebuilding and renovating of several elementary schools and the construction of a living Environmental Education building at Wilton Farm, 141 public works projects, the new Police Station that just broke ground in their South district, and Firehouse 23 that is currently under construction. He then gave a shout-out to Sheila Minor and Justin Crawford for creating a 20.1% growth rate in the annually compounded General Fund Balance since July 2020. He attributed the County’s success to steadfast and consistent leadership, incredible employees, businesses that have made Henrico home, and the secret ingredient: how we manage our finances. By investing in flexibility, we can manage economic downturns without raising taxes or employee layoffs. Instead, Henrico has invested in its employees, allowing them to receive, on average, a 32% increase in salary in the past two and a half years. Smart money management also permitted Henrico to provide tax relief to residents and to be the first locality in the state to take advantage of new state laws and give surplus real estate and personal property taxes back to taxpayers. Henrico also cut the already-lowest personal property tax by an additional ten cents. Brandon closed by discussing the RECap Program that will provide real estate tax relief for the qualifying Henrico property owners.


Anthony Romanello, Executive Director of the Economic Development Authority, was next on the mic and opened by stating that the County’s finances are so strong because its economy is so strong. In fact, it is the fourth strongest economy in the state and second for jobs. This is made possible by public-private partnerships and $2.5 billion in private investments such as Amazon. Richmond International Airport in Henrico being named the most efficient airport in North America also helps! Henrico isn’t just about the billions in investments but also the people and working with businesses of all sizes. The Small Business Development Center helped 225 businesses in the last year. Anthony closed out by discussing future projects such as the Willow Lawn remodel and Green City.


Dennis Bickmeier, Executive Director of the Henrico Sports and Entertainment Authority, was next up to speak and rallied the crowd with his motto of “Showtime all the time.” He went on to discuss how the new Henrico Sports and Event Center, where the meeting was held, was a huge multi-department collaboration between Recreation and Parks’ capital projects team, IT, Finance, Public Works, Public Relations, General Services, and legal. “…This Center’s production systems were designed in-house by Mike Stoeckle [with Public Relations]. This gives us television and event production capabilities that rival those of major Arenas around the country… Travis Sparrow, Brian Viscuso, and the IT team did extensive work to enhance the guest experience and overall technology capabilities in this building. By tapping the expertise of the county staff, we saved this project over a million dollars.” Dennis excitedly shared that 46 weekends of events have already been scheduled for 2024!


Looking to Henrico Parks, Dennis was proud to share the completion of the Dorey Park water park, and Deep Run Rec Center expansion, and that program participation has returned to pre-pandemic levels. Next summer, we can all look forward to the opening of Taylor Park, a 99-acre park with trails, a skate park, and a fallen heroes memorial. Pouncy Tract Park is also adding pickleball courts, and Glover Park is expanding to add a second entrance, trails, a dog park, and more multi-purpose fields. Its new baseball stadium will complement Glenn Allen Stadium and Dory Stadium, allowing Henrico to boast a Triad of stadiums, unlike any other locality in the country.


Dennis then passed the ball to Terrell Hughes, Director of Public Works, to discuss infrastructure efforts to improve quality of life and secure a long-term future for residents. He started with the Fall Line project that broke ground in October and will add 14 miles of bike lanes and connect to the Capital Trail. There are also 120 transportation projects in the works, most of which are adding sidewalks and pedestrian safety. Through the partnership with the Greater Richmond Transit Commission (GRTC), there are projects to expand bus routes and add bus stop enhancements. Along with transportation, water and internet have been big priorities, especially in the more rural parts of the County. Henrico has been proactively replacing underground sewer and water lines, connected 30 houses to County water that were previously on wells, and soon 100% of County residents will have broadband access. There have been multiple drainage and Wastewater facility improvements. The Westwood pump station is being designed, water and sewer is expanding to southeast Henrico, and the Cobbs Creek Reservoir is nearly completed, which will secure the County’s drinking water for the next 50 years. As far as road projects go, several rural roads have been expanded, and roundabouts have been added throughout the County. Next year, the County can look forward to the building of the Magellan Parkways and a new bridge over I95, Saddler Road widening, utility work at Three Chopt Road, and I64 Highway improvements near Short Pump.


Next, Eric Leabough, Director of Community Revitalization, took the stage to discuss housing. There has been an uptick in the number of people living out of hotels, couch surfing, or unsheltered. To combat the lack of supply of homes, Henrico is constructing Cool Lane Commons, an 86-unit apartment building for people without housing; helped Housing Families First expand their family shelter; and cultivating partnerships to provide greater levels of housing affordability, including five current memorandums of understanding (MOUs) which represents about 1,000 units. Creating the Hotel to Home program has helped people living in hotels move into permanent housing. This initiative came from the hotel task force, which involved working with the Police Division, the Division of Fire, Mental Health and Developmental Services, Building Inspections, the Health Department, the County Attorney’s Office, and the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office. Joe Emerson and the planning team have created tools, zoning ordinances, and a fast-track approval process to help the building process. Henrico also partnered with the broader development community to bring units online faster and on a larger scale to meet the growing affordable housing needs such as Arcadia and River East. It isn’t just about providing housing, but also the maintenance and upkeep of current housing. There are partnerships through Project Homes and Richmond Habitat that, on average, support 70 homeowners annually. Community Revitalization and Building Inspections partnered to assist the residents of Glenwood Farms in improving their conditions. Affordability has been another major issue when it comes to housing. Considering this, Henrico is rolling out the Employee Home Purchase Assistance Program (EHPAP) to provide down-payment and closing cost assistance to employees purchasing their first home in Henrico County.


After a short video on Henrico’s sustainability efforts featuring the 90,000 new recycling carts, tripled solar production, the launch of Henrico’s Environmental Action Resource Team (HEART), and reforesting, the Chief of Staff, Cari Tretina, took the stage as the final presenter. She discussed the Encore program created by Yvette George, Director of Human Resources, that allows retirees to come back to work part-time. The program has seen success in the Division of Fire and with the newly created Emergency Communications Division, which increased staffing by 38%. The introduction of eight weeks of parental leave is also an added benefit for employees. Cari went on to say, “We need great employees in public safety because Henrico isn’t immune to the challenges we face as a nation. Gun violence, particularly involving our youth, has dramatically increased, and so have our struggles with mental health, our Justice and medical systems are stressed like never before, but as a county, we’re meeting the challenges with teamwork and swift action.” By the end of 2023, officers removed more than 900 guns from the street. Multi-agency teams of first responders and human services professionals, such as the Star Team, the Care Team, and the Crisis Response Teams, have been instrumental in getting residents the care they need. The Mental Health Docket, which diverts individuals from jail to get treatment, has seen a 96% graduation rate, meaning the individual got a job and the treatment they needed and was reunited with family.

Substance Abuse has also been an issue in the community. MHDS has expanded its mobile services and created a program providing comprehensive family support for pregnant and parenting mothers who are working to overcome substance abuse disorders. Henrico has also partnered with St. Joseph’s Villa to create the Youth Regional Crisis Receiving Center and implemented the Community Service Art Project that allows teens in our justice system to express themselves and find hidden talents through painting. This project has resulted in three beautiful murals.

Cari stated, “It serves as a daily reminder of what we can accomplish when we believe in our youth and give them opportunities to grow.”


Speaking of youth, Cari proudly remarked on the inaugural Team Summit RVA, a regional event organized by our very own Deputy County Manager Monica Callahan, where more than 540 students attended and learned about jobs and community resources and were given a platform to be heard. 
She also congratulated the County’s Internship Program for receiving a “Top Employer for Interns in Virginia” Award from the Governor. She ultimately closed her speech by noting that the County Manager started his career as an intern and that “Henrico and this region continue to benefit from the opportunity [the County Manager] was given.”


Finally, the County Manager took the stage to close out the program. “Like I said in the beginning, you know Henrico County is not a locality where we can come out and show a year’s worth of work in fifteen minutes. I certainly hope we never get to that point. I am so proud of the staff, and I’m so thankful to the Board of Supervisors and the School Board for the opportunities… you continue to give us… I believe the best days are ahead of us.”


You can watch the full address on the Henrico County Government YouTube Channel.


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State of the County: A Summary of 2022

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.

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Soaring Above: A Review of the State of the County

Last month County Manager John Vithoulkas, presented the “State of the County” to address area business leaders. He likened his review of 2019 to the speech President Kennedy gave announcing the moon landing mission: “We choose to go to the moon not because it is easy but because it is hard.” In the County Manager’s words, “We reached for something, might have seemed a bit risky, a little beyond our grasp, but we did it and history was made.” He went on to say how the County did the same; we took risks over the past year by utilizing the “Henrico Way” and a desire to soar above. Together, embraced by a workforce of 4,000 people, the County was able to achieve great things. This is good news for business owners and residents, but what does it mean for employees? We asked a few to share their thoughts on this year’s State of the County accomplishments:  


What are your overall thoughts on the State of the County information shared?  

“WOWWW!!! were my overall thoughts.  It is very easy to forget accomplishments as we go about our day to day lives at work.  I believe the State of the County information helps every associate, citizen, business owner etc. understand the impact of what we do and how it affects Henrico and Virginia.  There is a correlation to providing good customer service, for example as it allows for vendors to feel confident in doing business in the County.  Internal deadlines that we meet and exceed allow decisions to be made and executed that provide clarity in the process of local government (which could be cumbersome) but our efforts exceed other localities which makes us great.” – Jeff Conley, Supplier Relations Manager, Finance – Purchasing Division 

“The County is transparent in their efforts to manage, build, grow and partner with others for the best possible place to live, work and grow your family or business. The staff and administrators have heart in all things being considered and challenge stakeholders to work together to achieve and do difficult things to make our County the best it can be for everyone while being fiscally conservative and mindful of the past, present, history and future.”– Debbie Lumpkin- HR Analyst 


How do you see this impacting the employees of Henrico?     

“As an employee I take great pride in the accomplishments and the goals that our County has set.  I think that the information shared gives additional tools and resources to share with our community as “ambassadors” for the County.” – Jeff Conley   

The impact to employees is that we are challenged to get the job done, thinking outside the box and partnering with others in ways that we might not done in the past.The more we reach for the moon, the more we will achieve together.” – Debbie Lumpkin 

What are you excited about?     

“I am excited about the energy and motivation of County leaders, it is contagious and is multiplied as we spread the message in each of our work areas.  I am further excited when friends and colleagues outside of the County ask about my experiences and successes and I am able to share with great enthusiasm and zeal that not only is Henrico a great place to live it is a great place to work!” – Jeff Conley   

“I am excited by partnership opportunities and the revitalization of residential and businesses and new growth of each. By creating inviting facilities and recreational venues with transportation for all to enjoy only helps the community live, learn, prosper and engage with one another, and is that not what life is all about? “– Debbie Lumpkin 


Is there one thing in particular that stood out to you?     

“The growth of our County stood out the most and how we as a local body are finding innovative ways of keeping not only our County competitive but our associates also through leadership opportunities on major initiatives impacting our community.” – Jeff Conley 

“These quotes from the presentation, “With heart the impossible is possible” and “We reach for things not because they are easy but because they are hard” sum up the mission for County employees as we conduct business and interact with one another because what we do is bigger than ourselves and has great impact to many for years beyond us. “– Debbie Lumpkin 


What do you think employees who didn’t attend the State of the County should know?     

“I like that there is a link that can be shared that provides an additional opportunity to tell the Henrico story and highlight the ‘Henrico Way’. I also think associates benefit from knowing how the community supports the State of the County address and who is in the room, partnering for the success of our County.” – Jeff Conley   

“For employees who have ever wondered their purpose, the presentation will bring to light the purpose and the “why” we do what we do each day and should feel the pride and appreciation for the ways that they contribute to the success of our County and its future for everyone. “– Debbie Lumpkin 


Anything else you would like to add? 

“I REALLY liked the references to not doing the easy stuff, but the hard stuff is what makes this County epic.  I cannot get the picture of the moon landing and the Henrico flag out of my head. It made me proud to be counted in the number of associates and citizens. The graphic for Facebook and the H formation of the current buildings and how growth could impact our region was memorable as well.”– Jeff Conley 

To watch the State of the County, please visit  the Henrico County YouTube channel. 


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