Carroll County Administrator Gary Larrowe will resign from his post effective December 31 as he was hired Sept. 23 by a 5-0 vote from the Botetourt County Board of Supervisors as the locality’s new county administrator.
Larrowe said he turned down other localities who had shown interest in him before. Larrowe began his tenure as Carroll County Administrator in September of 2005 and said the decision to leave was not an easy one.
“I had a personal goal of holding a leadership role in Carroll for 10 years and that was accomplished this month. It will be difficult to leave such dedicated staff and I have enjoyed working with the various board members and citizens,” Larrowe said. “The work is not done as an individual – it must always be a team effort.”
Carroll County Board of Supervisors’ Chairman Phil McCraw said he was sad to hear the news of Larrowe’s resignation from Carroll County. He believes Botetourt County has made a great decision, however, to hire Larrowe.
“I wish him the very best. I truly do. I think Botetourt has made a very wise decision in hiring him. He will be sorely missed in Carroll County,” McCraw said. “He has been excellent to work with from my perspective. He has put in long, long hours and had so much to do with our economic development it is unreal. And I know he has had numerous opportunities to leave, but he has stayed here with us and I am happy for it. Regardless of what some people think, he is all about trying to make Carroll County better.”
According to a report in The Roanoke Times, Larrowe will make an annual salary of $147,000 as Botetourt’s county administrator. McCraw said he didn’t think Larrowe was actively seeking to leave Carroll County, noting he is “Carroll County through and through. He was born and raised here.” But the offer from Botetourt was an excellent one.
“I think it’s just the way the stars aligned,” McCraw said. “They probably made him an offer he probably just couldn’t refuse, sort of like the old line in the Godfather movie. I hear enough through the grapevine I know there have been several other counties to offer him in the last several years and he stayed, but he decided this was the time to move on. He gets out and pursues all these things for us, the STEM Lab has been such a big deal. And I think that really opened a lot of eyes statewide and nationwide. I don’t think Gary has been out looking, but I think a lot of people have been looking for him. I think he has had other opportunities and up to this point has declined those, but this has come up and he has taken it. In my opinion, this will be a big loss for Carroll County.”
In addition to his duties as county administrator for Carroll, Larrowe also served as Executive Director of the Carroll County Public Service Authority, the Carroll County Industrial Development Authority, and the Carroll County Natural Gas System. McCraw said a special called meeting of the Carroll County Board of Supervisors will be held Sept. 29 at 7 p.m. to at least start the process of putting out advertising for a new county administrator.
“I feel like we need to be trying to get the highest quality of a county administrator to replace Gary because in my opinion he is of the highest quality. I think we need to get started sooner rather than later,” McCraw said. “I consider him a good friend and I think he’s been a heck of a county administrator. That’s pretty evident to me.”
McCraw said he has developed a great relationship with Larrowe since McCraw was elected to the board of supervisors four years ago. He called Larrowe a visionary for Carroll County.
“I didn’t realize how brilliant he was until I started serving on that board. I was blown away with his intelligence,” McCraw said. “And his work ethic, there have been times when he has sent me an e-mail at 2 a.m. and I am thinking, ‘Good God, does this man ever sleep?’ He has put in long hours for the county. I’d say there weren’t many weeks he didn’t put in at least 80 hours, and some he has put in 90 or 100, so it will be quite a change.”
In Thursday’s press release, Carroll County said Larrowe’s legacy will be based around projects and regional cooperation.
“Under Larrowe’s leadership, Carroll County has grown in almost every direction in spite of difficult times,” the press release stated. “Larrowe would often be quoted as saying, ‘We are too poor to fight,’ and felt that working as a regional cooperative team yielded the best results. As a result, Carroll County is known as the connective tissue in the region to many larger projects that provide infrastructure and services to Carroll that otherwise would not be available or exceptionally expensive.”
The press release said regional cooperation is the reason behind the New River Regional Water Authority with Wythe County and Wytheville, where Carroll is a full partner in treating water at Austinville that is the sustainable water supply for much of Carroll County.
“This is the same water that Gatorade and Pepsi use in Wythe County,” Larrowe said.
Carroll is also full members in the Blue Ridge Crossroads Economic Development Authority (BRCEDA) with Grayson County and the City of Galax. The Wildwood Commerce Park is the fruit of the labor in this project. Wildwood is a 273+ acre commerce park “ready to land a prospect with all needed utilities except natural gas” and there is a plan for that in the near future. The regional partnership has gained more than $19,250,000 in grants and outside investments to assist with the Wildwood project.
“The regional cooperation spreads through the Wired Road fiber network, the Regional Solid Waste Authority, Animal Shelter, Twin County Airport, and the regional 911 dispatch center. Larrowe has worked to keep each of these entities strong for the benefit of Carroll citizens and the region as a whole,” the press release stated. “Localities across the state look to Larrowe, Jonathan Sweet, county administrator in Grayson, and Galax City Manager Keith Barker, as the examples of cooperation, and they are guest speakers on the topic at state meeting on a regular basis.”
The press release states Larrowe’s real passion has been in projects he’s been able to make happen. He credits his numerous roles with the PSA, IDA, natural gas and as Chief Economic Development Officer of the county as being a benefit in those endeavors.
“During the growth period of the past 10 years, it was great to have access to all of the main organizations of the county,” Larrowe said, citing a long list of projects he led or provided major support to during his tenure.
Included in those projects listed by Larrowe include the development of Love’s truck stop at Exit 1, negotiating the repurchase of the Southwest Virginia Farmers’ Market from the Commonwealth of Virginia for $222,000 “when the state wanted $479,000,” and negotiating the landing of the Results Call Center at the Crossroads Institute in Galax.
Other accomplishments listed by Larrowe include negotiating with member parents of the landfill to pay off Carroll’s landfill debt “for pennies on the dollar,” negotiating the release of Carroll County from any obligation of the Tobacco Commission and the Governor’s Opportunity Fund for the $600,000 AmerLink “disaster,” supporting efforts to grow the Carroll County Fair, negotiating the relocation of the county’s tourism office to be more accessible to the traveling public at Exit 14 off Interstate 77, planning for and seeking money for Carroll County Cannery upgrades, planning and carrying out development of the Carter Pines Park, and upgrades to the Emergency Communications System.
Other items listed by Larrowe include assisting with the development of the Crossroads Institute and the Higher Education Center, working on the new airport terminal and expansion of the apron and security fencing at Twin County Airport, helping repurpose Woodlawn School for recreational use and future development, conducting water system projects for Honeycutt Dam Road, Airport Road, Coon Ridge Road, Sylvatus, Regional Water, Fancy Gap Water, Exit 1 and Cliffview Water, and sewer projects including Woodlawn, Fancy Gap and I-77’s Exit 1 in Lambsburg.
Larrowe said he also helped retain Mohawk Industries with electrical feed solution and with the installation of Natural Gas, assisted with Wired Road fiber expansion to the Carroll County Industrial Park, Fire and Rescue, PSA and from Wildwood to Galax, assisted with stabilization of the day care facility in the Industrial Park, assisted with creation of the organizational capacity for the Small Business Development Center that has resulted in more than 1,200 new jobs and more than $54 million in capital investment.
Larrowe also had a hand in the completion of Phase III construction upgrades to Carroll County’s middle and high schools, and the HVAC construction and STEM Lab for Agriculture at CCHS. Other accomplishments he listed included helping create an Entrepreneurial Education program in the county’s elementary schools, a management system for the Farmers’ Market, assisting in the “Green” lighting project at the Carroll Governmental Complex, creation of the day reporting program to reduce jail costs, and creation of the Fall Pupmkin Festival.
The outgoing county administrator also listed assisting in recruitment to fill the Carroll Industrial Park to 100 percent capacity, a record five economic development announcements for Carroll in 2014, helping purchase three buildings in the Industrial park, and obtaining more than $7.1 million in grants since 2011.
“Larrowe is very proud of what has been accomplished despite the issues and distractions that came up from time to time,” the press release states. “Larrowe stayed focused on the goal of making Carroll a better place and was successful in achieving much.”
He called the installation of the county’s natural gas system and the creation of the nation’s first STEM Lab for Agriculture two of the most challenging, yet rewarding, projects during his tenure.
“I would have liked to see a project land at Wildwood Commerce Park before I left; however, I remember the project where Wildwood came in second to North Carolina,” Larrowe said. “The project was worth $150 million in capital investment and over 600 jobs. This validated that we have a marketable site and the correct mix in Carroll to land a major project, and I am sure Wildwood will pay dividends for generations to come.”
Larrowe also served former Governor Tim Kaine as a member of his Economic Development Strategic Steering Committee and is currently serving Governor Terry McAuliffe as a member of the Governor’s Task Force on Unfunded Mandates.
Allen Worrell can be reached at (276) 779-4062 or on Twitter@AWorrellTCN