This is a bittersweet time for Larry South, whose almost 19-year run as Hillsville’s town manager comes to an end in a couple of days. South tendered his resignation during the town council meeting on June 11 following a recent effort by supporters of the newly elected mayor and councilmen to force him to step down. However, since his resignation, South says he has been amazed at the amount of support he’s received.
“Since my resignation, the support of the people has been overwhelming. People have been so kind, so supportive,” said South, who was surprised by the animosity exhibited since the May election. “I don’t understand. That kind of bitterness doesn’t exist in this community. It was like it was manufactured.”
As for his next step, South says, “I’m looking at business opportunities, maybe within driving distance (of Hillsville). There would be less turmoil for my family if I can keep them in familiar surroundings.”
Familiar surroundings would also make South much happier.
“I’m proud to live here and proud to have served here. I feel very humble and blessed by my time here. Hillsville has been terrific for me and my family,” he said. “I’ve become attached to Hillsville and I’d love to stay here. I’ll look at what opportunities there are and where they are, but it would be strange not to be around here. This is home.”
During South’s tenure as town manager, Hillsville has changed dramatically, not only in looks, but in services and entertainment. Under his guidance, the town has also approved 19 straight balanced budgets, and had 18 straight years of “clean audits.”
“We’ve been able to secure millions in grants and low-interest loans. In that regard, I hope we have paid for ourselves. Hopefully, we brought in more than we spent,” said South.
Among the improvements made during South’s time on the job is the revitalization of Main Street.
“I remember the night I interviewed for this job, there were vacant stores on Main Street and others that needed fixing up,” said South. “We were able to get community block grants and not only revitalize downtown, but we were able to build apartments so we actually had people living downtown.”
South also points to the water and sewer plants as points of pride.
“The water and sewer plants are large enough to serve the community for many, many years in the future,” said South. “The water plant has a little age on it, but it continues to be one of the better ones in the area, providing safe, quality water, and the sewer plant can be doubled in size. Upgrading the water system and extending the sewer along U.S. 52 South has also been a significant improvement.”
South lists the annexation of additional property for the town, the East Grayson Street sidewalk project, the Beaver Dam Trail, and Hillsville receiving Historic District and Preserve America Community designations as other improvements he is proud of.
Another project that stands out in South’s mind is the summer concert-cruise in series.
“Of all the things I’ve been involved in, the downtown celebration series is, by far, the thing I have gotten the most positive comments about. It kind of unifies the community,” said South. “The music and the cars just fit together. People come from all over, and all those people spend money here.”
South is quick to point out, however, that the only way these and other projects could have been successful is with the help of the town’s elected officials and employees.
“Everything has been a team effort. We’ve had good mayors, and supportive, common sense councilmen. We’ve also had a supportive workforce. All of these people working together enabled us to accomplish the things we have,” said South, adding that he had always weighed the cost of a project against the town’s needs. “We’ve always tried to operate very efficiently. We didn’t go out and spend money just because we had it in the budget.”
“I’m proud to live here and proud to have served here. I feel very humble and blessed by time here. Hillsville has been terrific for me and my family.”