Wednesday, December 24, 2014

A life of civility

The Hon. Lee G. Turner(image courtesy of Douglas M. Kinney,

As parts of America seethed with ill will, Goochland Circuit Court paused in its deliberations to convene in ceremonial session on the morning of December 23 to pay tribute to Clerk of the Court Lee G. Turner who will retire at the end of the year.

Judge Timothy K. Sanner worked with Turner during his eleven years on the bench. He praised Turner’s work a “highly capable clerk familiar with the operation of the office and knowledge and appreciation for the laws of the Commonwealth. In addition to drafting orders, she has received and had under her control large sums of money with not a hint of a concern about their proper disposition.”

The Judge said that Turner was often the first to arrive in the morning and the last to depart at the end of the day. Since he became Goochland Circuit Court Judge, said Sanner, there have 1,000 days of court and Turner served as chief clerk for more than 900 of those.

Madame Clerk, said Sanner, expressed a kind demeanor toward all those with whom she has dealt. She has a reputation for civility at all times. “I am grateful for the years we have had together fulfilling the service of the Commonwealth.”

Acting always with dignity and courtesy is no small feat in a courtroom where stressful situations unfold.

At the conclusion of Judge Sanner’s remarks, the courtroom, filled with family, friends and colleagues, joined the Judge by rising to their feet for a standing ovation in Turner’s honor.

Judge Deborah S. Tinsley of Louisa, who as an attorney in private practice often appeared in Goochland Circuit Court, recalled that she first met Turner as a young attorney “still wet behind the ears.” Tinsley said that Turner “was always gracious and sometimes gave me a gentle push in the right direction. It is the personal relationships that make you a great clerk.”

Mike Caudill, Goochland Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney and president of the Goochland Bar Association, presented Turner with a plaque of appreciation for her service.

Chief Deputy Circuit Court Clerk Dale Agnew presented Turner with an American flag that had flown over the courthouse on behalf of the deputy clerks. Turner said the flag was an outstanding gift.

Turner then spoke. “It has been a distinct pleasure to serve the Circuit Court and County of Goochland. I want to thank everyone in Goochland for their support during years marked by tremendous growth. We can look forward and back with pride. I appreciate the friendship of colleagues as we worked together with complementary skills to serve the citizens of Goochland. I look forward to watching Goochland’s future unfold.”

Judge Sanner asked Madame Clerk to prepare one final order commending her for more than 35 years of faithful service to the Goochland Circuit Court.

The order stated that Turner was appointed Clerk of the Court in October, 1991 to fill the remainder of her predecessor’s term, and was first elected in her own right the following year. He recognized her civility and helpfulness and protection of court records, both legal and historic. The order also expressed appreciation for Turner’s devotion to her duties.

The Board of Supervisors recognized Turner’s service at its December 2 meeting.

Turner’s accomplishments as Clerk of the Circuit Court include converting records from microfilm to digital format and record indexing from manual to a computerized system making them more easily accessible by the public.

The Clerk of the Circuit Court is an elected constitutional officer charged with a wide array of statutory duties. These include: attendance at all court proceedings and responsibility for all related documentation; actions pertaining to divorces, adoptions, garnishments; summoning witnesses; appointment of executors and probate of estates; all recordation pertaining to land ownership in the county; receiving monetary restitution for payment to victims in criminal cases; issuing marriage licenses and concealed handgun permits; and preserving records that date back to the formation of Goochland County in 1728.

Unlike “burned counties” who sent their records to Richmond for safekeeping during the War Between the States where they perished in the 1865 fire, Goochland records include old and rare documents. Their care and preservation were of utmost concern to Turner during her tenure in office.

The retirement of Lee G. Turner as Clerk of Goochland Circuit Court marks the turn of yet another page in county history.
Thank you for your service Madame Clerk. May you have an enjoyable and satisfying retirement.

To see the ceremony cut and paste in your browser.

Monday, December 15, 2014

The ghost of Goochland yet to come

Sugarplums aside, visions of the future of Goochland County are coming into focus.

Throughout late 2014, the Planning Commission and Community Development Staff have been working their way through the county’s comprehensive land use plan, which is due for its five year review. Next spring citizens will have ample opportunity to examine and comment on the proposed version.
The supervisors and planning commissioners have held several workshops focused on the application of mixed use and multifamily zoning in Goochland.

Discussion at a December 4 workshop seems to have identified enough detail for staff to put together preliminary draft zoning rules for some sort of mixed use.

As a practical matter, the higher densities that are a feature of mixed use development—the combination of residential and commercial/business in close proximity—will work only in areas served by public water and sewer. For now, that means the Centerville village.
Expect to hear lots more on this subject in 2015.

Carryover items include proposals for a cell tower near Millers Lane; office/retail on Patterson Avenue; and a Taco Bell in Centerville, all to be voted on early in the year.

An Audi dealership is also on the horizon for Centerville, which is just plain good news.

A West Creek recreational trail system is in the works that will follow utility line rights-of-way. It would be nice if the trails included a Tuckahoe Creek overlook so more people could see for themselves just how close the end of Ridgefield Parkway in Henrico is to Goochland and increase interest in a bridge connector to Route 288.

Changes are afoot all over the county.

The new fire-rescue station in Hadensville, the first built by the county, should be well underway in the New Year. In addition to a home for EMTs and firefighters, the facility will also serve as an emergency shelter and community meeting place.

Ground will soon be broken for a new emergency operations center (EOC) behind the Courthouse.

Improvements to the gym at the Central High/Old Middle School are expected to be completed early in 2015 to meet the increasing demand for recreational space. The original portion of the building will be cleaned up while a citizen committee explores additional repurposing options. This will only use a portion of the $500,000 set aside by the Board of Supervisors earlier this year.

Ordinance amendments now make it easier and less expensive to start small agribusinesses. This is the result of the Rural Economic Development Committee, which was formed to investigate ways to encourage agribusiness as part of the commitment to preserve Goochland’s rural character. The rules on chicken keeping were also relaxed.

The real estate market is showing signs of life. In addition to the high density subdivisions being built around Centerville, Breeze Hill on Fairgrounds Road in Maidens is underway. For more information see:

Goochland yet to come will offer an environment where possibility can become reality.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

On to New York

Not quite three years after the sentencing of the former County Treasurer for embezzling county funds, Goochland County received an “unmodified opinion” from its financial reviewer.

On Tuesday, December 2, Mike Garber, a principal with PBMares, the accounting firm retained by the county to review its books and prepare the certified annual financial report (CAFR), reported on findings after examination of fiscal year 2014, which ended on June 30.

At a meeting of the county’s audit committee, comprised of members of county staff; the Board of Supervisors; school staff; and Treasurer Pamela C. Johnson held before the December Board meeting, Garber said that the results of the annual audit were “clean “with no findings, issues, or red flags. Garber said that there were some restatements resulting from adoption of new Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB) rules, which go into effect on December 26.

“There were no material weaknesses,” Garber told the audit committee, chaired by District 1 Supervisor Susan Lascolette, who is also vice chair of the Board of Supervisors. The report identified the need to adjust three journal entries. “This is pretty remarkable,” Garber said, characterizing the number as low.

Goochland County is still considered a “high risk” auditee, as defined by OMB circular A-133, thanks to the sticky fingers of the former treasurer. Garber said that classification will go away if the county repeats with a clean audit next year.

Garber said that, thanks to significant changes in accounting rules, reporting on unfunded pension liability will reduce the amount of unrestricted dollars in the county’s general fund. This is the product of General Assembly periodic tinkering with the division of teacher pension contribution percentages paid by the state and localities. The bottom line, according to Garber, is that Goochland is better able to withstand this change than neighboring localities.

During his presentation of the CAFR to the full Board, Garber reported that the audit went well, which was aided by good cooperation from everyone involved.

County Administrator Rebecca Dickson said that obtaining a clean audit if very much a team effort. She cited Deputy County Administrator for Finance John Wack, School Finance Director Debbie White, and Goochland Controller Barbara Horlacher for leading the effort. Dickson also pointed out that each and every employee of the county and schools contributed to the clean audit. “Sometimes small things can add up to big problems.”

Dickson also ironically commented that this year’s result was “quite an improvement over four years ago.” That was when a CAFR compiled by the first new auditor in about a decade identified approximately 40 material restatements and opined that no one on the county staff had the necessary skill set to apply generally accepted accounting practices to their tasks. In all fairness, man of those employees had little training or direction and simply did the best they could.

This dramatic improvement is the result of a change in attitude by county leadership. Begun by Dickson, who thanks to some rare, benign confluence of the planets, was appointed to her post by the previous regime in July, 2009. When the current Board of Supervisors took office in January 2012, the commitment to excellence, accountability, and transparency in local government went into full swing.

The full 2014 CAFR and the FY 2015 budget, which was recognized for its excellence, are on the county website These beautifully written documents contain a wealth of information about Goochland above and beyond the numbers and are well worth perusing.

In line with the recently adopted strategic plan, Dickson and some supervisors will travel to New York next month to secure a credit rating for Goochland from Standard & Poor’s Financial Services.

A credit rating will help the county obtain financing going forward. More importantly, it signifies that Goochland County is well governed and managed, an excellent location for business investment, and the stewardship of county leadership deserves the public trust.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

The spirit of the season

Holiday events in Goochland provide a dose of holiday spirit generous enough to bring a smile to the most curmudgeonly Scrooge.

Beginning on Wednesday, December 3 through Sunday, December 7, Salem Baptist Church presents its 10th annual Bethlehem Walk. Located on the Salem Broad Street Road campus, just west of Centerville, Bethlehem Walk is a visit to that humble, yet precious town under the star. This approach to the Christmas Story offers surprisingly contemporary insights to faith and humanity. Hours are: Wednesday, 6 – 9 PM; Thursday, 6 – 9 PM; Friday, 6 – 10 PM; Saturday, 4 – 9 PM; and Sunday, 3 – 8 PM. For more information, visit

Goochland will light its first community Christmas tree on Friday, December 5 from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at the Goochland Sports Complex (behind the administration building on Sandy Hook Road.) In addition to the tree lighting, there will be activities for children, cookies and hot chocolate, and a visit from a certain jolly gentleman who likes to dress in red.

On Saturday, December 7 from 7:30 to 10 a.m. Centerville Company 3 will hold its annual Santa breakfast at the Company 3 fire-rescue station located at 52 Broad Street Road in Centerville. Following a free, cooked to order breakfast, everyone is welcome to have an important chat with the jolly gentleman. The event is open to all and provides a great opportunity to meet the volunteers who save lives and protect property every day in Goochland.

Field Day of the Past offers it annual gift to the community as it open its grounds from 4 to 8 pm for free. A walk among buildings rescued from the wrecking ball is a visit to an earlier time when things were simpler and less frantic. Field Day is located on the east side of Ashland Road just north of Bogey’s in Centerville.

For those who live in River Road community, be on the lookout for that jolly gentleman. Rumor has it that he is going to commandeer a fire truck—the red matches his outfit—to spread holiday cheer and perhaps lead a carol or two. Singing warms the heart and clears the head!
Share the joy of the season; it brightens the short December days.