POUND, Va. (WJHL) – The Mayor of Pound, Stacey A. Carson, describes her little slice of Southwest Virginia as a “small town with a big heart.”
However, in recent years, lawmakers have depicted the town of less than 1,000 as a small town with a big problem.
While it is a small town tucked away in Wise County, Pound has had its fair share of unflattering headlines centered around corruption and controversy, and for those reasons, Delegate Terry Kilgore has filed legislation to remove the town’s charter.
Kilgore sent News Channel 11 this statement in response to House Bill 904, which he filed on Wednesday; the legislation that would revoke the charter.
“The Town of Pound is not providing basic services. Wise County is now providing water, sewer, and public safety for the citizens of Pound. I’d hoped officials could work together to resolve their differences, but we haven’t seen progress. My genuine hope is that this serves as a wake-up call.”Del. Terry Kilgore (R) Gate City
While Pound has had its fair share of problems, Mayor Stacey A. Carson, who began her term as mayor in July of 2020, told News Channel 11 getting rid of the corruption within the town is the first step in moving forward. She said when she was elected, turning the town around was a daunting task, one she’s been working on ever since.
Carson said she’s doing her best to get town documents organized, make town hall a more functional facility, and even has hopes to reassemble the town’s police force.
She said it’s all work that can’t happen overnight, and work that she’s not doing alone. Councilmember Leabern Kennedy was elected in November, knowing fully the challenge ahead.
“I think generally people knew that we had problems. I don’t think they knew the magnitude of the problems that were here,” said Kennedy.
While Kennedy is merely months into her term, she said she’s already been reaching out to local lawmakers and representatives, one of those being Delegate Kilgore.
She told News Channel 11 she spoke with Kilgore on Oct. 31 about her hopes of turning the town around. She said he responded saying she has a year to get it together.
However, 10 months shy of that allotted year deadline, Kilgore filed the legislation to repeal the charter, a decision that shocked and disappointed Kennedy and Carson.
“I’m quite disappointed. With other towns in this area that have had significant problems from vote-buying and things of that nature to embezzlement, I’m quite surprised that he jumped right in to issue the bill considering this isn’t really his district,” said Kennedy.
Kennedy is one of two current council members. In an ideal situation, the town staff would consist of a mayor, town manager, town attorney, and five total council members.
However, Carson said those three vacancies come from multiple resignations throughout the past year. Kennedy said she believes the town could be transformed in a year, but the first step to doing that would be filling those vacancies on the town council.
Meanwhile, this news is also concerning to business owners who wonder what revoking the town’s charter would mean for them.
Susan Downs-Freeman owns ‘The Fabric House,’ which she said is the oldest and longest-running business in town.
“It’s hard as a business owner to figure out how it’s going to affect us as business owners. Are we going to still be able to stay? Do what we’re doing now? Do we pull out? Do we sell? Do we move? I don’t want to pay double taxes, but at the same time, we don’t want to lose the services that we might have left,” said Downs-Freeman.
Kensleigh Browning, who owns Kensleigh’s Boutique and Salon said she feels keeping the charter is the way to go. “Charter or not, I think we’re all still a community here but it definitely helps to have a charter, I feel.”
Mayor Stacey Carson said despite this newly filed legislation, they have been working diligently towards improving the town. She and Kennedy find it odd that Delegate Kilgore, who doesn’t even represent the town, was the one to file this bill.
“We would definitely like Terry Kilgore to know, and for all of the legislators to know, and delegates to know that we are still right here and fighting tooth and nail to save this town,” said Carson.
The town will be holding a meeting on Jan. 18 at 6 p.m., and they’re welcoming everyone to come out and voice their thoughts on the matter, even Kilgore.
Mayor Carson said it’s a cause worth fighting for and the bill being filed isn’t stopping any progress on their end.