Name: Keith Patrick Costello
Education: B.S. Bluefield College
M.S. Marshall University
M.B.A. Morehead State University
Last job held: Professor of Computer Information Systems Technology, Wytheville Community College
Discuss qualifications to serve on the board of supervisors. How do you view the role of a supervisor?
I believe that I am uniquely qualified to serve on the Bland County Board of Supervisors for a number of reasons. I am an active listener and like to receive a multitude of input before making a decision on behalf of Bland County residents. I have a strong educational background in business and technology that I will leverage in the decision making process.
What issues are important to folks in your district?
I believe that there are a number of concerns that fit into several themes that are important to folks in the Rocky Gap district and would apply to all of the county. These themes include funding of education, safely and security, and economic development that will enable companies able to provide careers for those in the county. Another theme is keeping taxes low and steady for citizens and businesses.
What issues are on the horizon that Bland County needs to get in front of?
The primary issues that the county needs to get in front of are the continuing themes of adequate funding for education and protective services. I am completely opposed to any form of “Defunding the Police.” The county needs to focus on economic development to bring additional jobs and careers to the county.
What industries would you like to see recruited to this area?
I would like to see a diversified set of industries recruited to the county. This would range the gamut from Cybersecurity and information technology to machining and small-scale manufacturing to agricultural enterprises to sustainable forestry. I would include manufacturing, farming, food processing, and financial and service industries.
What businesses would you like to see developed?
I would like to see business of all types developed and supported within the county. I like the “all of the above” approach. I would like to see the types of business developed that can provide a quality and living wage to their employees. I would like for citizens who would like to both live and work in the county to be able to do so in a variety of business fields. More specifically, I believe the county should work on recruiting supplier and business partners of Blue Star NBR and American Glove Innovations when they move into Wythe County.
How can Bland better use its natural resources and existing trails to capture more tourist money?
I would like to see the county expand the marketing of natural resources. The first steps would be to expand the reach of marketing materials. One way to accomplish this would be to make use of regional tourism partnerships. In addition, I would like to see greater direct marketing to a number of constituent groups including motorcycle clubs, motor-home owner associations, passenger bus companies focusing on chartered tours, and civic clubs in surrounding areas. We must be able to tell the story of Bland County, locally as well as abroad, and include all of the great people, assets, products, and unique places that exist here. I believe that a greater focus should be put on the section of the Appalachian Trail that passes through the county.
How can the county promote more entrepreneurship?
The primary way the county can promote entrepreneurship is to provide the necessary infrastructure to support business growth and development. Resources and workshops should be made available to citizens of the county to teach them the process of opening a business. A master plan of economic development should be put into place to guide in this process. This would include water and sewer services. To this mix, and in order to support a wider variety of business opportunities, I would like to see a natural gas distribution pipeline in the county. Many types of businesses need natural gas in order to operate. I would also like to see Internet coverage expanded into a larger part of the county. I would like to see the county setup up additional communications towers to provide Internet and emergency services communications. To defray the cost of the towers, I would offer tower space to commercial communications providers such as cell phone companies for a rental and usage fee. I believe that the county should develop and publish an updated CIP (Capital Improvement Plan) that addresses these issues.
Would you be willing to raise taxes for school needs?
The school system provides an important service to the citizens of Bland County. I believe that we should garner sufficient resources to run an efficient and high-quality school system. However, I do not believe it is necessary to raise taxes for school needs. For me, raising revenue for any additional spending should come through increasing the tax base via economic growth. In the case of the schools, I believe that there are untapped funding sources for specific school projects that should be sought after through grant writing. If the school system obtained additional funding from grant sources, that would free up general fund and local funding for other uses within the school system. The county already supports the school system through a larger than required local match in funding that along with the state allotment, forms the basis for the school system operating budget. This has been accomplished for the last several years without raising taxes.
Would you be willing to raise taxes to increase employee pay?
Bland County employees do an excellent job at taking care of the county business. They are dedicated and hardworking and deserve adequate compensation. However, I do not believe it is necessary to raise taxes for employee pay. For me, raising revenue for any additional spending should come through increasing the tax base via economic growth. So, I am in favor of increasing employee pay, just not through tax increases.
Would you be willing to raise taxes to fund more Sheriff’s Office needs?
I believe that protective services and law enforcement is an important use of public funds. I believe that the county government should do everything in its power to provide the necessary resources for this functional area. However, I do not believe it is necessary to raise taxes for Sheriff’s Office needs. For me, raising revenue for any additional spending should come through increasing the tax base via economic development and making protective services a priority in the county budget. I am in favor of increasing the funding available to the Sheriff’s Office through rearranging existing county funding and fully utilizing grant sources.
What areas of spending would you like to see cut?
First and foremost, I would like to see all “unfunded mandates” cut even though I know this possibility is unlikely. I would like to see spending prioritized on what the citizens of Bland County expect the county government to accomplish on their behalf.
Are there areas where spending should be increased? If so, where?
Should additional funding become available to the county budget, I would allocate it to economic development, Bland County Public Schools, law enforcement, tourism and marketing of the county, and providing county employees cost of living raises.