Q1. You were first elected to the Board of Supervisors in 2011. What made you decide to run for elected office? What advice would you give to others who are thinking about entering public service?
Danny Mann: Yes, I was elected in 2011 and started my service to the county in January 2012. The reason I ran? I could see a political shift coming with the national election in 2008, and I didn’t like what I was seeing. I have always expressed my opinion about how I thought things ought to be, so I decided to get more involved in my county. I’ve worked in coal mining most of my adult life (26 years with a coal company and the last part of my career as a mine inspector) and what I perceived as a “war on coal” was reason enough. My advice to anyone thinking about entering any public service is: Be optimistic and not political. Be prepared. I started as Chairman of the Board of Supervisors and served in that position for five years. Never let politics get in the way of doing the right thing.
Q2. You serve as a coal mine inspector, so you’ve had a front-row seat to the changing fortunes of the coal industry, a major component of the economy in southwest Virginia. What do you see as the major challenges and opportunities facing Scott County and southwest Virginia in the next 10 years?
DM: As a coal mine inspector I see the faces of many coal miners and have been asked, “What are we going to do if we lose our jobs?” Heart breaking…period! Scott County does not receive any revenue, such as coal severance tax, but a lot of coal miners live in our county. There is a company in Scott County (Town of Duffield) that produces/rebuilds mining equipment, and they are an excellent company and contribute much to the county. They nearly went under during the peak of the downturn in coal. But things have turned around for them. The steam coal market (electrical generation) is gone and that market will not come back. But on a higher note, the metallurgical market (steel making) has rebounded well. Virginia is blessed to have a higher-grade coal (high BTU, low ash, and low sulfur) and is a product that is in high demand. The next 10 years is going to be exciting with recent job announcements (50 in the northern part of the county). I think there are many more to come. One concern I have is getting a work force prepared for the opportunities that are ahead. And I think the substance abuse issue is almost an “epidemic” as it is in most other localities causing some folks to be unemployable.
Q3. You serve on an advisory committee for Scott County Junior Appalachian Musicians (JAMS), which works to pass down the traditions of old-time and bluegrass music to a new generation. How do you see Southwest Virginia’s rich cultural heritage fitting into its future?
DM: The JAMS program (Junior Appalachian Musicians) is working well. The purpose of JAMS is to introduce old-time music to our youngest folks through the school system (after hours). Scott County has the deepest roots in the nation as far as musical heritage, especially country music and old-time music. With Scott County being the home of the Carter family and home to the Carter Fold, which is open every Saturday night in Hiltons, VA, it is very important to bring a program (like JAMS) into the county.
Q4. What are the must-do activities for a first-time visitor to Scott County?
DM: For first-time visitors, I would encourage them to visit some, if not all, our recreational venues in Scott County, starting with Natural Tunnel State Park. To me this is a “must do” activity, and there are cabin rentals on site. From there, if one is into old-time music, visit the Carter Fold in Hiltons. The falls at Little Stony Creek is a sight to behold. And, there is the Devil’s Bathtub. This is an attraction that has recently gained nationwide attention. On most days, especially weekends, there may be as many as 50-100 vehicles parked along the tiny narrow road leading to the site. Scott County is in the process of purchasing property in that immediate area to alleviate some of the issues that we are experiencing. The Devil’s Bathtub was recently declared nationally one of Virginia’s “best kept secrets.”
Q5. Scott County has advocated strongly for state parks as key elements of economic development. What are your hopes for the new Clinch River State Park, which is in the process of development?
DM: The Clinch River State Park would be a great asset to the county. The Clinch River cuts through the middle of Scott County. I live beside that river (99 feet from the river’s edge) and to get that designation would be a boost to our local economy. On most days, especially weekends, there may be as many as 100-plus “floaters” passing my backyard. They are fishing, kayaking, tubing, etc. And, they are spending money! So, to get that designation (State Park) would be great. The town of Dungannon (my hometown) is now marketing itself as at “The Heart of the Clinch” and they are seeing a boost.
VACo Contact: Katie Boyle