Q1. You took an unusual path to county administration – prior to being appointed County Administrator in Carroll County, you worked as a Virginia Cooperative Extension agent. How did your background prepare you for your work in local government?
Gary Larrowe: To be honest, I certainly have had a “different” path to becoming a County Administrator than what might be considered normal. However, the Virginia Cooperative Extension was an excellent path in that it allowed me to work on major projects in community development and advance my career in various ways. Extension allowed me to travel the world with USAID projects and supported me as a Kellogg Fellow in International Community Development. In addition, I was able to develop relationships with individuals and agencies across the Commonwealth and nation with whom I work today as a County Administrator. During my Extension days, I developed and managed several million dollars in grant funding for various projects.
Q2. Economic development has been a major focus of your time in Carroll County, where you worked on the creation of a county-run natural gas system to provide energy to a major local employer, and in Botetourt County, where you were involved in projects such as the Ballast Point brewery and tasting room. What are some of your “lessons learned” from successful projects?
GL: I have had the privilege of facing huge community challenges and have been able to work through a logical process for completed projects that have provided opportunities for others. The Natural Gas Transmission and Distribution system development was one of the most challenging in my career as a County Administrator. However, when faced with the loss of 154 jobs (and the affected families) and $10 million in M&T during 2009, you get motivated and creative. Ballast Point, ELDOR, ALTEC and the Virginia Community College System shared services center have all been great projects in Botetourt and have brought in more than 1,100 jobs since my transition in January 2016. I love working with these community partners and refer to them as the “Botetourt Corporate Family.”
Q3. What advice would you give to individuals contemplating a career in public administration?
GL: Get as much diversified experience as you can. Learn about construction, engineering, finance, human resources, management, legal, federal, state and local government operation and especially understand group dynamics.
Q4. You served for several years on the Governor’s Task Force for Local Government Mandate Review. If you could wave a wand, what one thing would you change to improve the relationship between the state and localities?
GL: I would command the Commonwealth to take financial responsibility for the various mandates that have been forced on localities and work to simplify government operations in general.
Q5. In your view, what are the major challenges and opportunities facing Botetourt County in the next 10 years?
GL: Botetourt is a fabulous place and the people are awesome. This is a community “on the move” and we have to be ready for the massive opportunities coming this way. We need assistance with transportation, housing and additional talent growth, retention and attraction to be able to capitalize the future.
Q6. You’re known for putting in long hours at work. How do you balance work and life?
GL: My wife would say that I do not balance well and I would tend to agree. It is normal for me to respond late/early and to be engaged and available at places and events where a normal County Administrator may not find himself/herself. I love working with the people and have found that they have adopted us into their families. I do “Hit the Wall” at times and sleep for a few days; however the sound of email wakes me up.
VACo Contact: Katie Boyle