VACo Spotlight: PATRICIA O’BANNON | Henrico County Supervisor

January 23, 2019

Q1. You’ve served on the Board of Supervisors since 1995.  What are some of your “lessons learned” from your time in elected office?  Has your approach to leadership changed over your time on the Board?
Pat O’Bannon: I have learned to listen more to understand. The more input you have on any issue, the better it can be addressed. Anything can be improved, if more “eyes” are on it, before the “ayes.” My motto: First you listen, then you read; next you think, then you lead.

Q2. You bring such a variety of experience to your public service, from teaching high-school English to working in journalism to becoming a Certified Planning Commissioner.  What aspects of your background prepared you best for serving as an elected official?
POB: All my jobs involved communication, and that is essential for someone in public office. However, my position as a professional fundraiser for the local Public Broadcasting station taught me a lot about tight budgets, the future of the Internet and changes in all media.

Q3. You’ve had a longstanding interest in telecommunications and technology, chairing a VACo committee on the subject, serving on the Statewide Interoperability Executive Committee, and serving as Vice-Chair of NACo’s Telecommunications and Technology Steering Committee.  You recently won a NACo “100 Brilliant Ideas” Award for developing a live-streamed virtual town hall.  What sparked your interest in this issue?  What aspects of telecommunications policy are you watching most closely now?
POB: People today bare their souls on social media. They live online more openly than in person. Any government vote or discussion can easily be revealed by someone’s cell phone video on YouTube. Freedom of Information is all around. So, the lesson is to consider all encounters and meetings as if everyone is watching, because they are.

The deployment of 5G technology and towers will be changing our lives the way the original Internet did. Ubiquitous towers (thousands) will be needed, so people can download a movie to watch as they sit back and relax in their self-driving vehicle. Anyone and everyone not only will know what is on your TV screen, but also will know what is in your refrigerator, what is in your medicine cabinet, and what is in your colon.

Q4. You’ve served in leadership roles in VACo and in NACo during your time in office.  How have those experiences influenced your service on the Board of Supervisors?
POB: Attending a VACo meeting is a great way to learn how other counties handled a problem just like yours. Good speakers are always interesting and usually have solutions that help. The VACo meetings offer a chance to meet movers and shakers that you otherwise might not be able to. NACo brings in federal commission members you can personally speak with – high-level, influential people who might not respond to you, were you to try to contact them by yourself.

Q5. In your view, what are the biggest challenges and opportunities facing Henrico County in the next 10 years?
POB: The next 10 years will bring amazing changes in technology, the workforce, and our culture. The generational shift will be dramatic. The prediction for Henrico citizenry is that it will look more like today’s Florida, with our aging population.

Children who grew up online will view “work” differently, and they will be motivated differently from their parents. Expectations of government’s services and roles will change. (Our Board of Supervisors learns every day about how we must plan for those changes.)

For instance, Henrico plans to use educational facilities as a community resource for socialization, counseling and social services for everyone – not just education for children. Visit our award-winning libraries, and you can see what the Board has anticipated.

The Board of Supervisors has always been very sensitive to the costs to our residents by not raising our real estate tax rate for almost 40 years (only lowering it.) We expect to continue to be careful with our funding, in the future.

And, yes, as always, we will be replacing our aging infrastructure.

Q6. What are the must-do activities for a first-time visitor to Henrico County?
POB: After you have visited a county park or cheered your child’s sports competition, go shopping at Short Pump Town Center with more than 140 upscale stores, shops and restaurants. Please have a delicious meal at any of the fantastic restaurants in Henrico. Our citizens voted in favor of a meals tax to pay for capital improvements for schools.

VACo Contact: Katie Boyle

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