Craig Bryant was sworn in Friday morning as the new Mayor of Buchanan

Buchanan Council appoints Bryant as Mayor


Craig Bryant

Craig Bryant was sworn in Friday morning as the new Mayor of Buchanan.

He got the unanimous support of the current four-member Town Council during a weather-delayed meeting on January 17. He was selected from among three town residents who applied for the position and were interviewed individually in closed session by council.

Bryant, a Buchanan native, is Director of EMS and Patient Transportation for Carilion Clinic and serves as Fire Chief for Buchanan Volunteer Fire Company.

“I am humbled and honored to be appointed as Mayor for the Town of Buchanan,” Bryant said in an email. “Utilizing the strengths of council and the compassion and input from our citizens, I look forward to Buchanan continuing to be a safe and fulfilling place to live and work.

“Buchanan has so much to offer.  Through the term of this appointment and beyond, together, we will work through the challenges, promote the successes, and move Buchanan forward,” he continued.

Bryant holds an Executive Fire Officer Certificate from the National Fire Academy in Emmitsburg, Md. and a Masters of Public Administration from Virginia Tech.

The mayor’s position has been vacant since Larry Hall resigned effective December 1 following a contentious summer and fall that revolved around allegations about how he treated town office staff and a proposed charter change regarding residency requirements for a town manager.

Vice-Mayor James Manspile filled in as mayor after Hall’s resignation and said at last week’s meeting he was glad to turn those responsibilities over to Bryant.

“The four of us (council)…shouldered this burden,” Manspile told the full meeting room at last week’s meeting. “We didn’t want it to go to the circuit court (to fill the position).”

He said council members understood it’s the four of them appointing the mayor and not the entire town electing the person that will fill out Hall’s term that ends December 31.

Jon Ellestad

Council also welcomed Interim Town Manager Jon Ellestad to his first regular council meeting.

The retired Lexington City Manager is filling in part-time until council hires a new town manager. That position came open when Mary Zirkle resigned to take a position with the Town of Bedford, also following differences on council and with Hall about the town charter’s residency requirements and making changes to the charter.

Bryant said his background should be helpful in the new position. He noted he has:

  • Successful leadership in local government, volunteer organizations, and the private sector for 17 years to include strategic planning, budgeting, direct supervision, human resource functions, and grant acquisitions, contract negotiations, fleet management and emergency management;
  • Continuously utilized input from employees, volunteers, and customers to develop and put in motion plans of action to improve engagement and services;
  • Experience in project planning and management of over $1 million in expenditures;
  • Establish and lead teams that are responsible for operational needs.  Projects include building apparatus, apparatus maintenance programs, IT systems, public safety equipment and community risk reduction programs;
  • Established external relationships with partners to maximize efficiencies;
  • Served as a team member to promote economic growth for the community;
  • Collaborated with departments and divisions such as engineering and building, economic development, public works, material management, and human resources for cost savings and workforce sharing.


Other Business

Council is in the process of hiring a new town attorney now. It will meet Friday, Jan. 26 to interview representatives from two Roanoke firms. In the meantime, Paul Mahoney is filling in as town attorney and was at last week’s meeting.

Ellestad got his feet wet early (almost figuratively) as interim town manager because of the challenges associated with the sub-freezing temperatures that gripped the area in early January.

That caused problems for the town maintenance crew that is down to one member who is now incapacitated following surgery last week.

Manspile and Ellestad both praised Brian Campbell’s commitment to the town during the freeze when he was out at 1 a.m. and 2 a.m. with a torch, and at times in water, thawing frozen water meters.

Ellestad called it a “brutal winter.” He’s in the process of filling the vacant maintenance position.

Manspile said a frozen water main under the US 11 (Main Street) bridge over the James River froze and burst, too. A problem he said should not have happened because that main was supposed to be shut off during the cold months by the town’s contracted water/sewer company.

Council also

  • Approved a contract with Cole Amusements to provide carnival rides and a midway for the 2018 Buchanan Community Carnival
  • Learned that new speed detectors have not been delivered.
  • Agreed to purchase two new computers for he Town Office, not to exceed $2,800.
  • Appointed Ellestad as Zoning Administrator, Subdivision Agent and FOIA Officer.
  • Recognized Botetourt Area Ministerial Association (BAMA) for its work in the community.
  • Learned that revenue exceeded expenses for the Special Events Committee events in 2017, and the town will proceed with the annual Civil War Weekend April 27-28. The town’s annual Garden Festival will be May 5.
  • Learned that the Virginia Department of Transportation has included sidewalk work in its 5-year plan, and that Main Street will be milled and paved this year.
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