December 30, 2012
Retiring council member, Kimble Reynolds Jr. cites city's strong points On December 30, 2012, Kimble Reynolds Jr. reflected on the city’s situation as he prepares to leave Martinsville City Council on Monday, having not sought re-election after serving two four-year terms. The city has issues to overcome, he acknowledged, but so do most places. Martinsville has had Virginia’s highest unemployment rate for many years as many of its manufacturers have closed. That has factored into budget constraints in city government. For example, the city is receiving less tax revenue as a result of having fewer businesses and a declining population. Reynolds, a lawyer, thinks the key to attracting companies that will create new jobs is to improve the skill and education levels of local workers. He was an early proponent of the New College Institute (NCI), a state- and Harvest Foundation-funded school uptown providing local access to various bachelor’s and master’s degree programs offered by universities statewide. “I think the message is finally starting to hit home” that to get high-paying jobs in the modern workforce, people must have some type of educational credential beyond a high school diploma, Reynolds said. Amid efforts to streamline the process for students to enter NCI programs after attending Patrick Henry Community College for two years, Reynolds is optimistic that more area residents will pursue degrees in the future. Reynolds said he envisions that during the next decade, “we’ll continue to refine the positioning of Martinsville” as an economically competitive locality, such as by striving to attract modern technology-based firms and ensuring people have the skills needed to work for them. Twenty years from now, “the community is going to be very different” in terms of the diversity of its industry and other businesses, he predicted. Concerns have been voiced, Reynolds said, that not enough residents from different racial and socioeconomic groups have been involved in local affairs. He said he thinks several leadership development programs launched in the community in recent years will reverse that trend as long as people continue to try and recruit different types of people into them. As a council member, Reynolds has been involved in organizations such as the Virginia First Cities coalition, Virginia Municipal League and the National League of Cities. That has helped him generate ideas to improve the city, based on ideas that have worked elsewhere, and find out about funding opportunities for city projects, he said. Government is like a machine, Reynolds said, in that it has a lot of moving parts, all of which must turn in the same direction to accomplish things. He admitted that as a councilman, he has been surprised at how complex some issues can be and how long it often takes to resolve them.