Buena Vista's Latest Challenge

JAY SCUDDER speaks to local government officials and members of the Virginia Economic Development Partnership during a tour of Buena Vista’s industrial park last year.

JAY SCUDDER speaks to local government officials and members of the Virginia Economic Development Partnership during a tour of Buena Vista’s industrial park last year.

Buena Vista’s Latest Challenge

Buena Vista is in a precarious fiscal state. For a number of years, the city, despite having one of the highest tax rates in the region, hasn’t been generating nearly enough revenues to cover its financial obligations. As a result, the city’s fund balance has been declining at an alarming rate and will disappear altogether, in a couple of years, if current trends together.

Through these difficult times, City Manager Jay Scudder has managed to maintain the city’s solvency. He’s accomplished this by cutting spending to the bone, sometimes not replacing personnel when they leave, and securing grant funds whenever possible. In addition to his duties as city manager, he has been overseeing the public works department for nearly a year.

Even in the face of such fiscal adversity, the business climate appears to be looking up in Buena Vista. The city’s long-sought industrial park is now open, with Columbia Gas’s new $3.4 million facility in operation. Roanoke developer Ed Walker showed faith in the city’s potential by investing heavily in numerous downtown properties. Lexington entrepreneur Gavin Fox is making plans to transform the former Mundet Hermetite factory building into a business incubator. Plans are in the works for building a new 7-Eleven in town.

Higher education has replaced manufacturing as the most important industry in Buena Vista. Enrollment at Southern Virginia University – the best barometer for measuring the city’s potential – – continues to rise, with more than 1,100 students at last count. It might be said that as SVU goes, so goes the city.

Buena Vista’s future appears promising, if precarious. Scudder has been providing the city with competent, steady leadership through the past eight challenging years. Choosing the present moment to change city managers, it seems to us, is fraught with peril.

Be that as it may, we are encouraged that Scudder has agreed to remain on the job through the transition to his successor. That could be as long as a year or more, if the city follows a deliberative process to seek out the best possible candidate. Finding someone capable of handling, and willing to take on, the city’s many challenges is certainly going to be a tall order.

We wish the city the best.