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Benny Summerlin dies at 53
Henry County administrator since 2002
Thursday, August 16, 2012
Henry County Administrator Benny Summerlin died Wednesday night, Deputy County Administrator Tim Hall confirmed.
Summerlin, 53, died at home, Hall said he believes.
Summerlin was diagnosed with cancer in January 2011. The following month, he said at a Henry County Board of Supervisors annual planning session that he had been diagnosed with colon cancer and would undergo treatment for six months.
He worked during much of the time since his diagnosis.
Summerlin became county administrator and general manager of the Henry County Public Service Authority in 2002. He was a graduate of Martinsville High School. He received a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice in 1981 from Old Dominion University, the same year he joined the county as a patrol deputy with the sheriff’s department. He later became an investigator with the department.
In 1985, Summerlin was named the county’s first public safety director. For the first six months in that position, his office was in a basement, furnished with a folding table and a rolling filing cabinet.
In 1992, he became director of operations.
Summerlin was appointed deputy county administrator on Oct. 9, 1996, and he assumed the job on Nov. 1 of that year.
In 2002, Summerlin received a master’s degree in public administration and policy from Virginia Tech. At that time, he was a member of the International City/County Management Association (ICMA), Virginia Local Government Management Association (VLGMA) and American Society of Public Administration (ASPA).
In 2009, Summerlin received the Fred Herring Award from the Chamber’s Partnership for Economic Growth (CPEG). The award recognizes a “person who has given unselfishly to the community through their volunteerism and dedication to the economic growth of Martinsville-Henry County,” CPEG President Guy Stanley said at the time.
Stanley noted at the time that Summerlin has "played a major role in every economic development event since the day he took office. He was particularly important in the negotiations with RTI International, making numerous trips to company headquarters in Niles, Ohio, to help ensure the company would come to Henry County.
“It was this man’s vision about our future economic development needs that started the acquisitions of the new industrial park land in Henry County, the Bryant property adjacent to the Patriot Centre and the Commonwealth Crossing Business Park, formerly known as the Roma property,” Stanley said.
Summerlin was a member of the YMCA Board, the 911 Board, the Southern Virginia Recreation Facilities Authority and the Martinsville-Henry County Economic Development Corp. board of directors. He had been president of the Axton Lifesaving Committee, as chairman of the board of the Martinsville and Henry County Communications Center, vice chairman of the Emergency Services Council, and member of the board of the local unit of the American Heart Association.
“He does everything with a great eye toward detail and accountability, and with absolutely no desire to be the guy out front. He truly works every day toward making Martinsville-Henry County a better place than he found it. In 20 years, when Commonwealth Crossing, the Patriot Centre and the Bryant property are filled with tenants creating jobs and tax base, Benny Summerlin's true value to this community will be understood,” Stanley added.
Summerlin lived in Axton with his wife, Robin.