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Henrico County honors longtime, outgoing supervisors

A group of people, several of whom are wearing dress coats, stand in a green setting behind a sign that read "O'BANNON WAY"
Henrico County
From Left: Henrico Board of Supervisors Vice Chairperson Tyrone Nelson of Varina, Patricia O'Bannon of Tuckahoe, Daniel Schmitt of Brookland, Chairperson Frank Thornton of Fairfield and County Manager John Vithoulkas celebrate the unveiling of a new plaque at Tuckahoe Creek Park to honor O'Bannon earlier this year.

The county bid farewell to two decadeslong leaders and a two-term incumbent at its recent meeting.

For over two decades, Chair Frank Thornton, Fairfield supervisor and Patricia O’Bannon, Tuckahoe supervisor, have led the Henrico Board of Supervisors. Come Jan. 1, a new era of leadership will be ushered in.

On Tuesday, Henrico officials celebrated the county’s long-serving supervisors one more time alongside outgoing Three Chopt supervisor Tommy Branin, a two-term incumbent who was defeated by Democrat Misty Whitehead in November’s election.

Democrats Jody Rogish and Roscoe Cooper will take the reins in Tuckahoe and Fairfield, respectively, flipping the county’s 3–2 Republican majority to a 4–1 Democratic majority.

Come Friday, these new officials will take their oaths of office, ahead of the next Board of Supervisors meeting on Jan. 9.

Thornton and O’Bannon are retiring from the board after 28 years of service — for a collective total of 56 years. Thornton was the first Black person elected to the board, while O’Bannon was the first woman elected to the board in 1995.

Just this year, Henrico honored O’Bannon with a boardwalk named in her honor in her district. The words “O’Bannon Way,” etched on the commemorative plaque, illustrate her long-standing legacy.

“It’s been 28 years and it's gone by really fast and I have lots and lots of stories but I just want to tell you that this county is amazing," O’Bannon said to the board Tuesday, “and I have loved every minute of this.”

Thornton also reflected on the county’s teamwork and commitment towards building a more inclusive community during his tenure. Thornton said when he thinks of the challenges the county’s overcome he can’t help but become fascinated by Henrico's growth.

“I'm originally from Richmond so I never thought growing up that Henrico would turn into a place that's so progressive, where we are a regional leader,” he said. “I never thought I would see that, but maybe I played a little part in that too.”

Before he was elected in 1995, Thornton said he was defeated in two separate elections, but that didn’t deter him from uplifting often overlooked voices of the community during his time in office — and imparting those lessons to the next generation.

Varina Supervisor and Vice Chair Tyrone Nelson commended Thornton for his steadfast example.

“We value you, we appreciate you; the African American community salutes you as a pioneer,” Nelson said. “The county of Henrico salutes you for being one of the kindest, most compassionate, heart-driven human beings on the face of this earth.”

Lyndon German covers Henrico and Hanover counties for VPM News.