by Su Clauson-Wicker
Brian Reed started his career with Virginia’s Mount Rogers Planning District Commission (MRPDC) right out of Emory & Henry College, as a computer cartographer in 1995. For most folks, the goal is to move up to progressively more responsible positions. Reed did that and more. In fact, he held all the positions at the PDC, many of them simultaneously.
Right now he’s town manager of Fries, deputy director of Mount Rogers PDC, AND town manager of Rural Retreat, as former manager Michael James departs to Union County, North Carolina. Reed has also been Mount Rogers PDC executive director, this while working as PDC senior planner and Fries town manager.
“I’d rather be deputy director than executive director,” Reed says. “I guess you can say I’m a jack of all trades. I like it, but I spend a lot of Saturdays on the paperwork.”
Reed has been involved with Anderson & Associates on numerous projects, including the Fries master plan and redevelopment planning for the old Washington Mill, Rural Retreat’s master plan, and numerous water projects. Currently, A&A is involved with a Rural Retreat streetscape and infrastructure project and engineering a new waterline in Grayson County near Galax.
“There’s a lot of interest in restoring Rural Retreat’s train depot, creating a good home for the farmers market, and making downtown an attractive stop for Bicentennial Bike Route cyclists and visitors to Rural Retreat Lake,” Reed says. “The depot is being restored, and we’ve approached the Dr. Pepper company about funding a restoration of the original Dr. Pepper drug store, where the soft drink was invented.”
Dr. Charles Pepper, who is buried nearby, opened the store just after the Civil War and later hired an assistant, who named a fizzy brew of herbs and seltzer after his first boss. Dr. Pepper was patented in Texas in 1885, making it older than Coca-Cola. The town anticipates receiving a Community Development Block Grant and funding from VDOT and the Wythe-Bland Foundation toward town revitalization.
Reed was also instrumental in winning $3 million of funding for Fries’ revitalization and the development of a former textile mill into commercial space. He’s also been successful in funding the update of Fries’ water system, which still used a 1900-era wooden water filter until several years ago.
Many of Reed’s collaborative projects, including creation of the Wayne Henderson School of Appalachian Arts, position the area for tourism. Reed, who loves to hike, kayak, fish, and hunt, is such a good salesman that his own parents and sister have relocated there. Reed lives in Marion, where he can walk to the PDC office.