Phil North will begin representing the citizens of the Hollins District on the Roanoke County Board of Supervisors in January. He defeated the current supervisor, Al Bedrosian, in the Republican Primary in June and is running unopposed in the November election in his first run for public office.
At the end of December, North will be retiring from another community service position, which he has held for 12 years– president of the Vinton Recreation Club.
Like many parents, North originally got involved with the youth sports program when his oldest son started T-ball. His two sons went on to play baseball, basketball, and soccer; he helped with their teams; things evolved, and he continued with the organization for 17 years. He coached baseball and soccer from 1999 to 2011, became the league coordinator in T-ball, and Coach-Pitch and minor league baseball.
Mike Stovall, Director of Transportation for Roanoke County Schools, first met North at a baseball game at Herman L. Horn Elementary when their children began playing rec sports; they both became rec league coaches. He said North is “the type of volunteer every organization is looking for. Plus, he turned the Rec Club around with his business knowledge.”
The Vinton Rec Club is an all-volunteer, non-profit, recreational sports organization which works with Roanoke County Parks and Recreation to provide athletic programs for children ages 6 to 18 who live in the Bonsack and Vinton areas of eastern Roanoke County. Over 1,500 children participate each year in sports which include basketball, tackle football, flag football, boys and girls soccer, cheerleading, baseball, and softball.
Over the years North has directed two baseball fundraising Dixie Youth baseball tournaments, served as the Dixie player agent for baseball from 2005 through 2017 and as assistant director for District 7 Dixie Youth baseball. He also served as president of the William Byrd Baseball Booster Club.
He volunteered for six years after his children left the program. Sons Alex and Adam are William Byrd graduates. Alex just graduated from Virginia Tech while Adam enrolled this fall.
One of the reasons North decided to run for county office was “to help make a difference in our future.” That’s what he did as head of the Vinton Rec Club as well, making lasting changes in the program and the sports facilities in the Vinton area.
In his time as president, he worked with Roanoke County Parks and Recreation to improve facilities, many on a 50/50 matching funds arrangement with Roanoke County, on covered dugouts for baseball at Vinyard Park and softball at Goode Park, moving the baseball field at the Vinton War Memorial to Vinyard 4, installing portable pitching mounds on two fields at Vinyard, renovating the batting cages there, and adding a new club temperature-controlled equipment room at Goode Park.
North improved the system for the collection of registration fees from players and worked with Roanoke County to screen coaches by adding background checks.
He set up clinics for coaches and players, and worked with high school coaches to prepare players for school sports “the Byrd way,” encouraging rec coaches to conduct practices like the coaches at Byrd to help with the transition to school athletics.
Teacher and coach Neil Zimmerman said, “I worked with Phil the last three years as head coach of the William Byrd baseball team. His dedication to the program and to the team was amazing. He always had the best interests of the team and club at heart. He will be missed as an integral part of the success of the William Byrd Baseball Booster Club. I appreciate all he has done for the many young men who have come through our program over the last decade.”
Liz Fix, who served as treasurer of the Rec Club for nine years and helped set up their non-profit status, describes North as “very detail-oriented” and a “real go-getter,” who “forged a great relationship with Roanoke County to get projects done.” She believes he will do great things for Roanoke County residents in his new position on the Board of Supervisors.
North grew up in Nelson County and graduated from Lynchburg College with a degree in Business Administration. He had his eye on a career with the railroad as a “third generation railroader” whose family has been in the industry for 161 years. However, when he graduated from college in 1975, railroad jobs were in short supply so he started out working as a radio announcer for station WBRG-AM in Lynchburg. That led to working in sales and marketing until a job with Norfolk Southern opened up.
North worked for the railroad for 39 years, retiring in 2014 as an account manager in the energy field.
His career with Norfolk Southern brought him to the Roanoke area, where he and his wife Bonnie have been residents of Roanoke County for over 30 years. They live in The Orchards in the Bonsack area, the largest Hollins precinct.
The Norths are active members of Bonsack Baptist, also attended by Jason Peters who represents the Vinton District on the Board of Supervisors and Virginia Delegate Chris Head. They approached him about running for the Board of Supervisors seat.
North describes himself as a fiscal conservative, a strong supporter of the county schools, and someone committed to working cooperatively as a team player with other supervisors to further economic growth.
While he believes in fiscal restraint, he also believes there is a need to invest in services and increase regional economic development which will attract new employers and convince more young adults to stay in the valley.
He wants Roanoke County to be for others what it has been for him and his family– the place to raise a family, with a good quality of life, where children want to come back home after completing their education.
Sports writer Brian Hoffman said, “Phil has been a real treasure for the Vinton community with the work he’s done for the kids in the area. He not only coached rec sports but put in countless hours of organizing and volunteering through the Vinton Booster Club, the Byrd Baseball Boosters and the Dixie League.
“He’s one of the most competitive guys I know, and that’s why he’s been so successful,” said Hoffman. “I had no doubt he would win that supervisor’s seat, because he goes about things the right way. He’s coached baseball and was always quite knowledgeable about the game. However, when his kids were young they also played soccer and Phil volunteered to coach their soccer teams. He didn’t know a lot about soccer, so he found stuff on the Internet and studied it until he was more than capable of not only holding his own, but having a winning team year after year. He goes about everything he does with the idea that he’s going to win, and he’s also very big on sportsmanship.”
North says that children can learn much through participation in sports: “learning how to play on a team with others will take them through high school and serve them well for college and for life. They learn that you can’t do anything by yourself; you have to have the support of others.”
He believes those lesson will also serve him in good stead on the Board of Supervisors and that he has “much left to offer to Roanoke County” at this stage in his life.