Mount Airy officials apparently are extending the contract of a state lobbyist first engaged by the city in 2018 — at triple the cost — who has produced limited results since that time on behalf of the municipality.
Bryan Holloway, head of The Holloway Group Inc., is a former member of the N.C. House of Representatives whose district included Stokes County. He is the only lobbyist ever hired by the city government.
In initially engaging his services in May 2018, Mount Airy officials believed Holloway’s contacts in Raleigh would benefit the city in terms of state budgetary allocations and grants for local projects.
This paid dividends almost immediately with an announcement the next month that Holloway had secured $1 million for water-sewer infrastructure needs in town, which ultimately paid for the installation of new water lines in the Maple Street/Merritt Street neighborhood.
The contract with the lobbyist has been extended every budget year since 2018 at the rate of $1,000 per month or $12,000 annually. And the latest re-upping was expected to be approved Thursday night during a meeting of the Mount Airy Board of Commissioners.
Only this time, the contract cost has jumped from $12,000 a year to $36,000 — or $1,000 to $3,000 per month.
The expected approval of the agreement Thursday night was based on the fact that the Holloway matter was on the consent agenda for the meeting — which typically involves items lumped together for one rubber-stamp vote with little or no discussion.
Along with the contract extension, the commissioners were poised to OK a related amendment to the 2021-22 municipal budget that was adopted in June containing the usual $12,000 for The Holloway Group contract.
The amendment involves allocating an additional $24,000 for this fiscal year that began on July 1 to make up the new $36,000 annual total.
Scope of assistance
A resolution before the commissioners cites Holloway’s many years of political experience and his firm’s assistance in acquiring funds for various projects in Mount Airy. It also mentions his “connections to legislators and budgetary knowledge” to assist that goal.
However, efforts to quantify that this week with city officials did not produce much in the way of tangible results.
City Manager Barbara Jones was asked Wednesday to detail the financial and other assistance which have come Mount Airy’s way over the past couple of years due to The Holloway Group’s efforts on behalf of the municipality.
Jones forwarded that email query to Martin Collins, community development director for the city, who specifically listed only the $1 million infrastructure grant in 2018.
“Mr. Holloway has also communicated with the North Carolina General Assembly on numerous matters of interest to the city,” Collins added.
When asked Thursday to elaborate on this, Collins mentioned the state Legislature’s recent approval of a bill to move municipal elections from odd to even-numbered years to save money and increase turnout.
Yet this was a cut-and-dried measure largely initiated by Rep. Sarah Stevens of Mount Airy, who serves the city in Raleigh, which was passed without opposition.
Collins also cited the American Rescue Plan, a relief measure to help localities deal with the pandemic which involves federal money being funneled through the state Legislature.
“There are a number of infrastructure needs in the city that we would like to address if we can obtain additional funds to do them,” Collins continued. “The Holloway Group communicates the city’s needs to the North Carolina General Assembly and provides us an opportunity to compete for additional infrastructure funding.”
Collins indicated that Holloway’s efforts might not bear fruit immediately.
“The Holloway Group’s communications on behalf of the city take some time to work their way through the process,” he explained. “Hopefully, this will lead to future grants like the one that funded the Maple/Merritt neighborhood water lines.”
A Republican and former social studies teacher, Holloway was elected as a state representative for District 91 in 2004 and resigned in October 2015 to take a lobbyist position with the North Carolina School Boards Association.
In addition to the city of Mount Airy, The Holloway Group’s client list includes the Professional Educators of North Carolina, North Carolina Ag Teachers Association, The Resource Institute and the National Association of Opticians and Optometrists, among others.