The fourth candidate in a race for two seats on the Elkin Board of Commissioners is an Elkin native who left for a time to go to college and work in the international business world before returning in 1990 to lead his family’s company as president.
Jeff Eidson, president of Elkin-based G&B Energy, is no stranger to running for a local office, as he was on the ballot for Elkin commissioner during the 2013 November election when six candidates were running for three seats. His bid was unsuccessful, but Eidson said he cares for Elkin and believes he has experience to bring to the table.
Eidson said his mother’s parents moved to Elkin from Pilot Mountain in 1930 and his grandfather, E.C. Boyles, and Phillip Greenwood started G&B Oil. After five years, Boyles bought out Greenwood’s portion of the company and made it a family-owned business.
After leaving Elkin to attend and graduate from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and then working for several years for KPMG, an international accounting firm where he worked in Raleigh and Bermuda, in 1990 Eidson moved back to Elkin to take the reins of G&B Energy from his father, Fred Eidson.
“I always knew my heart was here, and I would return here when I had kids,” said Jeff Eidson. “I felt fortunate to have the economic opportunity to take the helm of my family-owned company.
“The only place I could move back to [from Bermuda] and not feel disappointed was in Elkin,” he added. “I have fond memories of growing up in Elkin.”
Now his children, Thomas and Sarah, have both graduated from High Point University and returned to Elkin to work in the family company as the fourth generation with G&B. He and wife, Kristi, also have daughters, Gigi, an Elkin High School graduate, and Alexandra, who is an Elkin student.
“Since coming back I’ve been involved in many volunteer organizations,” Eidson said of why he has chosen to run for commissioner. Those volunteer opportunities include serving as chairman of the board for the Yadkin Valley Chamber of Commerce in 2000 and 2015; on the recreation and parks advisory board for the town in the past; and as charter chairman of the Surry County Economic Development Partnership.
“My mom and dad both through example instilled in me the role of giving back,” Eidson said. “My family and company have been very blessed by this community. In many ways our success is tied to the success of the town.”
Eidson said he seeks to follow in the footsteps of his father and grandfather who both served on the town board.
“Forty some years ago, our Boy Scout troop took over the town council for a day. I remember thinking it was neat, and I was proud to be picked as one of the scouts to have the opportunity,” he said.
Eidson said with the retirement of Mayor Lestine Hutchens and Commissioner J.L. Lowe, “I feel my experience in business and accounting background and working with the board over the years puts me in a position to contribute.
“I think Elkin is at a crossroads,” he said.
In referencing a license plate from his childhood that read “Elkin, Best Little Town in North Carolina,” which another candidate referenced recently, Eidson said, “I think we have an opportunity to be that. I don’t think we lost it.
“Our world revolved around Chatham and being a mill town, and while we survived the transition, the economy we are in is not friendly to small towns,” he said.
Rebranding, something Commissioner Dr. Skip Whitman who is running for reelection recently spoke of, is a concept Eidson also believes is needed for Elkin.
“I would say my biggest goal and what drives me is being involved in the chamber and the EDP. I feel very blessed I was able to come back to the town I love, but so many are limited in their economic availability,” Eidson said. “I want to create an environment in town that attracts economic growth.”
He believes there are several ways that can be done. “We will never be a mill town again, I think the approach needs to be multi-pronged. We need to rebrand.”
One thing the town needs is to find a way to attract people of middle management which were in town when Chatham was still active, Eidson said. “To get that back we need to create a town that attracts young vibrant economic minded folks,” he said.
Tourism and travel is one way to help create a community that is more attractive, said Eidson, acknowledging that the move of people from cities to rural areas tends to run in cycles, and it will come again. “We’re the perfect place to raise families. New generations have become more mobile, so we need to position our town to attract the migration back to small towns, and that will happen.”
The attraction of small manufacturers also is something Eidson wants to see happen for Elkin.
“I think the town council made a good step when it decided to create a trail center downtown. I think that will go a long way to getting us a National Park Service emblem on the highway. You may think that’s a small thing, but at the end of the day, it’s a big thing,” he said.
“I’m a firm believer Elkin is a special place to live,” said Eidson, in noting that he would like to see more employees joining the staff of Hugh Chatham Memorial Hospital, what he called “one of the largest economic drivers in town,” moving to town as well.
“I think it’s important that we continue to build those attributes that make us the best little town in North Carolina,” he continued. “We have a wonderful health system, wonderful schools, we have a wonderful natural climate and environment.”
Eidson encouraged those in town to visit the polls and cast their ballots in November.
Wendy Byerly Wood may be reached at 336-258-4035 or on Twitter @wendywoodeditor.