Curtis Rhea

Curtis Rhea in 2017 when he was seeking a seat on the board of supervisors.

The Chilhowie District’s representative on the board of supervisors announced his decision to step down from his seat Tuesday morning.

Curtis Rhea reported his decision to resign in response to the News & Messenger requesting comments from the first-term supervisor about unpaid taxes that he owes the county.

As of Sept. 9, Rhea was delinquent on his personal property tax by $764.94, including interest and penalty.

In real estate taxes, Rhea’s name appears for a group of individuals who owe $745.43 for the years 2017 and 2018.

In a Tuesday morning email, Rhea wrote: “It is no surprise to those close to me as to my current financial position. My own personal decisions over the last few years have put significant strain on my family that they don’t deserve. I feel strongly that due to those decisions and my current financial situation it is best I resign my position on the BOS [board of supervisors]. As to my plans to pay the outstanding taxes, I am exploring various options on the repayment and intend to do so ASAP.”

On the day he was initially contacted by the News & Messenger, the Smyth County native made a late-night public Facebook post, which addressed his service on the board of supervisors and financial decisions.

In part, he wrote, “If I’m being completely transparent I would admit that a little over two years ago I made the biggest mistake of my life. When I decided to run for the BOS [board of supervisors] my then employer wasn’t sure they would honor that as secondary employment. I chose to transition to a start up business that failed. Sure that was a combination of poor personal decisions on my behalf and poor business decisions. I own those mistakes and live with them daily!!”

As a supervisor, Rhea receives compensation for his service, but is not considered a county employee. Several years ago, the board of supervisors was distressed to realize that a number of county employees were on the delinquent tax list. They requested that action be taken to collect their overdue taxes.

Should employees appear on the delinquent tax list, they can receive a letter that reads in part: “The Board of Supervisors, in an attempt to collect these past due amounts without further action, have set (a date of month, day, year) as the final day to remedy these past due amounts. Failure to pay these amounts in full before the deadline will result in further action to secure these past due amounts owed.”

At the supervisors’ meeting earlier this month, County Administrator Michael Carter reviewed the uncollected taxes owed to Smyth County, which reach into the millions of dollars. As of Sept. 9, with interest and penalties, Smyth County was owed more than $3.6 million in delinquent real estate taxes. Also, with interest and penalties, the total delinquent personal property taxes amount to slightly less than $1.6 million.

A newcomer to elected office, Rhea, who holds a bachelor’s degree in finance, won his seat on the board in November 2017.

That October, he told the News & Messenger, “As a citizen and more importantly as a father raising two young ladies in this county, I feel very strongly that a change in direction is needed. My experience in the banking industry and as a small business owner gives me insight into what the county needs to move forward. I am very passionate about our county and the beauty we have here and will strive to make it a place our kids and grandkids can proudly stay once finished with education.”

At the time, Rhea cited the county’s lack of economic development as its most pressing issue, saying, “The most pressing issue for the county is a lack of economic development. Industry started leaving in the 1990s and it hasn't stopped. To fix our increasing tax burden as citizens this is a must. I want my two little ladies to have a reason to stay here, but realize the opportunities are few and far between.”

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