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Jim Vest

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By John Barnhart

Jim Vest grew up in the town of Bedford. Today Vest lives in the city of Bedford.

    Now, he’s running for Bedford Town Council.
    Vest is currently a Bedford City councilman. He previously served on City Council from 1982 to 1994, including a tour of duty as vice mayor. Vest said he left at that point because he believed in term limits at the time. He returned in 2006 and has served ever since.
    “It was suggested that I run again, so I did,” Vest said.
    Vest graduated from Bedford High School in 1958 and was one of the school’s top basketball players in his high school years.
    “We played all our games in Old Yellow,” he said, referring to the now abandoned school adjacent to Bedford Middle School. The school has a large gym.
    Vest graduated from Virginia Military Institute in 1962 and was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Army. He served two years on active duty and four years in the National Guard. His active duty time included 13 months in Korea at the DMZ, the demilitarized zone that separates North Korea from South Korea.
    During his time in the National Guard, he commanded Bedford’s Company A.
    “At the time, some of the D-Day guys would come over when we drilled,” he said.
    Vest is proud of that infantry company.
    “I’m proud of the men, I’m proud of the company,” he said.
    Vest worked for Piedmont Label for 42 years, counting the time that he worked there in the summers after graduating from high school. He retired as the company’s president in 2002. By that time, the company was part of Smyth. He oversaw the sale of the company to Smyth, a move that he said was the best step for Piedmont Label stockholders and employees.
    He takes his business experience to City Council.
    “I try to take a look at actions of the city from a business manager’s perspective,” he said.
    Vest, along with Skip Tharp and Bob Wandrei, served on the committee that negotiated the reversion agreement with the county. He said the agreement is the achievement he is most proud of.
    “It’s not the city and the county,” he said of the result. “We are together. What’s good for one will be good for the other.”
    According to Vest, reversion was necessary after the loss of Rubatex, Frank Chervan and Murray and Bolling left a great hole in the city’s tax base.
    “If we had stayed a city, the taxes would have skyrocketed,” he said.
    He wants to be on town council to complete the transition and help form the new town, completing the mission.
    Vest is the senior warden at St. John’s Episcopal Church and served on the diocesan executive board of the Episcopal Diocese of Southwestern Virginia. His brother, the late Rt. Rev. Frank Vest, was the Episcopal bishop of Southern Virginia.