Rob Leonard is the director of The Build Smart Institute, an educational organization that trains individuals for work in the construction industry. Rob and his wife grew up in Philadelphia and lived in Pennsylvania, Vermont, and Florida before settling in Franklin County, VA where they have stayed and raised their family. 

Rob cites the natural beauty, amazing school system, and incredible resources as reasons why Franklin County has been, and continues to be, one of the best places to live.  

What part of Franklin County do you live in? How long have you lived there?

I live in the northwest part of Franklin County, near Monte Vista Church. I’ve lived in Franklin County for 28 years and built my own homestead that I enjoy with my wife.  

What’s your favorite thing about living in Franklin County, VA?

My favorite thing about living in Franklin County is that our home is in a beautiful area where we can enjoy gardening, beekeeping, outdoor activities, and sports. It feels very “out in the country,” and yet is close to numerous opportunities, resources, venues, and entertainment. You really get the best of both worlds.  

What do you do for fun outside of work?

I really enjoy time with family and pets. I love the outdoor culture and am frankly blown away by all the opportunities to enjoy the outdoors here. I spend time running, hiking, cycling, beekeeping, gardening, and doing projects around our home. I also like listening to and playing music. 

Where is your favorite place to hang out/work/out/eat out/etc.?

Franklin County has more to offer than I could have ever imagined. Chaos Mountain Brewing is a great local brewery, and we always take advantage of the gourmet food trucks that stop by. I love The Harvester; they bring in incredible musicians from all over. I’ve mentioned the outdoor activities including having access to the Blue Ridge Parkway. I enjoy my job at Build Smart Institute in Roanoke because I can give back to an industry that gave to me.  

Rob Leonard Rollover Cancer
From right: Dr. Lowell Inhorn and Rob Leonard, cofounders of Roll Over Cancer, deliver $2,472 to Ralph Alee of the Carilion Clinic Foundation that was raised at the October 16 Roll Over Cancer cycling fundraiser at Chaos Mountain Brewing. These funds will help with a new cancer center to be built in Roanoke.

What advice do you have for finding or meeting new people?

Every year in Franklin County continues to get better for me because there are so many opportunities to get involved with things you care about.  

In 2009, I started Roll Over Cancer with my oncologist and in 2011 we rode our bicycles across America to raise awareness about cancer. Now, we have an annual event every October a Chaos Mountain Brewing. I’m also involved in the Franklin Freewheelers cycling club, which has been a huge part of the Roll Over Cancer event. We meet every Thursday at 6 p.m. at Chaos Mountain Brewing if you want to come check us out.  

Things happen when you show up, so get out, join clubs or associations that meet your interests, and volunteer. 

Franklin County Shines is a series about the people and places that make Franklin County one of the best places to live, work, and play. #FranklinCountyShines