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Meet Your Government
Andrew Sorrell, Albemarle County
Andrew Sorrell
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Andrew Sorrell, Senior Planner, Albemarle County
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Sunday, November 18, 2012 at 12:01 a.m.

Andrew V. "Andy" Sorrell, Senior Planner

Where were you born (and raised, if different)?

Born and raised in Richmond – never desired to live anywhere but my home state of Virginia.

When and why did you move to the Charlottesville/Albemarle area?

I have lived in the area since 2004.  I own a neat old house near Palmyra shaded by equally old trees with tall boxwoods that line the driveway.  I chose Fluvanna County because I have family ties to the community and am a proud to call Fluvanna my home.

What neighborhood do you live in now?

If I lived in town, I would choose to live in a place where I could take advantage of all urban living has to offer – less driving, more walking and public utilities among other things – I’m all in or all out.  However, I choose to live in a rural area and take that for what it is (more room, stars at night and small town community among other things).  My family accepts that we have to drive more, have private utilities and not be as close to amenities to live where we do, but it is a trade-off we have consciously made.

Family (spouse, kids, etc.)?

My wife Kristen and I have been married five years.  We have a son, Jack, who will be three in December.  We also have two dogs and raise a flock of bantam chickens and haven’t had to buy eggs in over 5 years!

What is your alma mater and when did you graduate?

Virginia Tech; received a B.S. in Environmental Policy and Planning in 2002 and later successfully pursued my Master of Public Administration in 2004 from Virginia Tech’s Center for Public Administration and Policy.  My wife is a UVA Alum so we have the “Family Feud” bumper sticker!

What were you doing before you came to work for the County?

I directed a small planning department in Cumberland County, Virginia managing the day-to-day tasks of a rural planning and zoning shop  – I worked one-on-one with members of the public and county officials to solve problems and craft solutions.  I learned how to translate the complex nuances of government into everyday terms that made it easier for people to understand and quickly get to the bottom line.  The local government staff and Planning Commissioners in Cumberland County were some of the most dedicated public servants I have ever worked with, and I will always hold them in high regard.  My first full-time job was as a planner in Fluvanna County.  I am a “glass half full” type of person and am motivated by the practice of good public service.

Your job title is Senior Planner - what, in your own words, would you say you do?

In my position with Albemarle County, my expertise has been focused on the County’s update to its Comprehensive Plan.  This update is more extensive than in years past and is aimed at keeping substance while removing repetition.  With a long-range planning focus, I work to envision and plan for the County’s future in a way that respects current and established goals and principles while considering new and innovative strategies for keeping Albemarle County a great place to live for future generations.

What is the best part of your job? The most difficult part?

Local government provides a different type of customer service.  The tough part of being a planner and being in public service in general is not always being able to have the flexibility to correct a problem on the spot.  In the private sector, issues may have to do with just a particular business – to make an issue right could be as simple as giving someone longer to pay a bill or bartering for services.  In government, regulation lays out what can be done (and not done) and all citizens must be consistently treated fairly not given special preference.

The best part of my job is when I can share the profession and my experiences with others, such as at a school career day or helping new professionals navigate their careers.  I never knew about land use planning until college, so I like explaining to young people how planners and public service can make a difference.  I have also benefited from strong mentors over my career and believe in “paying it forward.”  

How does your job most directly impact the average person?

The work I am doing now with the update to our Comprehensive Plan may not affect the average county resident for years.  However, the planning we are doing right now is setting the direction for the County’s future as a leader in good government and wise land use decisions.  I hope that the work we are doing now, particularly in exploring options for rural land owners to continue to have value in their land without having to subdivide, will have a lasting impact on preserving and protecting one of key features of our County – the rural landscape we all have an ownership interest in.

What is the most interesting project or work experience that you've had while with the County?

As part of the County’s Comprehensive Plan update, I led the residential capacity analysis (reviewing that our planned growth can be accommodated by available land in growth areas) and the review of how urban agriculture could be addressed in the County’s Development Areas – these were both really neat projects.

What is a little-known fact about you?

Many years ago before my family left to settle in western North Carolina, they resided in Albemarle County and were neighbors to Thomas Jefferson assisting him with work tasks in the 1770s.  My branch of the family returned to Virginia around World War I to work in the Newport News Shipyards and we’ve been here ever since.

What do you do outside of work hours - hobbies, etc.?

Like many in our community, the natural beauty and cultural landscape attracted me to the area. Going back many generations, my family has cultivated a large garden wherever they lived.  I continue this tradition and have been raising fruits and vegetables since I was 10 - in grade school I made spending money over the summers by selling produce in my front yard.  I also am a collector and tinkerer of many old things including old radios and phonographs.  I have about 50 from the years of about 1915 to 1950 (I’ve repaired ¼ of them, visit my office to see a few).  I am active in my historic church, Seay’s Chapel UMC in Shores, Va. which was successfully added to the National Register of Historic Places this past year and for the first time ever, will begin meeting every Sunday in December (we currently meet two times a month) which is very exciting!

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