The Albemarle County Board of Supervisors has selected Diantha McKeel to serve as its chair-woman for the coming year.
“We look forward to 2017,” McKeel said. “It sounds like we’re going to have a lot of energy going on with this board this year.”
Supervisor Liz Palmer served as chairwoman in 2016 but told the board in late December that she did not want to serve a second year in a row due to family considerations.
McKeel, an independent, was elected as supervisor for the Jack Jouett Magisterial District in No-vember 2013. She defeated independent Phillip Seay to succeed Dennis Rooker in the seat.
Prior to that, McKeel represented the district on the School Board for 16 years.
McKeel has worked for more than 30 years as a clinical research coordinator at the University of Virginia.
Rivanna District Supervisor Norman Dill will serve as the board’s vice chairman and said he was honored to be selected.
“I will do my best things to keep things moving along,” Dill said.
Several members of the board pointed out at the meeting Wednesday that they will select a new county executive this year.
Tom Foley will leave at the end of the month to become the Stafford County administrator. Deputy County Executive Doug Walker will serve as interim executive until a replacement is found.
Supervisor Ann H. Mallek is the longest-serving member of the Board of Supervisors. First elected in 2007, the White Hall representative served as chairwoman between 2010 and 2013.
“I know that we are handing you a very scripted and limited role,” Mallek said. “We are a board of six equals, and we ask our chair and vice chair to run our meetings, and that’s all.”
Mallek said that one of the biggest issues this year will be a recodification of the county’s zoning ordinance. She also called for the county to find nonprofit partners to help with natural resource conservation and economic development.
Supervisor Rick Randolph congratulated McKeel and Dill.
“We have a very active agenda and I think the most active portion of which is probably the first quarter of the year,” Randolph said.
Walker will present a recommended budget at a special meeting Feb. 17 followed by a public hearing Feb. 21. After that will be a series of budget work sessions.
Randolph said other issues are pressing, as well, including revitalizing an existing county body.
“We need to get our economic development authority launched and operational and effective in the community,” Randolph said. “We don’t have time to linger on that because demands are already out there for them to be utilized to play a leadership role.”
Dill agreed with Randolph that economic development is a priority but that education can also drive private investment in the community.
“To some extent, the business of Albemarle County is education between our public school system, private schools, community college, [Charlottesville Albemarle Technical Education Center] and so on,” Dill said. “The Darden School [at UVa] is considered by some to be the best entrepreneurship program in the country.”
McKeel’s current term as supervisor expires at the end of the year, as do the terms for the Samuel Miller and Rio District seats, held by Democrats Palmer and Brad Sheffield, respectively. Palmer told Charlottesville Tomorrow that she will run for re-election. Sheffield said he is not ready to announce whether he will seek a second term.
McKeel also did not say if she will seek a second term.
“One announcement for me is enough for today,” she said.