Albemarle works to fill host of major staff vacancies
For Albemarle County’s staff, 2016 has been a year of significant transitions as the county seeks to fill various high-profile jobs held by long-time employees, including the director of planning.
“Land use is a critical issue in Albemarle County and we put a high standard on it, so we’re looking for somebody who is a strong leader with a good reputation in planning,” said County Executive Tom Foley.
Wayne Cilimberg stepped down as Albemarle’s planning director this May after a 30-year career with the county.
“Wayne was a great planning director and had a great reputation across the state, as well as lots of experience,” Foley said. “He was really able to communicate well to the public and to the [Board of Supervisors] and Planning Commission in terms of taking complex issues and putting them into perspective.”
The planning vacancy is not the only one in the county.
Ella Jordan retired as Board of Supervisors clerk in May. Supervisors met in closed session recently to interview candidates for her replacement. Senior deputy Travis Morris has been serving as deputy clerk since May.
Larry Davis retired as county attorney at the same time and has been replaced by Greg Kamptner, who had been serving as deputy attorney. Kamptner has been with the county since 1995.
Davis was hired as the first full-time county attorney in 1994.
Supervisors appoint the attorney and the clerk, but other department heads are hired by Foley and his staff.
Peter Lynch was named county assessor in April after spending a year as the assistant assessor. Prior to that he served as a real estate appraiser for the city of Virginia Beach. He succeeds Ron Willingham.
Ron Lantz was promoted from within the ranks of the police department to become chief, replacing Steve Sellers, who had held the role since January 2011.
“Two years ago, I told the board we would have turnover because we’ve got this baby boomer generation and folks who have gotten their 30 years in and it’s time to retire. Steve Sellers was the first guy that I hired and he told us that he was only going to work about five years,” said Foley, who began in his role in 2011.
Several candidates for planning director went through a first round of interviews last week.
There were 49 applications for the position, according to Lee Catlin, assistant county executive.
“The director of planning is really focused on the business of the Planning Commission and trying to make sure they’re being supported,” said Mark Graham, the county’s community development director. “The position serves as a link between the Planning Commission and the Board of Supervi-sors.”
Graham said whoever is hired will oversee 17 employees in a department that is perhaps busier than ever.
“We’re seeing a level of activity out there that is very similar to 10 years ago,” Graham said. “One of the challenges is going to be how we balance all of this work that we have in front of us. If development activity is up and we have the same resources to handle that work, it’s getting more difficult for us to get these things done.”
Planning initiatives include the small-area plan for Rio Road’s intersection with U.S. 29, a review of supplementary activities at farms and farm wineries and efforts to revitalize the designated growth areas.
“We’re really looking more for a leader than somebody who’s going to be a day-to-day manager,” Graham said. “What we need is that vision and leadership as we go into these new areas like urban revitalization.”
Another round of interviews will be held soon with stakeholders, including community leaders.
“From a 30,000-foot perspective, I think the county needs to figure out a way to better provide infrastructure in the so-called urban ring, whether it be public transit, connectivity for pedestrians and cyclists, recreational facilities or even library space,” said Dan Heuchert, co-chairman of the Fifth and Avon Community Advisory Council.
That sentiment is shared by the chairwoman of the Places 29-Hydraulic Community Advisory Council.
“I think the cost of growth is a huge problem that we haven’t dealt with and as far as I can see will only get worse,” said Cynthia Neff. “The Comprehensive Plan set out a vision for walkable and bikeable communities that hasn’t always been actualized, hasn’t been modeled and hasn’t been zoned or costed out.”
The county already has filled the transportation planner position by hiring Kevin McDermott to replace Gerald Gatobu. McDermott previously served as transportation program manager for the Central Shenandoah Planning District Commission.
“Obviously, this is a position we really wish we had in place a couple of months ago,” Graham said. The county is preparing its next round of transportation funding requests through the Virginia Department of Transportation’s new SmartScale process.
Frank Pohl has been serving as county engineer since May 31. He replaced Glenn Brooks, who left in March.
Foley said other high-profile vacancies can be expected in the future.
“We’ll have some more of this on the horizon,” he said. “I expect there will be a number of other department heads we’ll have to replace. We are trying to stay focused on succession management.”