Search for Albemarle economic development director continues

The search for someone to lead economic development in Albemarle County is still underway, more than a year after the first person to hold the position left.

“I do know how long some of these things can take,” said Doug Walker, one of two deputy county executives. “We still have a ways to go in terms of vetting all the candidates.”

Faith McClintic was hired as the director of the county’s new economic development office in April 2015 but left to take a job in state government after serving about a year and a half.

Soon after, then-County Executive Tom Foley announced his departure. He has since been replaced by Jeffrey Richardson following an extensive search.

Walker said the county received about 25 applications for the economic development director position. Twelve were selected for phone interviews and five will go through a second round of interviews this week. Candidates still left on a second shortlist will be scheduled for in-person conversations with area stakeholders.

“We’ll know more after [this] week,” Walker said.

The final candidates also will be interviewed by the Board of Supervisors.

Rod Gentry, chairman of the Albemarle Economic Development Authority, said it it’s important for the county to get the right person.

“You only really get one shot at it,” Gentry said.

Walker is now overseeing economic development. His fellow deputy county executive, Bill Letteri, is serving as interim finance director following the departure late last year of Betty Burrell.

The economic development office also recently lost a long-term staff member following the departure of Susan Stimart, who served for many years as the county’s business development facilitator.

“There’s a lot of work that Susan was doing that needs to continue to be done,” Walker said.

Beth Pizzichemi remains the project information coordinator for the office. County planner J.T. Newberry from the Department of Community Development is temporarily assisting with the operations of the office.

“This does have consequences to the workload of community development,” Walker said.

Gentry said he appreciates that two county departments are working together on the issue.

“This is the first time that I’m aware of that community development and economic development have been joined at the hip,” he said. “I think it’s so important for the success of the person who gets hired that that line of communication be open. I think that’s an area where you are paving the way.”

Lee Catlin, a former assistant county executive, has returned to working for the county on a temporary basis to help guide the economic development office while it is in transition. She said one goal is to help explain to prospective businesses how the county’s approval process works.

“[With] J.T. and Beth as a team at the front end we can bring that perspective and that expertise,” Catlin said. “When you get a new director working with you, it will really help you clarify your toolbox and what you can do for businesses.”

Walker said the search for the finance director is ongoing.

“We were just not satisfied [with candidates] ultimately, so we’re now back out taking another look at the market,” Walker said.