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Veteran attorney takes town spot

By Joe Beck -- jbeck@nvdaily.com

FRONT ROYAL -- The Town Council chose someone with a long resume in local government when it appointed Douglas W. Napier as town attorney Monday.

Napier, 60, is returning to local government after a four-year interlude spent mostly in private practice.

He spent 28 years as Warren County's attorney, the first 20 part time, the last eight full time until his departure in 2006.

Napier, who has lived in Front Royal most of his life, said he applied for the job because of "a desire to get back into public policy issues."

"I very much like Front Royal and Warren County," he said. "It's been good to me, and I like to give back."

Napier begins work Nov. 1, and is subject to reappointment in two years. The job pays $95,000.

He succeeds George M. Sonnett Jr., who has been working as interim town attorney since early July. Sonnett was a temporary replacement for Thomas R. Robinett, who took a job as town attorney and town manager in Onancock.

As town attorney, Napier will be venturing into some areas that differ from his responsibilities with the county.

"Water, sewer, trash collection, electricity, those are complicated issues the town has to deal with that the county doesn't," he said.

City and county law enforcement also have some notable distinctions, he said. He cited the example of the county sheriff who is an elected, constitutional official while the police chief is appointed by the council. The commonwealth's attorney for the county, focused on criminal law, holds another elected office and doesn't rely on the county attorney for legal advice, Napier said.

In hiring Napier, the council passed over Sonnett, who had also applied for the job. Sonnett, who is returning to his former post as assistant town attorney, said he felt "mild disappointment" at the council's decision, but also accepted it.

"I'm not a career municipal law attorney," said Sonnett, who was hired by the town in 2007. "I'm new to the game. I fully support the council's decision. They did what they thought was in the best interest of the town."

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