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Posted February 7, 2013 | comments Leave a comment

Shenandoah County administrator resigns

Douglas Walker is accepting a position in Albemarle County government

By Alex Bridges

Douglas Walker plans to step down as county administrator for Shenandoah County less than three years into his tenure.

Walker, 50, announced his resignation at a Board of Supervisors work session on Thursday after members met in closed session to discuss personnel matters. Supervisors voted unanimously to accept Walker's resignation. His last day is March 29.

The Albemarle County Board of Supervisors on Wednesday appointed Walker to serve as the assistant county executive for community services, he said.

Walker, who earns $127,000 as head of government in Shenandoah County, will make a salary of $135,000 in Albemarle County. Walker begins his new job April 1.

"It has been an honor and privilege to serve as Shenandoah County Administrator," Walker read from his letter of resignation. "And while there is still much to do between now and my last day on the job, I don't want to miss this opportunity to say thank you."

The board did not immediately make known how it plans to fill Walker's position. Walker's departure takes place when supervisors and county officials will be discussing and crafting the local budget for fiscal 2014. The board did not indicate whether it would seek to appoint an interim administrator and if the county should hire a firm to search for Walker's successor.

Earlier during the work session, Supervisor David Ferguson proposed that the board allow the school system to begin to implement security and safety enhancement measures before classes end and the next year begins.

The county holds $293,000 in unspent school funds in reserve, Ferguson said. The Board of Supervisors could release the funds to the school system immediately.

Ferguson proposed that the board use $50,000 of the funds to cover the cost of having more Shenandoah County Sheriff's Office deputies assigned to educational facilities. Ferguson explained he came up with the amount by calculating the number of hours in the nearly 80 days left in the school year and the average hourly wage for deputies.

The remaining $243,000 could cover the cost of security enhancements at school buildings, Ferguson said.

Ferguson said he would present the proposal to the board in more detail at its meeting Tuesday morning.

Supervisor Sharon Baroncelli, who participated in the work session via telephone, asked Ferguson if he had discussed the proposal with Superintendent B. Keith Rowland and whether the idea fits with how the School Board would want to spend the money.

Rowland stepped into the work session and explained that the School Board plans to provide supervisors with an immediate list of needs, including six items they would like to see addressed.

Board Chairman Conrad Helsley mentioned that the state likely will provide funds to divisions to help cover the cost of school resource officers. However, Ferguson explained that the money won't be available for some time and even then Shenandoah County may not receive much.

Later in the work session, following the vote on Walker's resignation, Helsley told Walker his work for the county was appreciated.

"[W]e do appreciate your hard work, your integrity and your work ethic," Helsley said, noting that he and Walker often would discuss county issues either before or after regular working hours. "Your day doesn't run 8:30 to 5. I very much know that and have been very appreciative of that fact.

"I think that in our almost three years, and particularly the time that I have been chairman, that you're always thinking ... that you're not thinking about what's gonna happen in the next 30 minutes, you're thinking the next three years," Helsley continued. "I think Shenandoah County will be better because you were here and served as our county administrator."

Ferguson echoed Helsley's remarks.

Walker, who began working for the county in July 2010, read his resignation letter aloud before supervisors took their vote. Walker highlighted a list of major projects and initiatives that the county took on during his tenure. The administrator gave much credit to the board and county staff.

"In offering my resignation to the Board, I am very mindful of the good work accomplished by this Board prior to my arrival as well as during the course of our tenure together," Walker said.

Walker says his new job will give him the chance to use his 23 years of government management experience to lead service areas of Albemarle County such as police, fire and rescue, community development, social services, housing and parks and recreation. The position also calls for Walker to serve as the county's liaison to agencies and organizations.

Walker cited as accomplishments of the county the continuation of the regional jail project through design, financing and construction "which, despite its controversy in the media, satisfies an urgent need for adequate adult detention facilities and, in doing so, saves taxpayer money in the long run by sharing costs with two other localities and by taking advantage of over $32 million in non-local funding for construction that otherwise would not have been available."

Walker also noted the completion of a sewer line from the landfill to the North Fork Wastewater Treatment Plant that protects the environment and cuts the cost of transporting leachate; a partnership with Shrinemont in which they can take a sewer lagoon offline when they connect to the Stoney Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant, ultimately protecting Lake Laura.

Walker's list of 16 items included the county's efforts to renovate and turn the Edinburg School into an educational and community facility; the Toms Brook School into low-income housing; refinancing of debt to save $300,000; implementation of revenue recovery for fire and rescue services.

"I am truly pleased to have played a small part in working with the Board of Supervisors, County staff, other organizations and agencies and the community at large to see these projects through in whole or in part," Walker said.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com

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