By Alex Bridges
Turnover among top government officials in the region has hit another peak with a retirement, a resignation and a departure for another job.
But one expert and former city manager said Wednesday that no single reason causes top administrators in Virginia to leave. Tedd A. Povar works as the associate director of the Virginia Institute of Government with the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service at the University of Virginia. Povar worked in city management for 20 years.
"It's very hard to draw any conclusions or make any broad statements as to whether this is typical or atypical," Povar said. "You could have somebody sitting for 20 years in the position and then they go through two or three in a matter of five, six years and then it becomes stable again. No rhyme or reason."
Different scenarios cause turnover.
"Sometimes you have boards that are [a] little difficult to serve and then the politics change," Povar added. "Sometimes you have managers that are on the climb and are stair-stepping and only commit to two or three years and then move on because they're on their way up whatever career ladder they've established for themselves."
Clark W. Draper III resigned Monday as town manager of Mt. Jackson after serving eight months on the job "to pursue other endeavors," said members of Town Council. The immediate resignation left Town Council with the responsibility of finding a replacement on short notice.
At a special meeting Wednesday evening, Mt. Jackson Town Council formally accepted Draper's resignation. Council also selected previous Town Manager Charles Moore to serve in the position temporarily and directed him to begin a search for a permanent replacement, said Mayor Joseph A. Williams. Town Finance Director/Treasurer Neil Showalter will serve as Moore's assistant, Williams said.
Woodstock Town Council plans to take a vote at its meeting Tuesday to name a successor to longtime Town Manager Larry D. Bradford. Bradford plans to retire in July after more than 25 years spent leading the town's government. Bradford reiterated his intentions in the fall and that spurred Town Council to start the search.
Mayor Jeremy D. McCleary said Wednesday that council has picked a person they agreed should lead the town. Council will take a formal vote on the selection Tuesday, McCleary said. The mayor added that he couldn't divulge the name of the successful candidate because council first needed to inform the other candidates about the results.
"Personally, I know how the thing will turn out on Tuesday because I just know that the group is on board with the decision that we've made," McCleary said.
Bradford indicated Wednesday that the new town manager would begin June 1.
As Povar explained, turnover can result from a "domino effect" of one departure creating others as people leave a job to fill a vacancy. But now the turnover in the field comes mainly as a result of retirements. Officials born during the "baby boom" of the late 1940s and early 1950s have reached retirement age, Povar said.
Virginia remains one of the more stable states in terms of administrative turnover, compared to the more volatile Florida, Povar said. Region does not appear to play a role in the turnover, he added.
Povar noted that departures leave local governments with the responsibility of filling vacancies. Some elected bodies choose to look for new managers themselves while others opt to hire selection firms that can conduct nationwide searches and perform interviews before making recommendations.
In Woodstock's case, the full Town Council served as the selection committee that reviewed the 29 applicants and conducted interviews before reaching a decision, McCleary said.
"It's important that the full council be part of the selection process and be familiar with the town manager and comfortable with the town manager," McCleary said. "We all rely on the town manager and deal with the town manager on a such a regular basis that I wanted to make sure that the full council was involved from beginning to end."
Meanwhile, Shenandoah County has hired Springsted, a consulting firm, to conduct a nationwide search for a successor to Douglas Walker who resigned in March as county administrators. Walker had served in the position for approximately three years before accepting an administrator's job with Albemarle County. Springsted had recommended the county hire Walker when the Board of Supervisors sought a replacement for former County Administrator Vincent Poling.
The region has many government executives with decades of experience between them.
Mike Kehoe has served as town manager of Stephens City since 1981. Douglas Stanley has worked as county administrator for Warren County since 2000. John Riley has served as county administrator since 1983.
Evan Vass returned to New Market in 2010 to become town manager after having served two years as assistant town manager in Harrisonburg. Judson Rex became town manager of Strasburg in January 2011 after serving in the interim following the firing of longtime Town Manager Kevin Fauber. Front Royal Town Council appointed Steven M. Burke as town manager in August 2011. Edinburg Mayor Daniel J. Harshman has served as its town manager since the late 1990s.
Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or firstname.lastname@example.org