Shenandoah names new administrator

By Alex Bridges

WOODSTOCK – Public-sector veteran and lifelong resident Mary Beth T. Price takes the helm as the top government official for Shenandoah County.

The Board of Supervisors voted 5-0 at a special called meeting Wednesday evening to select Price as the new county administrator. Members of Price’s family, county staff and officials from Woodstock and Strasburg sat in the audience for the announcement. Supervisor Sharon Baroncelli did not attend the meeting.

Supervisors appointed Price to serve as acting county administrator upon the departure of Douglas Walker, who left to take a position with Albemarle County. Price will earn $118,000 as the chief administrator, according to information from the county.

Chairman Conrad Helsley noted Price’s experience in local government administration with Strasburg and the county played a major role in the board reaching its decision.

“As we went through our application process and our interview process we felt that she had the knowledge, she had the direction and that she would make the best county administrator for Shenandoah County in the future,” Helsley said.

Price said after the meeting she appreciated the board’s support and vote of confidence in appointing her.

The lifelong resident of Shenandoah County sees this as the next and possibly final step in her local government career.

“This’ll be a nice way to, I guess, finish my career,” Price said. “That’s what I’d looked forward to. I don’t have any intentions of going anywhere.”

The board hired Springsted, a private consulting firm, to conduct a search for Walker’s replacement. The board interviewed candidates for the position in closed meetings held in recent weeks.

Price thanked the board and lauded the administrative staff for their efforts the past several months. When Price became acting county administrator she hired Mason E. “Gene” Swearingen, former town manager of Haymarket, to assume her assistant duties. Swearingen left in July and Price had not filled that position.

“Those folks have really stepped up ’cause we have really been short-staffed in our office,” Price said. “I look forward to serving as your county administrator, continuing to serve you, the citizens of Shenandoah County, the employees and staff of this great county where I’ve lived all my life.”

Price recalled that, as a child her parents, John and Eunice Taylor, took her on “field trips” to public facilities such as water treatment plants. That experience introduced her to the public service sector.

Price said after the meeting her first task is to hire a new assistant county administrator to fill out her office staff. Price also intends to discuss her strategic plan and goals with the board.

“But I’m ready to hit the ground running,” Price said. “I’ve waited for this.”

Price’s brother, Strasburg Mayor Timothy Taylor, reacted to her appointment.

“I’m proud of her,” Taylor said. “It’s in her blood. I know she’s going to do an outstanding job. She obviously has a great relationship with so many people here.”

Price is the fourth county administrator for Shenandoah County and the first woman to serve in the position.

Price began her career in local government by working for Strasburg, first as its town clerk and bookkeeper and later as its director of finance. Her responsibilities included utility billing, accounts payable and receivable, budget preparation and human resources. Price developed the town newsletter, provided oversight of the construction of Town Hall and obtained a grant for trees planted at the town park. She received the Citizen of the Year award from the Strasburg Chamber of Commerce in 1991.

Price worked for Strasburg from 1978 to 1997, at which time she left the town government to take the job as assistant county administrator. Since joining the county, Price has served on supervisors’ committees. Price created the first website for the county and has provided oversight for construction projects. She also serves as the public information officer for the county during emergencies.

Price received her bachelor’s degree in liberal arts and management and organizational development from Eastern Mennonite University and an associate’s degree in applied science in accounting. She graduated from Strasburg High School and Triplett Business and Technical Institute in 1978.

Price serves as chairwoman of the Shenandoah Memorial Hospital Board as well as on the Valley Health Board. She also serves on Virginia Local Government Manager’s Association, the Rappahannock-Shenandoah-Warren Regional Jail Authority board, the Northwestern Regional Juvenile Detention Center Commission and the Community Policy and Management Team.

Price lives in Strasburg with her husband Thomas. The Prices have two adult children, Joshua and Jonathan.

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