Regional agency to search for director

FRONT ROYAL – The Northern Shenandoah Valley Regional Commission will need a new chief.

Executive Director Martha Shickle announced Thursday that she has accepted an appointment to serve in the same position with the Richmond Regional Planning District Commission. The Winchester-area native plans to relocate to the Richmond region in December. Her last day at the agency in Front Royal is Dec. 11.

“I’m really excited about the opportunity and so thrilled that they were interested in offering me the position,” Shickle said Friday. “But there are so many things things happening here that it was a tough decision.

“It’s bittersweet I guess is the word because the commission is a wonderful organization and the Northern Shenandoah Valley is my home,” Shickle added. “But at the same time it’s an exciting kind of new adventure.”

Shickle worked with the regional commission headquartered in Front Royal beginning in July 2008. She became the agency’s director about 4½ years ago. Shickle receives a salary of $90,000 in her current job. She will receive $115,000 at her position in Richmond.

As executive director, Shickle oversees the commission’s general operations, strategic planning and program development. Shickle’s departure has prompted the commission’s executive committee to start a search for a replacement. The recruitment process is set to kick off this month.

Michelle “Shelly” Owens, the commission’s director of finance and administration, likely will serve as the agency’s chief in the interim until they hire a permanent replacement, Shickle said. Owens has served as interim director previously.

The agency’s board of commissioners consists of representatives from 13 member jurisdictions. The commission’s area covers Winchester, the counties of Clarke, Frederick, Page, Shenandoah and Warren, and the 14 incorporated towns therein. The agency serves as one of 21 planning district commissions in the state created through the Regional Cooperation Act. Member jurisdictions are the counties, the city and the towns of Berryville, Front Royal, Luray, Middletown, Stephens City, Strasburg and Woodstock.

The Richmond Regional Planning District Commission covers Richmond, the counties of Charles City, Chesterfield, Goochland, Hanover, Henrico, New Kent, Powhatan and the town of Ashland. The district has a population of about 1 million people, Shickle said.

The commission facilitates programs in hazard mitigation, housing and community development, natural resources and transportation. The agency aids localities in local planning, project management and administrative or office support project.

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