Students gain governmental experience with summer internship

Warren County intern Evan Fox, left, 19, looks over a set of plans for a proposed Taco Bell at Riverton Commons in Front Royal with Warren County Planning Director Taryn Logan, right, in the planning office conference room on Thursday. Fox is one of three college interns who are working in the county administration offices this summer. Rich Cooley/Daily

FRONT ROYAL  – Three college students are learning the intricacies of local government through paid – $10 per hour – internships in the Warren County Government Center.

Warren County Planning Director Taryn Logan said several departments implemented the intern program about five years ago, and it benefits all parties involved.

She said while the students become familiar with the functions of local government, the departments get help streamlining tasks they would like to finish but do not have time to do so.

Logan said those tasks could range from simply creating brochures for departments or more extensive research projects.

Lifelong Warren County resident Evan Fox, a rising Virginia Tech sophomore who is pursuing a degree in public and urban affairs, is interning for the Planning Department.

Jacob Dodson

He said his favorite job so far was writing a festival permit, while other notable tasks have included developing a new sign ordinance and reviewing conditional use permits.

Looking at those permits, he said, is interesting because “you can really see the county’s role in forming the community.” Reviewing old permits, he added, is fascinating to learn how the county has grown or what businesses have succeeded.

While Fox said he is not sure what he would like to do upon graduating, he said, “I love the public administration side but doing this internship has given me a new appreciation for planning.”

Jacob Dodson, also a lifelong resident, is interning for the third summer in the county administration office. A rising University of Virginia senior, he is majoring in history with plans to obtain a business certificate.

He said he would like to work in public administration and perhaps become a town manager. He said guidance from County Administrator Doug Stanley has been “great preparation” in that quest.

One key lesson he said Stanley bestowed upon him is that while the day-to-day operations are key for a thriving government, it is more important to think 10 years into the future. He also noted that Stanley is involved in many different organizations – “he has his fingers stuck in a lot of pies” – and that is important in order to develop relationships with a variety of people to accomplish goals.

Dodson said the most interesting job he’s carried out was last summer working with Fire Chief Richard Mabie in determining the department’s overall needs. This summer, Dodson said his main focus has been working on outside agency budget requests. Other tasks have included a library compensation study, a proffer fund analysis and more.

Stanley said he has “truly enjoyed” Dodson’s time as an intern and said he has “been a true asset.” Stanley noted that he once interned for the City of Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania County during school and knows the importance of a real-world job experience role in “enhancing one’s education to get prepared for the workforce.”

Nelson Morgan, who is interning with the county attorney’s office, was not available for comment.

One key lesson Dodson and Fox said they both gained: after school, there is no summer break.

Fox said: “It’s a long day. It’s taught me a different responsibility. At college, I have a couple of hour-long classes and then I go do what I want. This has taught me that nine to five, it’s a grind, but it’s a fun one.”

Dodson seconded that and said the internship has given him the appreciation of “the commitment that people have to give on a year-round basis.”