The Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority loses its executive director in three weeks and members face the task of running the agency until they fill the position.
Executive Director Douglas Parsons leaves on Oct. 1 to start a similar job for Fauquier County. Administrative Assistant Gretchen Henderson left the EDA last month.
The EDA board’s executive committee met Friday morning to discuss personnel matters related to Parsons’ departure in October, how to fill the vacancy and a plan to continue authority operations during the transition. The board spent most of the two-hour meeting in closed session discussing the personnel matter as allowed under Virginia law.
Board Chairman Jeff Browne and EDA directors Greg Harold, Marjorie “Jorie” Martin and Jim Wolfe attended the meeting. Warren County Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Cheryl L. Cullers and Supervisor Walter J. Mabe as well as County Administrator Edwin Daley also attended the meeting.
Members made no specific comments about the transition plan when they came out of the closed session before the end of the meeting. The committee does not usually take action but can forward recommendations to the full board, which meets later in the month.
Browne spoke by phone Friday afternoon about the three-phase transition plan, the first consisting of lining up the EDA operations.
“We anticipate that there’s a time period when we don’t have ... an executive director and how do you deal with that,” Browne said. “So, the first phase is everything from how do you open the front door, ‘cause none of us actually have the combination, to the prospects, all the things that we do in economic development.
“Our goal is that we continue doing what we’ve done, not to miss a beat in what we have and so it takes some careful planning to do that,” Browne said.
The EDA formed a search committee first to recruit a new administrative assistant. The committee plans to review resumes and to set up interviews possibly as early as next week, Browne said. The committee also plans to start looking for Parsons’ replacement. The board could first hire an interim executive director before recruiting someone on a permanent basis.
The committee also talked about more than 20 items handled by different members and where they fit into the phased plan, Browne said.
“It’s not like we’re an agency that does one or two things then we’re done for the month,” Browne said. “We stay pretty busy.”
The EDA has several strategies for how to operate between executive directors, Browne said. He did not go into specifics about the strategies.
“This is an area in which you need to be flexible and dynamic and be willing to move quickly depending on circumstances,” Browne said. “The goal here is ... to cover everything that’s being done and most likely either by a board member or possibly by an interim director and then move towards bringing somebody on and getting them up to speed quickly.”
Warren County has worked with the EDA and Browne said he expects that to continue during the transition.
The EDA continues to push for economic development in the town and the county during the transition and its members intend to take on Parsons’ responsibilities in the interim, Browne said.
“Do I think it’s really important? Oh, yeah. This is really critical,” Browne said. “But am I worried that we can’t handle it? No. I think we have a terrific board and everyone is stepping up and willing to do things.
“We have a lot of different talents and so I really think we’re in good shape to continue doing economic development, doing it at a recently torrid pace that we’ve been at for a while,” Browne said.
Parsons said by phone Friday afternoon that he’s confident the county and EDA can maintain continuity of operations. They also have leads on possible candidates for the executive director position, both interim and permanent, and the administrative assistant, Parsons said.
“I just really feel we’re all on a good track,” Parsons said. “It’s gonna be a lot of work over the next three weeks.
“But we’re all committed to continue in the progress we’ve made, make sure that we don’t take any kind of step backwards at all,” Parsons said.
A media release issued Friday afternoon stated that the committee is developing a plan to handle all aspects of the EDA’s operations such as business retention and attraction, finances, legal matters, personnel and day-to-day office operations.
“Both the Board and the Executive Director are confident that this plan will ensure a seamless transition and ensure the EDA remains a competitive entity for investment and expansion of businesses in Warren County,” the release states.