FRONT ROYAL – This is not the first time John Anzivino has stepped into an interim local government position during a challenging period.
Named the Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority’s interim executive director in January, Anzivino said he hopes to leave the organization in a better state than it was in upon his appointment. His local government experience spans 25 years in roles that have included town manager and county administrator. Most recently, he was interim town manager in Purcellville, which he said was in the midst of a slew of controversies.
Anzivino noted both the Purcellville and the EDA “faced challenges,” and he is honored that officials thought he could be of service during difficult times.
Since October, it has been revealed that Front Royal overpaid the EDA an estimated $291,000 and that the board hired a private financial consultant to investigate the matter. Jennifer McDonald, former executive director, resigned in December after the EDA held a series of closed sessions discussing accounting and debt services and her job performance.
While Anzivino said he has signed a confidentiality agreement and cannot discuss any ongoing investigations, he said: “I have learned to fix problems, and these are new types of problems.” He added that he would work with the EDA board, the town and the county to get through “whatever issues might exist.” He said the EDA understands the need for transparency and will reveal its findings when it can, which should be “sooner than later.”
He added that thorough investigations take time to complete and “you want to do them well.”
Anzivino said one goal during his time as interim director will be engaging the board and getting its members “more involved in processes.” He said that would include providing board members a better understanding of “what’s in the budget and why it’s there.” He added that the board needs “understandable updates in regard to the finances of the authority.” Another goal, he said, is helping the board become more engaged in some of the authority’s efforts to recruit new businesses.
“The board is a good board; they are good people. They’ve been engaged in processes in the past. But it’s my job, I think, to engage them and get them more involved in processes,” he said.
He said the board also needs to have a better understanding “of what goes on here on a day-to-day basis,” adding that the board is learning and is “more engaged already.”
Anzivino said he wanted to point out that the EDA has done good work in the past, noting the number of jobs it helped attract to the 522 corridor. He said the EDA “very quietly” expanded the town and county tax bases. He said most authorities aim to “fly below the radar” in helping localities expand their tax bases because prospective businesses like discretion. He said the EDA provides that opportunity and can also obtain bonds for businesses.
Anzivino said another role of the EDA is helping existing businesses expand, noting that it has provided several loans to small businesses.
He said while there has been “some not so positive” news reports surrounding the EDA, the core reason a business would locate in the area is not based on “one person or one thing.”