FRONT ROYAL — The Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority has tapped a man with years of experience in economic development to serve as its new executive director.
Douglas Parsons, 52, of Rippon, W.Va., was unanimously selected at the board’s regular Monday meeting to serve as a director. He signed a four-year contract set to begin May 8 with a $99,000 salary. This is compared to the $115,000 salary of embattled former director Jennifer McDonald.
An EDA news release states that Parsons was chosen from a pool of 12 candidates throughout the nation, four of whom were brought in for interviews. All candidates “were subjected to an intensive background check,” the release states.
Parsons joins the EDA in the midst of controversy including a $17 civil million lawsuit in which the authority alleges McDonald and eight other defendants embezzled funds. A special grand jury has been impaneled to investigate the matter while the FBI and Virginia State Police were recently seen removing documents from the EDA office.
Parsons said he does not believe those issues will present obstacles in attracting businesses because the community’s assets outweigh the controversy. He added that the county has great potential for economic development, noting the vicinity of the Virginia Inland Port, real estate prices, proximity to Washington, D.C., and quality of life.
Parsons said while he takes the troubles at the EDA “very seriously,” he intends to do everything he can to bring them to a resolution and is “more focused on the present and the future.”
“With the pending litigation and with the FBI and the state police involved...I don’t know what part I’m going to have to play going forward. Obviously, I’m going to cooperate with anything that’s asked of me. But on a day-to-day basis, I think at this point I’m really going to be able to focus on the traditional, ordinary EDA work,” Parsons said.
Parsons said his first task upon beginning work will be to understand the authority’s finances such as the loan programs and the operating budget. At the same time, he said he will “get out in the community” and become familiar with challenges businesses are facing and potential resources the authority could offer.
“It’s so important that the EDA takes care of the businesses that are here first because there are people that are here and investing in the community now,” Parsons said.
He added that he is anxious to update the EDA’s strategic plan and “redefine the organization and what our focus is so we can best serve the people.”
Parsons most recently has been employed as the business manager for the Workforce Solutions Division of the Virginia Economic Development Partnership, which was created by the Virginia General Assembly to foster and stimulate economic growth in the state, according to the organization’s website. In that position, the release states, he had “project management of 91 prospects and active accounts in the Northern Virginia area, assisting with the development of workforce training analysis for clients and business prospects.”
He also worked 11 years as EDA executive director in Lewis County, West Virginia, and as a project administrator for the Region VI Planning and Development Council in West Virginia.
Parsons graduated from West Virginia University with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and advertising and a minor in psychology.
EDA Chairman Gray Blanton stated in the release that Parsons impressed the board “with his preparation and the depth of his experience.”
EDA Treasurer Thomas Patteson agreed, stating in the release that Parsons “has a wealth of knowledge and experience in economic development and should serve the citizens of Warren County with distinction.”
EDA Secretary Ed Daley stated in the release that Parsons’ experience “makes him an ideal candidate” because he already has relationships with area businesses, which will help the EDA move forward immediately.