James City administrator search goes out of state

JAMES CITY — Without a vote yet on the winning candidate, the county's eight-month search for a new county administrator will end Friday during a special meeting of the Board of Supervisors.

The supervisors will vote on the new hire at the meeting, then make an announcement. That suggests there's a consensus, or at least a majority favoring the candidate.

Former administrator Robert Middaugh was fired on a 3-2 vote last November, after Republicans regained a majority on the board. He was let go at the beginning of a board work session. Republicans Mary Jones, Jim Kennedy and Michael Hipple voted to fire Middaugh. Democrats Jim Icenhour and John McGlennon voted against the moves. Since the vote, Kevin Onizuk has succeeded Icenhour on the board.

Finding a new administrator has been almost as controversial and complicated as removing the old one.

The county hired consultant Colin Baenziger and Associates to help with a nationwide search. That turned up 54 applicants, fewer than the consultant had predicted. An unknown number of those applicants were interviewed, but the board didn't find what it was looking for, re-starting the search process in May just four days after the interviews was conducted.

According to Onizuk, the individual the board has chosen was interviewed last week. After supervisors reached consensus in closed session, they authorized negotiations.

Onizuk added that the chosen candidate is from out of state.

"I'm very excited about our choice," he said Tuesday. "The individual has the characteristics that I was looking for from the start, the ability to think outside the box and to help James City move forward. Although the individual is from outside the area, he or she has experience with some of the issues we look at as opportunities and some we look at as challenges."

Supervisors Mary Jones and Michael Hipple did not respond to requests for comment.

Supervisor Jim Kennedy said he may not be able to attend because of obligations at his restaurant in New Town, but said he would affirm the hire through an e-mail.

The county's initial target for hiring a new country administrator was July 1. They'll miss that by five weeks.

Although the notice of the meeting says it's purpose is to "appoint a new county administrator" and that there is a reception scheduled for after the meeting to introduce the new administrator to the public, McGlennon said Tuesday that the board hasn't yet voted to give the job to anyone.

"That's the purpose of the meeting," he said.

Assistant County Administrator Doug Powell has served as interim administrator. He didn't seek the job permanently because it requires living within the county. Powell lives in Richmond, where his wife has a successful medical practice.

The board will meet at 3 p.m. Friday in the County Government Center Board Room to appoint the new administrator. The meeting is open to the public. A reception will be held immediately after the meeting in Building D to give the public the opportunity to meet the new administrator.

The meeting will be broadcast live on JCC TV, Cox Cable Channel 48 and online at jamescitycountyva.gov/jcctvlive. Anyone requiring an accommodation should call 757-253-6728 three days prior to the meeting.

Vaughan can be reached at 757-345-2343.