On first glance, the agenda for the Dec.17 meeting of the Orange County Board of Supervisors didn’t appear to be terribly exciting. Until chairman Jim White added item 5C under new business: “termination agreement with the county administrator.”
After dispensing with items 1 through 5B, District 4 Supervisor Jim Crozier made a motion to execute the termination agreement of county administrator Bryan David and the motion passed unanimously.
White later said this was a mutual agreement between the board and David, the county administrator since 2014.
“Bryan David has done a really good job for Orange County, but the board has decided to take things in a different direction and make a change in leadership,” he said. “Following the election, the board took stock and decided it wanted to make a change, not a revolutionary one, but a change in leadership style.”
David said the discussion began approximately a month prior to the board’s action Tuesday.
“The board and I saw my timeline to retirement differently,” David, 60, said. “Mine was longer than they expected and we agreed to part ways. It was very amicable. As far as I know, my performance was not an issue.
“The board decided it wanted another chief executive. That’s certainly their prerogative and I respect that,” David said.
As part of his termination agreement, David will receive 11 months’ salary and corresponding benefits through that period, including county Virginia Retirement System contributions and health insurance.
David said as part of his initial employment agreement signed when he became county administrator in 2014, he would received six months of severance pay with an additional month added for each year of service to the county.
His annual compensation package was more than $150,000.
County attorney Tom Lacheney read aloud the conditions of David’s termination agreement following the board’s vote.
“We had an agreement,” David said later. “There never was a doubt of what I was owed.”
Because of the agreement, David will be able to begin drawing full VRS benefits in March.
White said the agreement allows David to be fully vested in VRS, so he won’t lose any anticipated benefits from a retirement standpoint.
David’s last day with the county will be Jan. 17, 2020.
He came to Orange County from Lynchburg, where he had been the executive director for Virginia’s Region 2000 Partnership–Economic Development Council. He replaced former county administrator Julie Jordan Summs, bringing more than 20 years of county administrator experience including stints in King George, Amherst and Brunswick counties.
“I’ve never been terminated before,” David said. “This is the first time and the last time, I should think.”
“A lot has been accomplished over the last five years and the board appreciates all his efforts,” White added. “He’s helped us put some big things together and gotten things rolling. What the board is doing is looking at where we need to be in the next three, four, five years. That was a factor.”
Looking back, David said he was proud of the county staff and culture of professionalism among the staff.
“I’ve never worked with a finer group of people and likely never will,” he said.
He cited progress on the county’s public safety radio system and the new public safety building, the county’s fiber broadband project and the Germanna Wilderness Area Plan as projects he’s proud to have contributed to. He commended the work of the county’s economic development and tourism offices for helping grow the county’s economy as well as the parks and rec department for its stewardship of Booster Park. He said the local businesses and taxpayers can be proud of the county’s stellar bond rating and the county’s sound financial status.
“Why fix something that isn’t broken? We’re not looking at a ‘turn around’ situation,” White added. “Things are working well. The county staff is a hardworking group dedicated to serving the citizens of Orange County. We want to build on that success and make sure we’re implementing some of these initiatives the best we can. We felt it was time to make a change and progress even more.”
While David notified department heads and direct-reports of the pending action in the days before the board meeting, White said most county staff expressed surprise at the decision and concern about the future.
David confirmed county staff members were concerned for him and his well-being. “I assured them my severance would give me the capacity to find a job,” he said.
White said the board is working to bring in an interim county administrator while it searches for David’s replacement. He said the county hopes to have the interim administrator in place by the time David leaves on Jan. 17.
David, who said he didn’t know what his next step would be, said he’s already been “approached with a few opportunities,” and is looking to reinvent himself for his next professional challenge.
“At this time, I don’t think I see myself as a county administrator anymore,” he said.
As far as what the board’s looking for in its next administrator, White said the county will seek someone to focus on the day-to-day operations and less on the big-picture. “They will be tactical, as opposed to strategic,” White said. “We hope to hire someone who will take these initiatives and put a new set of eyes on them and focus on their implementation.”
“I feel pretty confident that this is a good place for a good manager to come,” David concluded.