No Director Of Economic Development For County

Published 4:30 pm Thursday, February 21, 2013

CUMBERLAND – The first two months of the new year have brought two empty desks and a little extra elbow room to Cumberland County administrative offices. For now, Cumberland does not have a director of economic and community development and only an interim planning director.

Planning Director Bret Schardein departed to become director of community development for King William County on January 4. Not long after, the desk of the director of economic and community development, formerly occupied by Greg Baka, was empty.

As Cumberland seeks cost cutting measures to insure meeting not only next year's budget demands, but also unplanned expenses in the current budget year, four positions have been whittled down to two for the foreseeable future.

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County Administrator Vivian Giles reported to the board of supervisors last January that with the departure of Schardein, Rachel Falkenstein, formerly a planner under Schardein, is now acting in his position as interim planning director.

Giles later told The Herald that no other job titles have been changed, besides Falkenstein's. According to the County website, Jennifer Roberts, who also works in the planning and zoning office, is the planning and community development coordinator.

Giles pointed out to the supervisors during their February meeting that not hiring another employee in the planning and zoning department has led to salary savings for the County, which have been used to cover unplanned expenses, such as some of the Piedmont Regional Jail invoices.

Finance Director Howard Paras confirmed that those savings were partially responsible for helping the County absorb unplanned spending into the current operating budget.

Giles later told The Herald that the County does not plan to immediately fill the position of director of economic and community development previously held by Baka.

Chairman of the Board of Supervisors David Meinhard, District Four, also confirmed that the County was not planning on immediately filling the position.

Meinhard said that as the board begins preparing for next year's budget, he is planning on the County not hiring for either a position in the planning and zoning office or the community development office.

Commenting that other board members may not like the idea of not filling the positions, Meinhard continued, “I don't see how we can afford to fill them.”

During January's board of supervisors meeting, Supervisor Parker Wheeler had suggested that the position of planning director, previously occupied by Schardein, be combined with the position of director of economic and community development. He stated that he felt both positions were vital lifelines to the County, helping it move forward.

When asked about filling the position of economic developer, Giles said, “There is no plan to fill it right away.” She added that the position may be filled “if the County grows and there's a need…But right now, we're just, we're hunkering down, if you will.”

When asked how he expects the County to foster economic development without the position, Meinhard said he believed the current employees would be able to foster growth, adding, “I have confidence in the ones we have there.”

Meinhard said he also believed that the building inspection office will be able to assist with some of the planning and zoning needs of the County.