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Foster named interim director

The Commonwealth Regional Council (CRC) appointed Regional Planner Melody Foster as its interim executive director Wednesday.

“We are not appointing … Foster to a permanent position, but we are giving her the responsibility to work that position now while we develop the expectations for the future position that we will be advertising for,” said Buckingham’s District Four Supervisor Morgan Dunnavant, who represents the county on the CRC.

Melody Foster

“She may very well throw her hat in the ring for the running. She may elect not to once we get that position description developed.”

About one week ago, former Executive Director Mary S. Hickman resigned from the position. She’d been with the agency for about 27 years.

Dunnavant also specified that, regarding Foster’s appointment, the council did not “lose one just to put another one in.”

During the meeting Council Treasurer and Prince Edward’s Buffalo District Supervisor C.R. “Bob” Timmons Jr. said in examining the current operating budget, the council was showing an anticipated $68,000 budget deficit in funding for fiscal year (FY) 2017-18 that’s set to begin July 1.

Morgan Dunnavant

“We have project funding that as new grants, new projects, what they call project or opportunities come in, then that revenue gets added to the budget to try to go to offset the current deficit that we’re projecting,” Timmons said in an interview following the meeting.

He said for FY 2016-17, there were not a lot of opportunities known when the budget was put together.

“As the year progresses, and these opportunities arise, then we’ll to back to the revenue side of our budget,” Timmons said.

Foster said she started as an administrative assistant almost 30 years ago and worked her way up to regional planner.

“I consider this a temporary position that someone just needed to be in the position of speaking for the board until they find someone else,” Foster said. “They’re going to work on what they want to do moving forward.”

Mary Hickman

Foster said she’s in the position to keep moving things forward and to reassure localities that the CRC is still in operation.

The council offered the motion to appoint Foster following a closed session that lasted about 30 minutes.

Following the action by council, Dunnavant clarified the body wouldn’t immediately hire another executive director.

Timmons said a “new direction” of the council is that it wants to be the go-to organization that is known in the community for grant writing and grant management services.

“That’s a different direction than what we currently have been going down,” Timmons said. “The board is in the process of changing that direction (with) new directives, new personnel and to become better known as a service organization rather than a quasi-government organization that’s sitting over here waiting for someone to knock on the door.”

C.R. “Bob” Timmons Jr.

He said the council is going to go out and knock on the doors and become a service organization for localities’ membership.

“And that’s different,” Timmons said.

He said in the past the way the organization operated was that the CRC was the entity established by the state government to cover the planning needs for a district encompassing seven counties.

“As such, there was no marketing efforts made with regards to the services that CRC would provide,” Timmons said. “Now we’re going to go out and start actively marketing the services.”

He said something new under guidance was CRC and Prince Edward County Public Schools working together on a contract for services where CRC would perform research and grant writing for funding that the school is seeking.

Counties that are members of the CRC include Buckingham, Prince Edward, Charlotte, Lunenburg and Amelia.

The council, during its June 12, 2014 meeting, voted unanimously to change Hickman’s title from acting president and CEO, a position she’d held since 2009 when former president and CEO Danny Fore departed.

“She just felt that it was time that she moved on,” Timmons said in a previous interview regarding Hickman’s resignation.

“Sort of,” Timmons responded when asked if the resignation was expected. “We’ve had some discussion with Mary and, you know, we sort of expected it. This is her decision.”

In 1990, Hickman joined the Piedmont Planning District Commission as an economic development planner.