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COLUMN – County’s choice of Stanley is puzzling

Why?

That’s the biggest question after the Prince Edward County Board of Supervisors hired Douglas Stanley to be the county’s new administrator last week.

Why would a county looking to take a new direction with the county administrator position hire a candidate out of “many, well-qualified candidates” who was caught up in a $21 million embezzlement scandal, asked to involuntarily resign from his position he held for more than 20 years as administrator in Warren County and resigned from a second position two months ago as city manager of Lynchburg after 10 days and before he was scheduled to begin the position due to an uproar over unprofessional business emails.

Stanley has arguably had the most tumultuous two years of any government official in Virginia, yet the Board of Supervisors professed “tremendous confidence in his background, skills and obvious dedication.”

The county’s announcement of the hire made it seem like Stanley was a model of municipal leadership. It didn’t mention any of the issues Stanley would bring with him to Prince Edward. But a simple search of his name on Google reveals more drama than an episode of “Grey’s Anatomy.”

One of the most puzzling parts of Stanley’s hire is why he would apply for the Prince Edward position in the first place. He gave up his position as city manager of Lynchburg, saying, “I apologize for the situation and am regretful that these emails cast a shadow on my 25 years of service. Inasmuch as this has brought concerns about my future ability to manage the city, I feel that it is in my and the city’s best interest if I withdraw from the position prior to my stated start date of Sept. 1st. I sincerely regret having to take this action but feel it is in the best interests of the city.”

So what has changed since Stanley resigned from the Lynchburg position Friday, Aug. 21? The emails have not disappeared. Why would it not be in Lynchburg’s best interest to have Stanley serve as city manager, but it would be just fine to have him as Prince Edward’s next county administrator? Does Prince Edward have lower standards for its administrators than Lynchburg? Is it permissible for professionals in Prince Edward’s county government to send emails with quotes about drinking urine?

Those who should feel the most disappointed about Stanley’s selection are the other candidates in the “field of very qualified candidates.” They were not chosen over a guy who was connected with one of the largest embezzlement scams in Virginia government in recent memory and someone who resigned from a second job before even warming the seat of the desk chair.

The Board of Supervisors had an opportunity to choose a candidate who could give the county a new vision and a fresh start. Instead, we are stuck with a professional redemption project at best, or a potty-mouthed administrator who had $21 million disappear from under his nose at worst.

Part of Stanley’s statement in the county’s announcement somewhat ironically said, “I am proud that Warren County is today a stronger, more vibrant and economically resilient community, and I look forward to bringing that experience to Prince Edward.”

We really don’t need Stanley’s Warren County experience in Prince Edward County.

ROGER WATSON is editor of The Farmville Herald. His email address is Roger.Watson@ FarmvilleHerald.com.