New year, new leader: Reese Peck becomes administrator of Essex County
One New Year’s resolution came true for Essex County’s Supervisors.
On Jan. 8, the board approved an employment agreement for Reese Peck to become the new county administrator, effective Monday Jan. 14.
Peck is a certified financial planner with work experience for state governments in both South Dakota and Virginia.
Having achieved his master’s degree in Public Administration at the University of South Dakota, Peck worked for the Dept. of Conservation and Recreation and the Dept. of Housing and Community Development in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
While living in Williamsburg, Peck served on the James City County planning commission and oversaw the updating of the county’s zoning ordinances to ensure that they lined up appropriately with the comprehensive plan.
In addition, the former commissioner, while he was chairman, changed a bylaw that asked for the disclosure of planning commission meetings and discussions for the public to access.
“One of the criticisms the planning commission had [in James City County] was before the commission, some of the members would meet with developers in private,” said Peck, who added that at the time the commissioners “technically” didn’t have to reveal the nature or discussion of the meetings.
But after Peck amended the bylaw, anyone who met with parties in relation to matters of rezoning and special use permits had to disclose contents to individuals before those matters were put to a vote.
The new administrator of Essex County said he hopes to keep the public informed and anticipates involving citizens in reviewing and updating the county’s comprehensive plan, which has been in place since 2003.
“I certainly appreciate the comments I’ve heard…about transparency in government,” said Peck. “I know during the interview process that it was a very high priority for the [board of supervisors].”
Interim Administrator Bill Pennell agreed.
“The county is getting more and more attentive to the concerns of the public, Pennell said. “I am pleased that there are members of the community who are expressing their points of view and having an open dialogue with the board of supervisors so that mutual issues can be resolved.”
Peck said he wishes to maintain the balance of rural characteristics of Essex County while “creating economic opportunities for the people and their children to stay here.”
Furthermore the new county administrator said he hopes to “ensure good stewardship of the taxpayer’s dollars” and utilizing the internet to promote public accessibility.
“One of the big things is the technology challenge: updating the county’s technology interface with the community,” said Peck, who added that he envisions uploading the comprehensive plan to the county website for the public to view once it has been updated.
Peck replaced Pennell who assumed the interim position in September and said he would work with Peck until Jan. 31 to ensure “a smooth transition” for the new administrator.
“There’s lots of little things that need attention,” said Pennell, who added that he would be reviewing the aspects of concern with Peck.
In addition to approving Peck as the new county administrator, the board unanimously decided that Greater Tappahannock Supervisor E. Stanley Langford and Central District Supervisor Edwin “Bud” Smith remain Chairman and Vice-Chairman respectively.
The board also approved of the 2013 meeting schedule, featuring eight day sessions and four night sessions, which will be held every third month of the year at 7 p.m.
Tea Party member and Lower Essex resident Stan Balderson spoke out against the number of sessions that will be held during the day.
“I am disappointed that you didn’t expand your night meetings to include more or all of the meetings on the schedule,” Balderson told the board.
John Clickener, who manages the website EssexSunshine.Org, agreed with Balderson.
“Daytime meetings are not in the [county’s] best interest for either openness or transparency,” he said.
But the new administrator said that based on his experience, there needs to be a balance of meeting times between mornings and evenings.
“Older people prefer the daytime meetings,” Peck said. “In talking to them they said they don’t like driving at night anymore.”
However, Peck added that nighttime meetings were important for the people who worked during the day.
Peck said it was “too early to tell” whether the board has struck a balance in 2013 with its current meeting schedule.