Supervisors direct Sussex Administrator Jones to submit resignation

By: Michael Campbell | Twitter: @SSDispatch
Posted: January 17, 2020 | 10:17 a.m.

SUSSEX – The first meeting of the county board of supervisors in 2020 saw leaders direct Sussex County Administrator Vandy Jones to submit his resignation from the county’s top job, adding, should he not do so by early next week, Jones would be fired at the end of the day Tuesday.

Courthouse District Supervisor Eric Fly made the motion to request Jones to tender his resignation from the position Thursday evening, which passed on a 4-2 vote with longtime supervisor Rufus Tyler and new Waverly representative Marian Johnson dissenting.

As part of the request, if Jones does concede to the county’s directive and submit his resignation by Tuesday at 5 p.m., he would remain in the position through the end of January. Additionally, after that time, he would receive six months’ pay and retain his county health insurance benefits during that period.

If he does not resign, based on the structure of Thursday’s motion, Jones would be terminated immediately.

Supervisors spent a significant amount of time in closed session Thursday evening before approving the motion asking for Jones’ resignation.

Sussex County Administrator Vandy Jones (middle) is seen speaking with Prince George Electric Cooperative CEO Casey Logan (left) and then-Supervisor A.G. Futrell during a broadband event in 2019.

Jones, who came to Sussex County by way of the City of Petersburg, has served as county administrator since June of 2017. Prior to that, he was Sussex’s deputy county administrator, serving alongside then-administrator Deborah Davis. When she retired from the position in late 2016, Jones would be appointed to the county’s top job on an interim basis before his eventual hire to the position on a permanent basis in the summer of 2017.

Friday morning, Supervisor Fly said the county would not be deficient in regards to operations with Jones’ expected departure from the county, explaining the county has been engaged with its partners as it prepares to find its next administrator.

“We have two options,” he said. “Virginia Association of Counties has a pool of retired and very experienced county administrators that counties can have come in for a short period of time, and they send them in. That is one option we have explored. They are already aware that we are going to be looking for a temporary county administrator.”

Fly continued, “We are also looking at a private consulting company, which we already use for other matters in the county, who can also provide temporary county administrators, and they have a pool of retired and very experienced administrators, as well.”

“There will not be a single day where we do not have a county administrator running the county,” the supervisor stressed Friday.

When asked what would happen if Jones was fired at the end of the day Tuesday and if that would affect the county’s day-to-day operations, Fly said, “VACo and two different consulting groups can have a county administrator sitting in Sussex almost the very next day because we have already been in contact with The Berkley Group and VACo this morning.”

For Fly, who introduced the motion to request Jones’ resignation and, should he not, his termination from the county, the decision to ask Jones to step down was driven by the results of November’s election and, in his eyes, a message from voters wanting to see changes in their local government, with that election seeing three supervisors incumbents defeated at the polls.

“This election we just went through was one of the most contentious elections we ever had in Sussex County and a lot of that contention that was shown in the election was because the citizens feel like the county is not moving forward,” he said. “We heard it over and over campaigning, that the citizens don’t feel the county is responsive to their needs, responsive to their requests, and that the county was not moving forward.”

He continued, “The message was sent to us from the citizens that they wanted a change. The citizens sent a clear message that they wanted a change and that is what happened. They were not happy with their government, they are paying taxes and they want to see some results and I think that message was sent when certain incumbents were voted out and the citizens made it clear in the election that they wanted to see the county go in a different direction and be more responsive to the citizens and economic development.

“That was the driving force behind the action yesterday. It is not that somebody did one particular thing and then you’re gone. This was about if Sussex is going to compete in the future, we need a new management team and strategy and that is what we are doing,” the supervisor added.

Additionally, the county declined to renew the contract of their contracted acting deputy county administrator Pete Stith, with his contract ending in mid-February. He will continue to serve in that capacity through that time alongside any interim administrator that may be brought into the county.

“Not renewing his contract is not a reflection on Pete,” Fly remarked. “It is just the reflection that the county is going to go in a different direction and we are going to be more heavily involved in economic development and bringing jobs into the county, so that is why we made the administrative switch. We are going to bring in a team that has a greater ability to accomplish those goals.”

Calls to Tyler, one of two dissenting votes on Thursday’s motion, were not returned by the time this article was published.

Sussex joins neighboring Surry County in searching for its next full-time administrator as Jonathan Lynn resigned from the position earlier this month, less than a year into the job. Melissa Rollins was appointed by supervisors to serve as acting administrator.

The Sussex-Surry Dispatch will have more on the decision and what this means for Sussex County in the Jan. 22 edition of our newspaper.

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