Economic development director resigns, Cites lack of support

Debbie Foley resigned from her post as the director of the Patrick County Economic Development Authority. (Photo by Amanda Collins)

Debbie Foley cited a lack of support when announcing she will step down from her post as director of the Patrick County Economic Development Authority (EDA).

“I have thoroughly enjoyed my job and the wonderful people and businesses that I have had the opportunity to meet and work with during my time in Economic Development,” Foley said in an emailed statement. “I had hoped that I would have more support and an atmosphere conducive to effectively perform my duties.”

She declined to elaborate.

Dale Puckett, EDA chairman, said Foley cited “internal issues within the administration offices” as the reason for her departure.

He also declined to elaborate.

“The EDA is extremely disappointed that Debbie is leaving, and up until the last minute, we begged her to stay,” Puckett said, adding that Foley and “this volunteer board has worked hard to save the hospital.”

Some EDA board members, acting as individuals and not in their formal capacity, expressed concern that unless there are changes, more resignations may follow.

EDA board member, Glenn Roycroft said Foley’s resignation “comes on the heels of a situation promulgated by one member of the Board of Supervisors and the County Administrator.”

In her capacity as EDA director, Foley “was excluded from an important meeting involving” an effort to reopen the local hospital, Roycroft said.

The hospital closed in the fall of 2017. In a unanimous vote, the supervisors approved a motion to allow the EDA and Foley to take the lead in the project and negotiations, according to previous reports.

Her exclusion from the meeting “was not only in violation of a Board of Supervisors directive, but also an affront” to Foley, “who was the most knowledgeable person in Patrick County regarding the hospital,” Roycroft said.

“This is not an isolated incident, but rather a continuation of a pattern of interference and control that pervades the Administration Office,” Roycroft wrote. “Though I respect individual members of this Board of Supervisors, they lack the collective resolve to mitigate an untenable situation in the Administration Office. Until this situation is corrected, we will have continued turnover and attrition at key levels of county government.”

Bill Clark, vice chairman of the EDA board, said “I have had the pleasure to be on the Patrick County EDA for multiple appointments under multiple Directors and multiple assistants. Almost immediately after Debbie Foley’s appointment the professionalism, research, thoroughness, and leadership significantly increased. Her attention to detail and informing the board greatly enhanced our knowledge and made us a more effective board.

“I have been astounded at both the quality and quantity of work she produces. She constantly looks for ways to enhance any situation both for existing and prospective businesses. Her documentation and organization skills are top notch. I could continue talking about what she has brought to the EDA but suffice it to say we are losing an excellent employee,” Clark said.

He added the county has received a lot of attention to the healthcare situation “because of the tireless work Debbie has performed. I personally know that Debbie has represented the county’s interests in a professional but firm manner. She has made countless trips to Richmond, sat in discussions with multiple potential operators, helped substantially with the negotiations with VCC (which owns the hospital) and spent countless hours researching alternatives. This is in addition to her other accomplishments along the way.”

Clark said Foley’s “knowledge of our healthcare situation runs deep. She was appointed by the EDA to head the project after the Board of Supervisors unanimously passed a motion ‘to appoint the EDA to lead negotiations and all matters pursuant to the hospital,’” he said.

“Throughout the healthcare negotiations and attending to those matters, Debbie has experienced additional unnecessary hurdles and challenges because of county administration. She has been excluded from meetings that were in specific violation of the Board of Supervisors’ motion. In each occurrence the logic was spun to justify the actions. The working relationship with” some was “a one-way street and highly frustrating,” Clark said.

“Although I have personally expressed my concerns to almost the entire Board of Supervisors, the situation still remains and Debbie could see no end in sight,” he said. “Although I am extremely sad to lose such a valuable resource to the EDA, I understand her frustration. I know she is a dedicated county citizen who will try to do the right thing and help where she can. I wish her all the best in her future endeavors.”

EDA board member Ron Haley said Foley will “be sorely missed. She’s brought a lot to the EDA and to the county as a whole. Her expertise and knowledge is going to be difficult to replace.”

Foley asked the Patrick County Board of Supervisors for permission to continue in the post for 30 days and will take an additional 30 days of compensatory time, according to a copy of her resignation notice.

Puckett explained the supervisors maintain oversight of the EDA, and are responsible for hiring the director.

If her request is approved by the Board of Supervisors, Foley’s final day as a county employee will be October 13. She took over the helm of the agency in July, 2017.

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