From issues brought up at recent meetings, to a changed attitude from board members, County Administrator Tom Rose said he does not want to serve as director of the Patrick County Economic Development Authority (EDA) again.
“I wouldn’t take that job again unless I was ordered to” take it, Rose said, and explained that he served 10 years in the dual positions of administrator and director of the EDA before Debbie Foley assumed the helm of the organization in July 2017.
During his tenure with the EDA, Rose said he was so well liked that nearly all the members of the EDA board “would hug me or give me a very firm embrace when they saw me.”
But now, “they’ve turned against me. They hate my guts,” he said.
Rose cited a letter from EDA board member Glenn Roycroft, who also served as the board’s chairman for many years.
“Glenn and I were friends. Glenn was one of my closest friends,” but Rose said Roycroft did not give him the courtesy of a phone call before publically distributing a letter at a joint EDA/board of supervisors meeting.
The Enterprise obtained a copy of the letter Roycroft wrote to Rose under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
In the letter dated Aug. 18, Roycroft wrote that his erosion of confidence in Rose began three years earlier while working on an economic development project.
“I was on the losing end of an argument,” after a county official “meddled in the politics” of both the EDA and supervisors, Roycroft wrote.
Roycroft said that Debbie Foley’s appointment as EDA director “was as much a surprise to me as it was to many, if not all, my fellow board members.” However, “we soon found that she devoted the time, ability and enthusiasm to effectively follow through on board business. This was nothing short of a breath of fresh air. Not one of us knew how soon we would need this energy.”
The hospital closing in September, 2017 brought with it “diminished access to health care has drastic and wide ranging implications for this county,” Roycroft wrote. The supervisors “wisely put” Foley and the EDA in charge of exploring options to reopen the hospital, he wrote.
“This was a time that we needed strong, unified representation … both at the state and federal levels,” Roycroft wrote.
But certain county officials seemed determined to work on the project on their own, partially by hiring an outside consultant that the EDA could not access and having “meetings with the EDA that generally created an atmosphere of dismay and frustration,” Roycroft wrote.
Essentially, “what we did not need or want, we got (and) the strong presence of collaborative leadership” that should have been provided was not, Roycroft wrote.
Foley has since announced she will step down from the post, citing a lack of support.
A combination of “action and inaction led directly to” Foley’s resignation, Roycroft wrote.
Her departure “not only denies Patrick County her talent for future projects, but also jeopardizes the huge investment of time and real money” the EDA and supervisors “put forth into the hospital project,” Roycroft wrote.
Rose said that he welcomes a firm date for her departure.
Foley said she plans to stay at least part time to help train the incoming director.
Rose also addressed some comments made at Sept. 10 meeting by Denise Stirewalt, a former employee.
He said the comments may be attributed to a promotion that did not materialize.
But that is not the case, according to Stirewalt.
“I loved my job. I loved working for the county,” said Stirewalt. “What I did not like was the environment and the stuff going on.”
Stirewalt shared a host of concerns at a recent meeting, ranging from a lack of communication to a lack of professionalism, leadership and inappropriate comments.
While employed, she said she spoke to two board members about her concerns. Her concerns were not addressed and there were no changes as a result of her speaking out.
“They did not address any of my concerns,” Stirewalt said. “I realized nothing was going to change and I had had enough. I chose to no longer work for a board that condoned what was going on” in the county administration office.
In addition to herself and Foley, Stirewalt named other employees who are leaving or had left for many of the same reasons.
Rose said one of the employees Stirewalt named is now on disability. Another opted to pursue a degree in nursing, he added.
Joseph Quesinberry, the former tourism director, decided to leave his post in Patrick after he was offered a city manager post by another locality, Rose said.
Quesinberry, who now serves as the Town Manager of Warsaw, said it was not the job offer that prompted him to leave his home and family.
“I am a native of Patrick County,” Quesinberry said, adding his family has been in Patrick County for 200 years; his love for the people and the county as a whole runs deep.
As Stirewalt, Quesinberry said he shared his concerns in a closed session meeting of the entire board of supervisors. “The concerns are all the same” as those mentioned by Stirewalt and others, he said.
“There had been multiple meetings with multiple board members” about core issues of concern, Quesinberry said. When confronted with a concern, the general path that accompanies the board’s inaction is “explaining it (issue) away” or branding the employee who raised the concerns as the problem, he said.
“Those core issues were not addressed and still are not addressed” by the supervisors, he said. “Absolutely nothing was done.”
Quesinberry, who has met with much success in his new post, said he is not on a mission to use “pitchforks and flames to go after anybody.”
Rather, he said he cares about Patrick County and its people. “I just want the county to be the best it can be.”