As Amherst County officials consider a possible requirement that potential candidates for the county’s Economic Development Authority must live in the county, the authority is lobbying for the county to consider at-large appointments for all seven seats.
During the board’s Feb. 6 meeting, Supervisor David Pugh suggested requiring residency for a person to serve on the authority, which since its establishment in late 2004 has served as an appointed body tasked with promoting economic development measures to help retain and expand the county’s business and employment base.
According to the authority’s charter, five members are appointed based on residency or business ownership in each of the five election districts they represent while two other spots are at-large. Based on the board’s direction, the county is moving forward with an ordinance measure that would require all members to live in the county. For example, if a person owns a business in District 5 but lives in another locality, they could not be appointed under the proposed action, Interim County Attorney Michael Lockaby said at last Tuesday’s board meeting.
Pugh said he believes a person serving on the EDA should live in the county, a similar requirement for other public bodies such as the school board and planning commission.
“If you live in the county, you’re fully invested in the county,” Pugh said.
Pugh said last week the measure would push for equal representation from all districts on the EDA and not tilt the board’s representation to any specific part of the county at the exclusion of others.
“I like representation from each district,” said District 5 Supervisor Jennifer Moore, who recently vacated her spot on the EDA to assume the supervisor seat after her election in November.
If supervisors do not receive an application from a qualified applicant, they could appoint a candidate residing in any district of which a sitting EDA board member serves, according to the charter. Pugh said last week he’s never seen such a measure taken since he’s served on the board.
In a Feb. 18 letter signed by EDA Chairman Calvin Kennon, the authority said the EDA is “laser focused” on business and needs qualified board members as the business climate is becoming increasingly diverse and complicated.
“Over the last several years the EDA has been handling more and more complex and sophisticated business issues and projects,” the letter states. “It is essential that the EDA have board members who have a strong business background and experience. A candidate’s qualifications are the primary requirement, with residency a secondary concern.”
The letter states the authority sees no advantage to limiting the pool of applicants to a single district when appointments are needed and suggests opening it up to all county residents, regardless of what district they live in.
“As the EDA does not deal with just one district more than another, does district residency matter?” the letter states.
The Board of Supervisors is expected to take up the county residency requirement in March.
At last Tuesday’s meeting, the board voted 4-1 after meeting in a closed session to appoint Daniel Sweeney to the EDA. Sweeney, a Lynchburg resident who owns a business in Amherst County, will assume the position vacated by former member Jennifer Moore, who was elected to the District 5 seat on the Board of Supervisors in November.
Pugh said he voted against the appointment.