Washington Co. economic development chief dismissed

April 18, 2012|By HEATHER KEELS |
  • Timothy R. Troxell, executive director of the Hagerstown-Washington County Economic Development Commission, talks to the Washington County Board of Commissioners in this Sept. 22, 2010 file photo.
Timothy R. Troxell, executive director of the Hagerstown-Washington County Economic Development Commission, talks to the Washington County Board of Commissioners in this Sept. 22, 2010 file photo.

WASHINGTON COUNTY — Timothy R. Troxell was dismissed from his position as executive director of the Hagerstown-Washington County Economic Development Commission Wednesday morning, according to county Commissioner John F. Barr.

Barr would not disclose the reason for the dismissal, but said it was discussed by the Washington County Board of Commissioners in closed session and carried out by County Administrator Gregory B. Murray.

Barr said Troxell was to inform his staff and clean out his office today, then vacate the office by Friday.

“There’s just been some concerns, I guess, that some of the commissioners and the county administrator have had for many months,” Barr said.

Reached by phone in his office Wednesday afternoon, Troxell declined to comment, saying he would probably withhold comment until next week.

As EDC director, Troxell was a county department head overseeing the economic development office, which works to attract and sustain businesses and jobs in the county.

Murray also declined to comment on the circumstances of Troxell’s departure.

“Tim is working this week, and he will then be pursuing other options, and we wish him well in his endeavors,” Murray said. “After he leaves, I will be working with staff to further the good work that the Economic Development Commission and county commissioners have started, and we will not be immediately advertising for a replacement.”

Troxell has been the EDC’s executive director for nearly a decade. When former EDC Director John Howard retired in May 2002, Troxell, who had been assistant director since 1998, was named acting director. He was formally appointed to the position in November 2002.

His dismissal comes one day after the commissioners passed an overhaul of the Economic Development Commission ordinance, including adding new details about supervision of the EDC director.

The new language includes a statement that the county administrator  “will exercise day-to-day supervision of the Director and conduct performance evaluations consistent with the County’s general employment practices.”

Previously, the ordinance said the director “will be directly responsible to the County Administrator for the routine daily operation of the Economic Development Office.”

The commissioners revised that sentence to say the director “will report directly to the County Administrator for all issues, including but not limited to, functions, assignments, program direction, and daily operational oversight.”

The changes also tweaked the relationship between the EDC board and the director. Instead of saying the EDC will provide “policy and operational direction” to the director, the ordinance now reads the EDC will provide “policy recommendations on economic development initiatives” to the director.

Murray said the timing of the ordinance changing was coincidental.

EDC member Ronald Bowers has been critical of the work of the EDC staff, saying when he was appointed last year that “the luster’s worn off the doorknobs of the EDC office.”

In November, EDC Chairwoman Shelby H. Penn resigned, saying Bowers was obstructing the commission’s progress. Penn said then that Bowers was “focused on pointing fingers at the staff, accusing the staff of not doing their jobs, and that is not the case.”

Bowers did not immediately return a call Wednesday seeking comment on Troxell’s dismissal.

Murray said the county would use the opportunity to consider restructuring the EDC staff to better accomplish the county’s economic development goals, including “focusing on some small business issues we see routinely.”

When Bowers was appointed, he said one of his ideas for reinvigorating the EDC office was to have a dedicated small-business advocate.

EDC Chairman Hal Lucas declined to comment on Troxell’s dismissal, saying “that’s the county’s decision.”

The EDC director position has a history of controversial departures. Howard’s 2002 retirement followed a period of paid administrative leave, and the commissioners’ refusal to release details about whether he received compensation from the county as part of his retirement led to multiple lawsuits.

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