Questions about Floyd’s new town manager

In a series of back room deals, Christiansburg’s soon-to-be-former town manager is leaving his $130,000 a year job under a cloud of controversy and will assume the Floyd town manager post that currently pays 43 grand a year.

Of course, Floyd’s town government — which operates with all the transparency of BP in an oil-spill crisis — isn’t saying yet what it plans to pay Lance Terpenny to manage a town of 436 after 14 years of running a community of 42,000.

“”He is coming to Floyd. We’re glad to have him and we’re excited about the opportunity to be getting to work with him,” Floyd Mayor Will Griffin told The Roanoke Times Wednesday.

Christiansburg, on the other hand, seems in a hurry to get rid of Terpenny. On Tuesday night, the Town Council there met to consider a contract with Terpenny and emerged from the session with a vote telling the Town Manager to resign by Aug. 1.

“The timing was right,” Christianburg councilman Jim Vanhoozier said after the meeting.

The timing was right for Terpenny, who saw the handwriting on the wall. For weeks, he had been trying to get a three-year contract with the town — something he never had before — and wanted it in place before a new town council took over with new members who made it clear they didn’t particularly care for their town manager.

But things weren’t working out like he planned, so he applied for the town manager job opening left by current occupant Korene Thompson’s departure.

Floyd’s town town government interviewed Terpenny and offered him the job the next day — an incredibly impulsive move for a town government and one that doesn’t leave a lot of time to check out any problems he may have had with his current or other employers.

Terpenny called Griffin and accepted the job Tuesday night — the same night the Christiansburg Town Council sacked him.

In government as in comedy, timing is everything.

“He fits the mold perfectly,” Griffin tells the Times. “We knew he was our guy.”

What mold is that? Is this why the town is raising taxes to burden its its citizens in bad economic times when it already has a budget surplus?

It appears our new town manager was actively looking for another job while negotiating with with his current employer for a new contract. Will he be looking for another job even before he starts working for Floyd?

Roanoke Times columnist and blogger Dan Casey notes that “Lance Terpenney really must have some kind of hold over the current majority on Christiansburg Town Council.”

Looks like he has the same kind of hold here in Floyd and he’s not even on the job yet.

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24 COMMENTS

  1. Good luck… As a resident of the Town of Christiansburg, I’m glad to see Terpenny go, but I certainly didn’t wish him on Floyd. If any have visited C-burg lately, you can readily see the dangers of uncontrolled development allowed by the Town Manager and his “yes” team (the Town Council). Take a look at how many neighborhoods have been developed on roads that were never designed for the amount of traffic they now carry. Look at how a complete mountainside has been stripped of anything resembling an eco-system so cheaply-built housing can be erected (460, behind the old Hills location). Take a look at the compelete abortion that is the development behind the Rec. Center. And of course, the Aquatic Center (aka white elephant), that many folks in C-burg will be unable to afford to use, yet whose taxes are paying for its purchase and upkeep. And, even if one can afford membership, one has very limited times to use it due to the sweet deal Terpenny gave VT for its swim program. And that’s not to mention the many ways Terpenny disregarded any sense of transparency/open government, which has fostered a climate of suspicion and distrust. Generally, I’m not against reasonable, intentional, well-thought-out development, but C-burg (Terpenny and Town Council) has allowed developers to do just about anything they want. If their vision was one of transforming C-burg into Fairfax-South, then I guess they’ve gotten what they wanted.

  2. Do you feel guilty for being cynical? I know I don’t, but it is frustrating.

    I’ve been following the C’burg drama for quite some time. As a long time resident of Montgomery County I’ve sadly witnessed the creation of the retail amusement park and growth without a purpose as it doesn’t apply to the general well being of the area and community. I came here 33 years ago as an alternative to that environment, not to recreate it.

    I don’t know Lance or have any axe to grind on a personal level. The timing and content of his first ever contract negotiation reminded me of Hank Paulson’s original TARP request. Both were in your face taunting and good for some behind the curtain chuckling amongst some twisted individuals. There were probably some wagers betting on the stupidity of the public.

    I wasn’t surprised by the C’burg resistance because the town does have some motivated, even if unwelcomed by some, activists. I am impressed it made a difference.

    This Floyd factor raised my eyebrows too. It’s certainly worth asking questions about the selection process and what the ‘fits the mold’ rhetoric means. Is Floyd seeking a budget deficit and a dismal track record for positive, intelligent development? Did anyone look at the numbers and decisions during his tenure in Christiansburg?

    You’ve already noted how few participate in Town management. I doubt this will change anything until after the damage is done. It might not even happen then if enough carpetbaggers tag along.

    Good luck. In the meantime, when you are feeling hot and bothered, do what I do. Browse your photo collection from this past Winter.

  3. Lance Terpenny is one of the finest individuals that I know. A solid guy. I always wondered how he managed to work in a town full of belligerent hillbillies living off the good fortune of being next to an interstate and a major University. He wasn’t fired, he walked. And he’s perfect for Floyd. Laid back, good listener, fair, and easy to work with. Things is looking up for Floyd!

    • Speaking of belligerent – guess the shoe fits you; and he didn’t exactly walk!!!!! Manipulate, concern regarding the incoming council members, at least one, wondering how he was going to get out of the messes he helped create – and more. Come to think of it – whats your definition of a”fine individual”, anyway???, Oh, there are 2 major universities nearby, if you count RU.

  4. Sorry, Bob, but all reports are that Terpenny was fired. The citizenry doesn’t know why he was fired, however. Does our Town Council know why? Who ever heard of a 1-day turnaround time on a hiring decision? How long do you think Terpenny will stick around as Floyd’s Town Manager at $43,000 per annum, when he was earning $130,000 per annum? If our Town Council is going to raise the existing salary for the Town Manager in order to accommodate Terpenny, the citizens of Floyd have the right to know. And, Bob, if you want to call people hillbillies, check your own grammer first: “Things is [sic] looking up for Floyd!”

    Things have been looking up for Floyd over the past few years due to tasteful renovations of downtown buildings, the new Farmer’s Market, three new wonderful restaurants, recognition as a tourist destination, and more. Terpenny as Town Manager, however, is a nightmare in the making. It is almost beyond belief that our bumbling [fill in this space] on the Town Council would make a 1-day decision to hire a fired, former Town Manager.

  5. Jeffery, I actually do feel a bit guilty for being cynical. I’m typically a very “positive” person and usually write to affirm others. But my patience has worn pretty thin about C-burg’s leadership (rather, lack thereof). Nice of Bob to chime in with traditional “stereotypes” that serve no purpose. There are many of us who live in Christiansburg because we enjoy the quality of life the NRV offers. And having two institutions of higher learning just minutes away is an incredible benefit. Most town residents that I’ve talked to are not afraid of growth/development–what they are afraid of is over-development and suburban sprawl. When local developers have more power than the local government, then someone’s in the wrong seat. What most of us want is a government that is reasonable and responsible, one that discusses the issues openly and allows for input from the citizenry. I really don’t think that’s too much to ask…

    When local citizens are verbally attacked by members of town council during public meetings…when envelopes are passed out and members of town council speak in hushed tones…when town council members personally benefit from town contracts without quotes being requested from potential competitors…when meetings for public input aren’t publicized in advance or scheduled at times during the day when most folks are working…when state laws are ignored or only applied when the end result is desirable…this isn’t “belligerent hillibilly” stuff. This is about what citizens should expect from their local leadership be it Christiansburg, Roanoke, or Richmond for that matter. Facts are facts, and the evidence is clear that things aren’t working as they should.

  6. Regarding Morris’ description of the conduct of Christiansburg’s town government under Town Manager Terpenny, all I can say is…Oh great…The last thing we need in Floyd is more secrecy in town governance.

    I have wondered at times if the Floyd Town Council has some sort of collective inferiority complex about our town. Too often, they have acted like a “wallflower” at a high school dance. They are all too willing to get involved with shady characters and untenable schemes (in good faith, I believe, but without due diligence regarding prior investigation and research). They just seem to be so happy to have been asked to dance that they will accept any partner. I refer to the Branwick building, the supposed data center and, now, a Town Manager who was “asked to submit his resignation.” He claims to have sought the position in Floyd but at a 66 percent reducation in his annual salary. Why didn’t that make our Town Council the least bit skeptical?

    Floyd is a very special place. We who live here already know that. Additionally, Floyd has been positively profiled in both national and international news articles, including the BBC. It’s time for our Town Council to realize what a gem this town is, and to stop accepting whatever comes their way, including another town’s rejects.

  7. The town gov. had nothing to do with the Branwick Center. That is out of town and they have no control. That was The County Superrvisors. Let us keep it straight, so this is a credible discussion. Maybe it’s time we getting to those meetings and let them know we are watching.

  8. Well Morris, I’d rather be cynical than naive. Ths subject was brought up out of curiousity and without attack on personal character. I think Bob filled in a few blanks as a reference. At least Floyd doesn’t have as large a population of beligerent hillbillies. Everyone knows more stoplights indicate success. I still don’t know what Lance will have to say, or if he will say anything. He should distance himself from fans like Bob who represent folks that resent local history and think salvation is an interstate and college football. Evolution takes many forms. I think the perfect fit will be an increase in meals and lodging taxes when the budget goes in the red for reasons yet known.

    The severance should be easily explained if it has some basis. The whole thing still smells funny at this point in time. The articles I have read said Terpenny’s resignation was requested. Is that a nice way to say “YOU”RE FIRED” ? Ironic in a right to work state where private sector peons get no such consideration. It seems politics at any level is only skilled at making up the rules as they go along and hope nobody notices.

  9. I find it hard to believe that someone making $128,000+ a year would seek out a job that only paid $43,000 to the previous town manager. I would expect that he knew he would be asked to resign from C’burg, and that’s why he wanted the job. I have to wonder, though, if Floyd knew the situation that he was facing in C’burg. If not, are they going to honor their employment offer to someone that was asked to resign by his soon-to-be-former employer because they had lost faith in his ability as a town manager? If so, shame on them for the under-the-table way that it was handled. Either way, I think Floyd has egg on its face at the way that all of this played out. It was disclosed today that they offered Terpenny $50,000 due to his years of experience. After holding a job that paid $128,000+ a year, how long does Floyd expect to be able to hold on to him as a town manager for $50,000? Are they going to be searching for their 5th town manager in a year? For their sake, I hope not. It would seem that with 50+ interested applicants this time, they could find someone a bit less controversial for the position. Floyd is a wonderful town. Why discolor their reputation now?

  10. Joanne: Thanks for the clarification that the Town Council did not decide to allow the Branwick Center to be built. Do you know who did make that decision?

  11. My question would be whether or not Floyd’s Town Council knew what was going on between Terpenny and C’burg. If not, is Floyd going to honor the offer made to him? I guess we will find out next Thursday when a Council meeting is held and the vote for his employment is made. If they did know, shame on them for the under-the-table deal made with him. Either way, I think that Floyd has egg on its face. Are they really so desperate for a town manager that they would be okay with the suspicion and shame brought about by these events? Certainly they HAD to wonder why he would seek out a job knowing he would make a whole lot less than his current salary. Maybe he did like the thought of a more laid-back job in Floyd, instead of the more stressful C’burg. But, come on! You can’t tell me that they think he was WILLING to take an $80,000+ a year cut in salary? You also can’t tell me that with 50+ people interested in the job, that they could not have chosen someone with a less tarnished reputation. Floyd is a great town. It’s a shame to watch these events unfold and bring any kind of discoloration to their reputation.

  12. Yes, the Floyd Co. Board of Supervisors. The town only has jurisdiction over Town of Floyd .

  13. I figured that was the only other entity that could have approved the Branwick Center. It seems as though their receptivity to questional projects is similar to the that of the Town Council.

  14. I have a problem with the fact that I cannot vote for Town Council members. I live 6 miles from town, and my address is “Floyd.” Their decisions affect most residents of Floyd County.

  15. Christiansburg is a town that has never been able to figure out it’s identity. That is because it is a town with an official government, and town with powerful elites that do what they want. You can live there, but if you ain’t from there, you don’t count. Look it over, it shows.

    Now let me explain for the civicly-challenged; the Town Manager works at the pleasure of Town Council. They tell him what to do. He is an employee of the Town, and the Council runs the town. When you get sick of working for a bunch of fightin’ hillbillies, and officiating lunatics v. state law you go apply for a nice job in the country, and take a pay cut for the deal. Lance has valuable skills as a large-town manager and the Town of Floyd picked up a bargain. Any of this getting through to you?

    • Well, Bob, what you describe is how things are SUPPOSED to go in a town with a Town Manager type of governance – but it’s not the way things have operated for the last several years in Christiansburg. If you were among the considerable (and growing) number of people being steamrolled by situations caused or made worse by Mr. Terpenny, you’d have a different opinion of him, I’m sure. Sure, Terpenny put in a LOT of effort – on a money-pit Aquatic Center from which most of the people paying for it will never even benefit…he just didn’t put in any effort in regards to ensuring that the growth in the town is done responsibly and properly.
      As one of the “belligerent hillbillies” (despite my mouthful of teeth, good vocabulary and Master’s Degree) you describe, I can say with certainty that Mr. Terpenny’s “open-door, no supervision” policy with developers has made my family’s life a good deal more stressful than it ought to be for the past few years. Yes, as a body, Town Council sucks right now too, but that is also changing now that the people of Christiansburg have been made aware of how horribly lacking their governing body is (which does include the Town Manager, as 99% of the things he’s suggested have passed through the Kiwanis…er, Council…without so much as a question).
      I’ll spot you the fact that there are some folks with “axes to grind,” as Terpenny said in the RT article today), but before you resort to irrational name-calling and stereotyping, just know that there are plenty of good people in the town who have very legitimate reasons to be upset with several “leaders” around here, Terpenny definitely among them. Try to have a sense of other peoples’ perspectives…or would that be too taxing for your non-belligerent, sophisticated brain?

  16. It is my opinion that the Town of Floyd doesn’t need a Town Manager. The people of the town have elected a Mayor and Town Council to operate the Town. The Mayor should be able to administer all the policies and the administrative duties set by Town Council. The Town of Floyd has less than 500 citizens and doesn’t have a Police Department and doesn’t manage water & sewer service. The Town Council has three employees – a clerk to the Council and two maintenance employees. Keep the funds appropriated for a town manager’s salary in an emergency fund for a rainy day!!!

  17. Floyd residents beware! Floyd has blossomed as a tourism destination and reaps many benefits from that status. Check out the history of Christiansburg’s tourism efforts in respect to Mr. Terpenny’s understanding of it. Just a word of warning…

      • Here’s a good one I found in a Google search. It doesn’t say much about the present but I was looking for some historical perspective.

        http://www.andassoc.com/ampersand/1996_11/ampersnd.htm

        It seems Lance is familiar with jumping the line. I think this stunt is going to have more blowback than the players might have anticipated. It only gets better as it’s led to questions about the legality of his years of service with the title and how he got there. Those darn gov’t rules never stopped the gov’t from ignoring them.

        You will find plenty of information and links to information at the mean lady blogger sites, Think and Depot.

      • Sorry Star, I’m going to have to let you do your own research on that one. Just consider the recent unpleasant atmosphere with the Town and the Chamber (who was working tourism) and where the nasty attitude came from on the Town’s side?

  18. For those interested, the next Floyd Town Council meeting is this Thursday, July 15 at 6:30. That information is per a call to the Town of Floyd offices. Previously, the time was given as 7:30, but that is incorrect. Please make sure you show up on time!

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