Floyd Mayor Will Griffin calls new town manager Lance Terpenny a “perfect fit” for Floyd. After spending more than three hours with Terpenny Thursday, talking about motorcycles, small town politics and several other things, I’m inclined to think Griffin is right.
It’s clear that the 55-year-old Terpenny, who brings more than 20 years of municipal management experience to the job, can do a lot to help Floyd. It’s also clear that I misjudged the former Christiansburg Town Manager and attacked him unfairly before giving him a chance.
For that, I’m sorry…truly sorry. I also owe Griffin and the Floyd Town Council an apology as well for questioning their motives and ethics in hiring Terpenny. They may have pulled off a coup by bringing someone with Terpenny’s experience and wealth of knowledge to Floyd.
“I expect to learn a lot from Lance,” Griffin told me recently. “I told him that I want to watch him work and learn.”
Terpenny left Christiansburg after 21 years on the job — 16 as Town Manager. In recent years he had become a lightning rod for those who questioned town government and — like many appointed officials — took the heat for the actions of those elected to the town council. In July, the Christiansburg Town Council requested his resignation but awarded him a generous severance package that generated a lot of controversy.
Christiansburg Police Chief Mark Sisson calls Terpenny “clearly the best municipal administrator in the state” and says Floyd is lucky to have him. Jay Angle, sales manager of New River Valley Harley-Davidson, calls Terpenny a “great guy you can trust.” Several Floyd Countians who have worked with Terpenny over the years praise him as well.
It retrospect, it was hypocritical for me to express self-righteous anger over Terpenny’s generous severance package from Christiansburg. In 1981, after 11 years on the staff of the Alton Telegraph in Illinois, I left the paper with 53 weeks of unused vacation time and 33 weeks of unused sick leave. The paper paid me for both — nearly two years salary. I took the money and ran, but the paper changed its policy right afterwards to cap both unused vacation and sick leave.
One of my biggest questions about Terpenny was why an overqualified municipal administrator would take an $80,000 pay cut, leaving the third-largest town in Virginia to manage one of the smallest. He answered that question straightforwardly, explaining how his $50,000 a year salary from the Town of Floyd, combined with retirement from the Virginia Retirement System for more than 20 years of service, supplemented that salary to make the move a wash.
Terpenny says he wants to work a few more years in a less-stressful environment before fully retiring. He pledges to spend those years with Floyd’s Town government. He says he plans to work to implement the visions of the Town Council and Floyd citizens served by the council.
I believe him.
Terpenny reached out to me through County Administrator Dan Campbell after the two had lunch. I’ve grown to know and respect Dan since he came Floyd County after serving as Galax City Manager and my friends in Galax continue to tell me they still want him back.
I’m not going to get into details over just what Terpenny and I talked about over more than three hours of conversation, which included lunch at Mickey G’s. We met as two professionals — a journalist and a public official — to get to know each other. We found we have a passion for motorcycles — and more — in common.
I like the man. I trust him. I think he will be good for Floyd.