It was “with regret” that the Rappahannock County Board of Supervisors accepted treasurer Frances Foster’s letter of resignation Monday (Jan. 6). Foster, who has served as the county’s chief financial officer for the last 52 years, will step down on April 30.
“I have decided to retire before my current term . . . is complete [in 2015],” read Foster’s resignation letter, in part. “I have valued my time working with the board in the community’s interest, and wanted you to have ample notice of my intentions.”
Foster’s treasury career began on April 9, 1962. “The [deputy treasurer] job was advertised,” Foster said in a 2012 interview. “I was working at Newberry’s [department store] in Front Royal at the time, and I heard it was open so I applied to Mr. [Robert L.] Brown — he was the treasurer — and he talked to Mrs. [Mary Hart] Winfrey — who was my 12th-grade English teacher — and that’s the only person he talked to, and that’s how I got the job.”
Honored in 2012 for 50 years of service, Foster never ran against an opponent. “People probably don’t think that the treasurer has much responsibility, but they do; it really is a responsible job to carry on,” said Foster in 2012. “You collect taxes and you pay the bills for the government and the county, and you’re responsible for any shortage if you come up short.”
“It’s been a busy year here, with the new computer system, and we’ve had some problems with it,” Foster said in a brief interview Tuesday morning (Jan. 7), referring to issues with the office’s new accounting software that made it impossible last fall to send out tax bills early, forcing the county to borrow $1 million to help cover its payroll. “I guess I’m just getting tired of it.”
“We’re in a bit of untrodden territory here,” said county administrator John McCarthy Tuesday morning, as the last elected official to resign under the old system — in which a circuit court judge appoints the successor — was former Rappahannock County Sheriff Gary Settle in 2000. Under the new system (as when circuit court clerk Diane Bruce resigned in 2009), “normally the chief deputy would automatically take over” and serve out the term, McCarthy said, but there is no chief deputy in the treasurer’s office.
Advertisements for the position are already being drafted, McCarthy said, and Foster will be part of the six-person committee — along with McCarthy, county attorney Peter Luke, Stonewall-Hawthorne supervisor Chris Parrish, supervisor chairman Roger Welch and a financial officer to be named — which will help choose her replacement.
McCarthy also noted, however, that whomever the committee chooses will become the county treasurer in four months, “so a lot of the things you wouldn’t be concerned about with a clerk — whether they’re a registered voter or willing to become one, etc. — now come into play.”
“I don’t know yet [what I’m going to do after retirement],” Foster said. “After you’ve worked for that long, I don’t know if it’ll be a good thing or not. But I’ll find something.”
“Ultimately, you’re talking about someone who’s served the county for an awful long period of time,” said McCarthy, “and that’s something to be celebrated.”