Here we go again: Another high-level county official abruptly resigns

David Dameron was in the newly created post under four months

By John McCaslin and Patty Hardee

Rappahannock News staff

Less than four months after he was hired to become Rappahannock County’s first-ever Zoning Administrator/Deputy County Administrator, David Dameron has abruptly submitted his resignation.

“He hasn’t even found a place to live yet,” an obviously astonished Rappahannock County Supervisor Mike Biniek told the Rappahannock News.

Rappahannock County Interim Administrator Brenda Garton confirmed that Dameron turned in a letter of resignation on Friday, Oct. 6, informing the county government that his last day in his post would be Friday, Oct. 20.

“I did resign to take another job,” Dameron said Wednesday morning from his Gay Street office, declining to provide any details until he received a go-ahead from the county where he will be working. “I will say that I enjoyed meeting everybody here [in Rappahannock County] and I wish everybody the best.”

He did not provide this newspaper with his resignation letter, and Garton said she could not disclose its contents: “We would consider the resignation letter a part of his personnel file and exempt from disclosure.”

Biniek would only say that Dameron remarked in the letter that he appreciated the time he spent in Rappahannock, brief though it was.

Dameron was chosen from a pool of three finalists for the newly created position. Biniek confirmed that the candidate who finished second behind Dameron has since taken a job in Shenandoah County.

For nine years before arriving in Rappahannock Dameron was the zoning administrator for Powhatan County. For six years prior to that he was zoning enforcement officer for Henrico County. Both counties surround Richmond.

“It’s very beautiful here,” a smiling Dameron commented before anything else when sitting down with the Rappahannock News on June 11, his first official day in office. A father of three, he was pleased to point out that his youngest son would soon begin his freshman year at VMI.

He then launched into the challenges that zoning officials face during a time of population growth and building expansion, which Dameron said required a great deal of juggling, and he expected that to be no different in Rappahannock, particularly given the small size of the county workforce.

The five-member board of supervisors had looked forward to the role that Dameron would play in the county, particularly when it came to handling the increased workload in the administrator’s office.

Said Rappahannock Supervisor John Lesinski: “We are so very pleased to welcome Dave Dameron to Rappahannock and look forward to utilizing his expertise, especially in the areas of planning, zoning and enforcement, where he was on the front line in Powhatan County. With Dave on board we can hopefully overcome some of the acute staff shortage challenges we’ve faced and proactively tackle the land use issues before us on both the board of supervisors and the planning commission.”

Supervisor Ron Frazier, speaking for the entire board, wished Dameron “all the best as he steps into this position.”

This week, Frazier had little to say about Dameron’s quick exit: “I don’t think I can talk about that,” he told the News.

The five-member board made it clear when budgeting to create Dameron’s post that the ultimate hire would go a long way in relieving some of the pressure faced by then-Rappahannock County Administrator Debbie Keyser, who it turned out would abruptly announce her own resignation on June 23 after only one year as the county’s chief executive.

While no official reason was provided by Keyser for her departure, her short tenure in the county’s top paid post was rocky. Her job performance fell under repeated criticism by one member of the board in particular, Frazier, who is the longest-serving supervisor.

Keyser had replaced John McCarthy as administrator. He retired after nearly three decades in the post, and Keyser had worked under him for one year as deputy county administrator. Keyser has since taken a similar position in Fauquier County.

Until Dameron began his duties, the administrator’s office consisted of only the administrator and a secretary. Two of the latter have also quit this year.

“We set [Debbie] up to fail during the budget season last year,” Lesinski acknowledged during a town hall meeting earlier this year.. “And what we found out is that despite the fact that she’s working meetings in the evenings, and working on weekends, working on holidays, there’s just not enough time in the day for one individual.”

Given that tremendous workload, the county supervisors only recently adjusted Garton’s hours as interim administrator, which originally called for her to spend only 31 hours on the job each week.

Garton commented to this newspaper this week that it was impossible for one person to handle all that is required of the administrator’s post, especially in the space of 31 hours.

Lesinski this week said it’s too early to know when the supervisors will meet to discuss replacing Dameron, although a previously scheduled special meeting of the board will convene today [Thursday] on other matters, including the search for a full-time administrator to replace Garton.

Dameron’s “not on the agenda and, therefore, cannot be discussed,” Lesinski said of today’s meeting.

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