Town Manager Kaj Dentler announced Tuesday night that Russell Seymour has been selected as the successor to current Economic Development Director Marantha Edwards.
Seymour comes to Leesburg by way of James City County, where he serves as the assistant director of general services. He had previously served as the county’s economic development director for six years. James City County’s county seat is Williamsburg.
Seymour holds a master’s degree in urban planning from the University of Akron and a bachelor’s in business administration from Christopher Newport University. He has also completed the LEAD (Leading, Educating and Developing) program at the Darden School of Business at the University of Virginia. Previous job stops included Spotsylvania County, where he served as economic development director, and Fredericksburg, where was vice president of the Fredericksburg Regional Alliance. He began his public service career as a comprehensive planner for Stafford County.
Now, he travels further north to take the helm of economic development for the state’s largest town in one of the most prosperous counties in the nation.
“There are many factors that make Leesburg an exceptional location for business, travel, and family,” Seymour stated. “I look forward to this opportunity and to being a part of the Leesburg team.”
A Yorktown native, Seymour said he and his wife and 12-year-old son are looking forward to calling Leesburg home, with family nearby. For him, it was about the “quality of the product” that Leesburg offers that makes his new job compelling. The town’s accessibility to just about anything an individual could want—a variety of businesses, recreation choices, dining establishments, quality schools, and the airports, to name a few—set it apart.
Seymour also said that the fact that the town has a variety of industries, rather than being dependent on just one or two, is a strong asset.
“A lot of times you can be too heavily tied to tourism or retail or a particular industry. And then if something [bad] happens it can cause a ripple effect,” he said. “Leesburg is positioned well.”
As to initial goals for his new post, Seymour said he wants to place just as much of an emphasis on retaining existing businesses as attracting new ones.
“My take on economic development has always been to have a balance between working with new businesses and existing businesses,” he said. “A lot of times people forget that every one of your existing businesses is a target business for your competition. One of the things I want to do is really get out, talk to a lot of the businesses that are there—find out what’s working well, and maybe more importantly what’s not working well. They are a very valuable resource.”
Seymour said by nature he is a face-to-face kind of person, preferring sitting down with business owners, stakeholders and others.
“I’m very much a person that wants to get out and meet with people. Emails are fine but I’m much more somebody that wants to get out, sit down with them and create that relationship,” he said. “That will be certainly be a priority.”
Dentler said Seymour’s background of education and experience set him apart from other candidates. He said he is also pleased that Seymour will have time to learn the ropes directly from Edwards.
Seymour will begin his new job Nov. 6. Edwards announced earlier this year that she would retire effective Jan. 5, 2018. Her departure will mark the end of 17 years of service to the town, including the last decade as head of the Economic Development Department.