Just three weeks after the mayors of the towns of Lovettsville and Middleburg stepped down with a combined 18 years of experience, those same towns are seeing changes in the ranks of their senior town staffers.
In Lovettsville, it was Nate Fontaine who took over for three-term mayor Bob Zoldos, with Bridge Littleton replacing six-term mayor Betsy Davis in Middleburg on July 1. Now, it’s Sam Finz who stepped down as Lovettsville’s town manager on July 6 after seven months acting in the role, and Martha Semmes announced her plans to retire as Middleburg’s town administrator at the end of this year after eight years on the job. Both towns are now on a mission to find their replacements.
It was in May that Finz, 73, announced he would retire as Lovettsville’s fourth-ever town manager in July. His decision to leave came after realizing that he needed to focus more on his health, as he recovers from surgery.
“I would have stayed if it were not for my health problem,” he said. “I don’t want to work in an environment where I can’t be 100 percent.”
Finz has worked in local government since 1968, starting his career off in Fairfax County. Since 2005, he has played a key role in the town’s government operations, formerly serving as the town planner, as a general consultant and as the interim town manager on three different occasions. He also helped the town to hire all three of its town managers—Tim Faust in 2005, Keith Markel in 2007 and Laszlo Palko in 2014.
In December, after months of persuasion to do so from Town Council members, Finz finally came on board as the full-time town manager. Throughout the past 13 years, Finz has helped the town promote the fiscal policy that Palko designed and got the former Town Council to approve, build staff professionalism and strengthen the town’s financial position by adding hundreds of thousands of dollars to under-funded reserve funds.
“I continued making sure that we didn’t veer off course,” he said. “It’s not enough to rely on the general fund budget.”
Although retiring from his full-time position, Finz said he is willing to continue working as an advisor for the town on an hour-to-hour basis.
The town is now in the process of looking at three candidates to fill his spot, which is now temporarily filled by Assistant Town Manager Harriet West. Finz said the Town Council would be interviewing the candidates this month. “The goal is to have somebody on board by the end of August,” he said.
Just a week before Finz’s last day on the job, Semmes, 64, announced she would retire from her post as town administrator in Middleburg to spend more time with her friends and family, travel, and get more involved with volunteer work.
“This will give me more opportunity to check off my bucket list,” she said. “It would be great to be able to give back.”
Semmes has worked in local government since 1977. Since then, she worked as the planning director for the towns of Leesburg and Purcellville at different times throughout the 1980 and ’90s, as the community development manager for the county’s Department of Economic Development and as Middleburg’s town planner from 1995 to 2001. She was hired as Middleburg’s town administrator in November 2010.
During the past eight years, Semmes helped to bring the Salamander Resort & Spa to town, complete the Rt. 50 Traffic Calming project and complete multiple utility upgrade projects and pedestrian safety improvements.
She said her biggest contributions to the town have been helping to stabilize the historic Ashbury Church, build up town reserves and helping to guide the town out of its poor financial standing that it was in nearly a decade ago.
“I feel that I’ve left the town in a great financial position,” she said. “It’s been a great career.”
Like Finz, Semmes will be retiring only from her full-time position. She said that she would be looking at possible part-time work assignments either in Middleburg or elsewhere. “I can’t imagine me cutting off and not working at all,” she said.
Going forward, Semmes is prepared to hire a recruiter to lead the town’s search for her replacement. The Town Council will vote tomorrow night to give Semmes the authority to execute a contract with the Springsted-Waters Executive Recruitment firm for no more than $21,000, or 19.5 percent of her current salary.