While other western Loudoun towns have taken weeks or months to replace their top government managers, the Town of Round Hill has its new town administrator in place two weeks before its current one is set to leave.
The Town Council last Thursday voted unanimously to appoint Town Planner Melissa Hynes as its town administrator. The decision comes just 10 days after Buster Nicholson announced that he would step down on Oct. 19 after five years to become Purcellville’s public works director.
Hynes, 36, worked closely with Nicholson during the past four years, including on some key town projects such as the Main Street and Franklin Park Trail Project and Sleeter Lake Park.
“I will work hard to keep it business as usual as we move forward filling key positions and entering our strategic planning phase for the fiscal year 2020 budget,” she said.
Mayor Scott Ramsey said that it would not have made sense to conduct a broader search for the town administrator position, because there was universal council sentiment toward appointing Hynes.
“Melissa knows every issue facing Round Hill right now and the priorities of our citizens and Town Council,” he said. ” Her energy and dedication to this Town has been impressive and she earned this position.”
Hynes started her career in January 2006 as an intern at the office of then-Baltimore Mayor Martin O’Malley after graduating from Towson University with a degree in social science. In September 2006, she landed her first local government job as the city planner for Hagerstown, MD, where she created the Hagerstown Beautification Committee and the Highlight Hagerstown Awards that encourage residential and commercial façade improvements. Hynes then moved on to become the comprehensive planner for the City of Westminster, MD, in 2007 and then the zoning administrator for Lovettsville in 2012.
In Lovettsville, she learned more from then-town manager Keith Markel about what it takes to work in a true local government, since Lovettsville’s population was only 10 percent the size of Westminster and 5 percent the size of Hagerstown. “Going smaller allows you to learn more about local government,” she said.
During her two years in Lovettsville, Hynes worked alongside then-mayor Bob Zoldos to create the Berserkle on the Squirkle New Year’s Day event, develop the town seal and come up with an idea to attract visitors through events rather than commercial development.
Since becoming Round Hill’s town planner and zoning administrator in July 2014, Hynes has managed a complete rewrite of the town’s Comprehensive Plan, brought the Sleeter Lake Park project to completion and generally acted as Nicholson’s right hand.
Hynes is a certified tourism ambassador, as well as a certified planning commissioner through the American Planning Association and a certified zoning administrator through the Virginia Zoning Officials Association. She also is a student of the International City/County Management Association’s Mid-Career Managers Institute, which she applied for last year to help her prepare for an eventual town manager or administrator role.
Project Specialist Rob Lohr said that finding someone to fill the town administrator job—someone with who the Town Council and staff is comfortable—isn’t easy and that Hynes was “a good match.”
“That builds a lot of positive capital straight out of the gate,” he said.
Moving forward, Hynes is primarily focused on hiring multiple town staff positions so that the town can start its fiscal year 2020 budget planning with a full staff.
“I’m excited to keep the momentum going,” she said. “I think that having somebody with institutional knowledge in the chair will help keep things moving forward.”
The council Thursday also decided to put plans to hire its first public works director on hold, finding that none of the candidates who applied was qualified for the job.
Instead, the town will focus on hiring a new zoning administrator and town treasurer, following Angela Fletcher’s departure in June to become the Town of Strasburg’s finance director.
Hynes said that the town would be advertising for the treasurer position by mid-October. Once a hire is made for that role, the town will then look for Hynes’ replacement. For now, Hynes will wear numerous hats—town administrator, zoning administrator and town planner. She has also acted as the town clerk since Kim McGaha became the utility administrator last December.
Round Hill’s search for a town treasurer, zoning administrator and public works director are in line with the current staffing shakeups in other western Loudoun towns. In Lovettsville, the Town Council is searching for someone to become its fifth town manager, following Sam Finz’s July 6 retirement. In Middleburg, Town Administrator Martha Semmes is set to retire at the end of this year after eight years in that position.