Robert C. Middaugh will be the next county administrator for James City County, replacing Sandy Wanner, who is leaving the position after 13 years.
The James City County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved the hire in a special meeting Tuesday afternoon.
Middaugh, 58, has more than 34 years of experience in public service, local government leadership and fiscal management. He most recently served as Assistant City Manager for the city of Miami Beach, Fla. for nine years.
Wanner, who has worked for the county for 25 years, will retire Aug. 1 and Middaugh will step into his role Aug. 2. He will be paid $165,000, along with a car allowance and access to county fringe benefits. His initial contract is for two years.
The Board of Supervisors began the formal search process more than six months ago by developing a community profile based on feedback from interviews with community leaders. The board hired executive search firm Springsted, Inc. to conduct the national search; over 70 resumes were received. The board members said Middaugh was a good fit.
“The five of us have to have a really good working relationship with Bob because we don’t want to be here a year from now with a candidate who didn’t fit,” said Bruce Goodson.
Middaugh said he and his wife, Melissa, had been looking for a better place to live or a better position. He applied for the James City County job through Springsted, Inc. In a press conference, he said James City County offered “the quality of life we wanted our family to experience.”
As Assistant City Manager in Miami Beach, Middaugh supervised several city departments, including parks and recreation; public works; police; fire; parking; fleet; neighborhood services; and the Capital Improvement Office. The city has a daily population of 164,000, operating budgets in excess of $100 million and more than 1,000 government employees.
Middaugh has served in town and city government since 1978, working as a city administrator in Elk River, Minn.; town manager of Watertown, Ct.; a recycling/solid waste consultant in New England; a city manager in Wheat Ridge, Co.; and town manager of Davie, Fla.
His stint in Davie was short-lived; Middaugh said the council chief pressured him to fire two firemen. He said an investigation into the council chief’s complaint yielded no evidence of wrongdoing and he “politely declined” to fire the employees. Middaugh said he was subsequently fired.
On his resume, Middaugh highlighted his experience in service delivery to a tourism destination community, civic engagement, capital improvement planning and implementation, and strategic planning to align resident and business service preferences with the government’s goals, budgets and work plans. He also has experience with reducing budgets by identifying efficiencies, something Wanner had to go through this year.
As an official in Miami Beach, Middaugh worked with tourism partners to market and promote large-scale events including the famed Art Basel contemporary art show, Super Bowls and food and wine festivals. He also gained emergency management experience when the city was struck by four hurricanes.
He’ll bring that tourism experience to the table when he starts his work in the Historic Triangle. Miami Beach appealed to buffs of Art Deco architecture, but most of its visitors were after the sun, the sand and the nightlife, he said. Working there taught him “the face you put forward is important and the experience people have is very important,” he said.
He also has experience working in a growing community. When he worked in Elk River, Minn. from 1978 to 1985, the city saw a boom in subdivision construction as it evolved into a suburb of Minneapolis. “I wrote zoning code, I wrote ordinances to plan going forward,” he said.
On education, he said schools have to be a community priority. “On the school’s part, as long as they’re spending wisely and managing efficiently, their requests will be well-received,” he said. “But they have to play nice.”
Middaugh characterized himself as a “big believer” in openness. As a city manager in Colorado, he says he had an epiphany about the importance openness with the public. He began to conduct quarterly meetings in the community to promote civic engagement. When a state employee came to the city to make a presentation, he was shocked to see 30 people in the audience. He hopes to continue to encourage engagement. “You get great information,” he said of talking with the public. “I get great insights into things I’ll never see or know about.”
Middaugh earned a Master of Public Administration from the University of Colorado in 1976 and a bachelor’s degree from Miami University in Ohio in 1974. He also attended the Senior Executive Institute at the Darden School at the University of Virginia in 2004. He has been married to his wife for 36 years. They have three children and five grandchildren.