Veteran Administrator to Take Helm in JCC

June 30th, 2010 by Kim Lenz
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Robert Middaugh

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.

8 Responses to Veteran Administrator to Take Helm in JCC

  1. Anonymous

    June 30, 2010 at 3:12 am

    Welcome Mr. Middaugh.

    Mr. Wanner, you have served us well and I wish you well.

  2. Anonymous

    June 30, 2010 at 12:41 pm

    It is disappointing that Mr. Middaugh has already taken an oppositional and rather rude stance towards our schools. How are our schools not “playing nice?”

    WJC Schools always conform to the budgets given to them. They have made painful cuts year after year, resulting in the loss of many valuable programs. Teachers have taken no raises and pay an increasing share of their benefits, effectively resulting in cuts to their earnings year after year. Admin costs are regularly among the very leanest in the state. Is this not playing nice?

    WJC also does a good job of presenting an ideal budget as well as a actual budget, to clearly communicate the differences between a program based on standards of quality and what it is that is actually funded. This is done in the spirit of open communication. Is this not playing nice?

    Middaugh’s comments are troubling, especially given that he hasn’t even been working here yet.

    Welcome to Williamsburg, Mr. Middaugh.

  3. Anonymous

    June 30, 2010 at 1:29 pm

    There has been an undeniable adversarial relationship between the schools and JCC. Mr. Middaugh’s comments simply accknowledges that situation. Before you condemn him, maybe give him the benefit of the doubt. He’s clearly in favor of a strong educational system.

  4. Anonymous

    June 30, 2010 at 2:27 pm

    Mr. Middaugh seems like a very good fit. I liked his comment about the importance of education and, that the schools need to spend wisely. This balanced approach makes sense to me. I welcome him and his family to our community and wish him well in his new assignment.

  5. Anonymous

    June 30, 2010 at 4:41 pm

    I hope he’s not using Florida schools as a model or point of comparison, because schools there are the absolute pits. If he thinks we’re going to lower our standards to Florida standards in order to save money, he can think again.

  6. Anonymous

    June 30, 2010 at 6:52 pm

    Mr. Middaugh himself freely offered up those odd comments about the schools – nobody put those words in his mouth. I think it’s right to raise an eyebrow at such a statement. Why, right out of the gate, did he single out the schools for scorn, implying they don’t play nice? I’m concerned. And it’s certainly right to voice such concerns given he’ll be in charge and as of yet nobody knows him very well. I am glad “Troubling Comments” pointed this out.

    I encourage the WY Daily to interview Mr. Middaugh further on this point, to further elucidate the meaning of his cryptic comments. Perhaps that can clear things up a bit, and it would certainly make for appropriate local news reporting.

  7. Anonymous

    June 30, 2010 at 7:28 pm

    It appears he has already brought the heat up here with him. 8)

  8. Anonymous

    July 1, 2010 at 1:07 am

    People have read too much into his statement about schools. He didn’t get hired out of 70 applicants because he wants to destroy JCC school system. Give the guy – and the rest of us – a break.

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