By Leigh Dannhauser

After searching for three months and spending nearly $15,000, Rockbridge County supervisors decided to hire local talent for their new county administrator.

They chose 43-year-old Spencer Suter because he has had experience in some of the major issues that Rockbridge County faces today and because he already lives in Rockbridge County.

One of the problems the Board of Supervisors had with former administrator Claire Collins was that when she was hired she lived in Bath County. Long-time finance director Robert Claytor stepped into the position when Collins resigned last year.

“When she was hired she agreed to move to Rockbridge and present us with a residence but it was address and name only,” said Kerrs Creek Representative Rusty Ford. “I don’t think she ever stayed there a night.”

“Having a person already living here is a huge advantage, and [Suter] is qualified, no doubt about that,” Ford said

Suter’s qualifications seem to fit the biggest issues that county officials are trying to fix, including the 911 system, police and fire rescue, and communications.

“I’ve had a lot of different experience in emergency services, IT, and economic development,” said Suter, who is currently assistant county administrator in Botetourt County. “I gained a lot of experience I think that will serve me well here.”

Walker Creek Supervisor Buster Lewis agrees.

“The enormity of handling all of the issues that we are facing will be challenging,” Lewis said. “He didn’t have all the years of experience, but he has extraordinary potential.”

Suter believes the first step in overcoming those challenges is building relationships.

“It’s critical . . . because with relationships comes trust,” he said. “In order to make any forward progress we have to trust each other, and we have to all be pulling in the same direction.”

Suter was hired as Botetourt County’s first 911 coordinator in 1996. He created its emergency communications system. He also served as Botetourt’s emergency services manager before becoming assistant county administrator.

Rockbridge County hired an outside firm to search for a new county administrator after Claytor announced his retirement. He had warned the board that he intended to retire this year.

The position attracted 41 applicants. Lewis says the Board of Supervisors narrowed the list to 10, interviewed five of those, re-interviewed two, and chose Suter earlier this month. Suter takes over from interim County Administrator Sam Crickenberger on Oct. 1.

Suter earned a bachelor’s degree in geology at James Madison University, a graduate certificate in local government management, and his master’s in public administration from Virginia Tech in 2011.

Suter lives in Rockbridge County with his wife, Tina, and daughter. Tina Suter is a second grade teacher at Waddell Elementary School in Lexington.

Natural Bridge Supervisor David Hinty Jr. says Suter is ready for his new job.

“I don’t think that he will have a challenge,” Hinty said.

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