New hires replace five fired

All but Parrish (who was at a training seminar) sat down last week and talked about wanting to work in Fluvanna – in spite of the fact their predecessors had been fired en masse after the Board of Supervisors found they had given themselves and several county workers secret raises.


Smith summed it up when he said he was looking forward to being involved in Fluvanna’s future.

“I’m excited about the opportunity to be a part of Fluvanna and the community and to be progressive,” Smith said. “I did a lot of research and saw a lot of opportunities in the Parks and Recreation department – in the county in general.”

Horlacher agreed.

“It’s like a fresh start,” she said. “I was really impressed with Steve Nichols enthusiasm.”

Nichols himself is relieved to have not only filled all senior staff positions but to have found such well-qualified people.

“As I had hoped, we were able to get superstars for each of those key positions,” Nichols said. “Each one of the new managers comes with significant work experience, strong educational backgrounds, and impressive leadership skills. But most importantly, they support my belief that Fluvanna County residents deserve to “SEE” our best efforts through our Service, our Efficiency, and our Effectiveness. I expect great things from our team.”

Horlacher acknowledged it can be kind of scary with so many new people at the helm, but it can be a good thing as they work together to enact the county’s vision.

“You’ve got a whole new team to do it with,” she said.

Finchum said she heard Fluvanna was a great place and since she’s been on the job, her experience confirmed it.

“The natural features, the development patterns, the choices made to provide better buildings – they’ve invested in their community. That is obvious.”

She said she wasn’t afraid to step into a position vacated by such a public firing.

“I had no second thoughts,’ Finchum said. “A mistake was made, but Darren (Coffey) was a good guy. It’s always difficult when you are filling such big shoes. But I’m a person with a win/win attitude. I’m not dwelling on what happened.”

Stephens, who just started four days prior, said he’s raring to go.

“I’m looking forward to the challenge,” Stephens said. “Fluvanna appears to be looking to reorganize itself. I’ve already learned a lot and I’m really impressed with my staff.”

All nodded in agreement and said they appreciate that there are many county staffers who’ve been working in Fluvanna for years. They intend to take advantage of that institutional knowledge and build on it.

All were impressed not just that Nichols conducted the staff survey, but that he’s already put a team together to address many of the concerns.

Horlacher said too often such surveys are done but then left on the shelf.

“The Tiger team is a good sign,” she said. “People who answered (the survey) will see something is getting done.”

Finchum said when she first started it was obvious the staff was concerned and uneasy about what happened in the past.

“I was sensitive to the concerns of the employees and saw the affects of what happened,” she said. “I tried to assure them it was going to be OK – that I have their back. They respected that and responded right away.”

Finchum said the fact that Nichols took his time to hire just the right people showed his commitment to the future, and for getting there with the best.

“The people that Steve Nichols chose all have positive energy, vision and knowledge,” Finchum said. “He wasn’t going to hire just anyone. He showed that when he re-advertised for the Department of Public Works director.”

Hearing that, Stephens looked up, startled.

Finchum laughed.

“No, before he hired you,” she said.

Stephens looked relieved.

Smith said everyone sitting around the table is “high energy and want to make a difference.

“We want to be part of the solution.”


Planning Director Allyson Finchum comes from Charles City County where she was the director of planning. Prior to that, she worked as the principal planner for the Richmond Regional Planning District Commission. Her undergraduate degree is in communications and Finchum has a Masters in urban and regional planning.

Finance Director Barbara Horlacher is a Certified Public Accountant with a Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing and a Masters in Business Administration. She worked as a senior accountant for Hanover County for three years and most recently worked as an account manager at VML/VACO in Richmond.

Human Resources Director Gail Parrish was a human resources consultant for Evolution Consulting Group in Palmyra for the past five years. During the same time, Parrish worked for Northern Virginia Community College as the associate director for Compensation and Benefits. Parrish has a Bachelor’s Degree in business management and a Master’s in management.

Parks and Recreation Director Jason Smith has undergraduate and graduate degrees in kinesiology and recreation and sports and recreation management from James Madison University. Besides working for the city of Harrisonburg Parks and Recreation Department, Smith has held director positions with several community YMCAs.

Public Works Director Wayne Stephens spent the last eight years as the director of engineering for the Fauquier County Water and Sanitation Authority. Stephens has a Bachelor’s degree in agricultural engineering and has worked on his Master’s in the same field. He is a certified professional engineer.

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