Get to know Jason Stewart, director of community development

Get to know Jason Stewart, director of community development

By Madeline Otten

Jason Stewart, Fluvanna County’s director of community development, has 13 years of experience behind him and plans to make changes within his new role.

Stewart’s first job with Fluvanna began when he was hired in December 2013 as the planning and zoning administrator. He is currently still serving in that capacity, but also became the director of community development this past August.

Before taking on his role with Fluvanna County, he was town manager of his hometown of Gate City in Scott County, Va. He also served in other roles throughout the state, including county planner of Bedford County, senior planner with the City of Richmond, zoning administrator/senior planner of Dinwiddie County, and assistant city manager of Emporia.

“I’ve had a good working relationship with my last few predecessors in planning and community development and have received a lot of advice,” said Stewart. “We are always evaluating our policies, procedures, and ordinances to make sure we are better tomorrow than we were today.”

A typical day in the office includes fielding various questions from staff or the public on a wide variety of community development topics. Questions often include the processing of subdivision proposals, boundary adjustments, easement plats, site plans, special use permits, rezoning, variances, and general inquires. Stewart and his team attend meetings related to county business and training functions to enhance their knowledge of various topics related to their jobs.

Stewart’s past experience successfully prepared him for this role. He was involved in local government at the town, county, and city level in Virginia as well as in public utility projects, planning and zoning initiatives, budget preparation, parks and recreation projects, public safety, grants administration, and economic development.

However, with every job comes difficulty. One of the biggest challenges Stewart and his team face is time – or lack thereof.

“We have a small but dedicated staff committed to making the most of their day to improve the county. Sometimes it’s hard to fit in everything we need to do, but we work hard to ensure that everything keeps moving forward,” said Stewart.

Another situation that Stewart has to face is balancing conflicting rights of two parties. Zoning decisions, whether they relate to big or small projects, can be difficult if the text of the ordinance conflicts with the desires of the community. Stewart and his team use those situations as opportunities to improve and make recommendations to update the county’s ordinances and comprehensive plan.

Nevertheless, in the end, seeing the implementation of a good project or plan is the most rewarding outcome for him and his team.

“I think local government offers the best and most immediate way for one to have an impact on a community,” said Stewart. “The variety of different topics you run into day to day keeps the job interesting and you also can see the rewards very quickly compared to other levels of government.”

When it comes to short-term goals, Stewart and his team want to continue to prepare for growth in the Zions Crossroads Community Planning Area as the water and sewer projects near the beginning of construction. In the long-term, his goal is to evaluate what came out of the Comprehensive Plan from 2015 and make recommendations to the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors for an updated 2020 plan. This new plan will guide growth and development in the county for the next five years.

Stewart graduated from Virginia Tech with a double major in political science and history. He earned his master’s in public administration and policy. He also completed coursework in education at the graduate level at West Virginia University.

He is originally from Scott County, located in far Southwest Virginia near the Tennessee border, but currently lives in Richmond with his wife, Ryan, and their two rescue Jack Russell terriers. Ryan is from Roanoke and is a speech language pathologist. He has lived in the Richmond area since 2007.

On the weekends, Stewart loves to travel and see new things with his wife.

“We travel whenever we can, visit the many restaurants, wineries and breweries in Central and Western Virginia, and occasionally attend Virginia Tech football games,” he said.



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