Waynesboro: New city attorney a good fit
Story by Chris Graham
Todd Patrick knows Waynesboro well enough to refer to the Waynesboro Town Center as the place where the old Outlet Village used to be.
“I don’t know what it was, but something about the community always seemed attractive. The people were always nice, always cordial, just wonderful to be around. So when this job opportunity surfaced – I liked the community in the past from my experiences there, even though it wasn’t on a long-term basis. So that in combination with being closer geopgraphically to where my children are residing made me think it was worth a shot,” said Patrick, whose appointment as the new city attorney in Waynesboro was announced by Waynesboro City Council on Monday.
Patrick comes to Waynesboro from Orange County, where he has served as the county attorney for the past four and a half years. He worked as the assistant city attorney in Chesapeake for three years before that after a decade in private practice in Southwest Virginia.
Patrick will assume the duties of city attorney in Waynesboro on Nov. 3.
“He did a good job for us, and I’m sure he’ll do a good job for Waynesboro,” said Mark Johnson, the chair of the board of supervisors in Orange County, which has been on a similar track as Waynesboro with a strong pace of growth and development in recent years. “We’ve been growing fairly rapidly here, so there have been those types of things to deal with – ordinance overhauls and changes, leadership and personnel issues that come up, the whole range of things that come up. We’ve been through a lot in the last four and a half years that we’ve been here. Nothing beats experience. You’re definitely getting the benefit of his years in Chesapeake and then with us,” Johnson said.
There will be some nuance that Patrick will have to pick up on. The most noticeable difference between laws as relates to counties and cities, on the surface, anyway, has to do with the ordinance-adoption process in cities versus counties. In cities, a proposed ordinance has to go through two readings before it can be adopted. Counties can adopt a proposed ordinance the night of a public hearing, if it wants. “There aren’t huge differences, but there are certain things that are unique to both county law and municipality law,” Patrick said.
Another nuance, related to the interaction that he has with his employer, the city council, which is sharply divided along partisan and ideological lines, is something that Patrick has experience in dealing with in his years in local government. “The thing is you want to have that diversity,” Patrick said of the diverging approaches of the two factions on city council. “You want to have the whole spectrum of viewpoints represented, or at least discussed, in order for those positions to be considered. I had done some research, obviously, before I made the decision to apply for the job, and I’ll tell you, I was very impressed with how the council worked. I was wondering if there was going to be any type of friction or anything like that, and I really didn’t see it.”
City Councilwoman Lorie Smith said she thinks it is significant that city council voted unanimously to appoint Patrick. “I think it speaks to the cooperation that we’re trying to instill on the council that we made this decision as a group,” Smith said. “I’m pleased with this selection by council. Mr. Patrick has a great deal of local-government experience coming from Orange County and further experience in Chesapeake. He’s got a lot of experience in land-use issues and comp-plan issues, personnel – a lot of the domains that are required for in-depth knowledge to be a good city attorney,” Smith said.
Smith said she expects the genial Patrick, who in addition to being the father of four is a dog lover, an avid hiker and a regular visitor to the Skyline Drive and Blue Ridge Parkway, to “mesh well with the council and the staff and the Waynesboro community.” “He’s very well-spoken and is a team player – but he’s not so much of a team player that if we need him to be tough, he’s going to be tough. I think he’s just a great fit for Waynesboro,” Smith said.
For Patrick the feeling is mutual. “I look forward to being a part of the Waynesboro community,” Patrick said.