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IDA names new executive director; will start July 16

County resident Matthew Leonard is the new Halifax County Industrial Development Authority Executive Director.

Members of the Halifax County Industrial Development Authority on Friday morning unanimously approved the employment of Leonard as the new IDA Executive Director at an annual salary of $100,000.

 He will begin work July 16.

 “We believe Matt has the intellect, maturity and leadership skills to successfully lead the IDA and to help position Halifax County for improved economic development,” said Board Chairman John Cannon. “His skill sets are very transferrable to this position. He has a vast knowledge of site and infrastructure planning and design, and his management skills will become very important as the assets of the IDA are quite large. His roots in Halifax County and his love and passion for the area made him an even more attractive candidate for this leadership position.”

Formerly, Leonard was the manager of the construction services group with Dewberry & Davis Inc, where he planned and managed public and private projects and programs, training owners, designers, funding sources, regulatory agencies and contractors.

In a press conference held following the authority board’s meeting when Leonard was unanimously voted in as the new director, Leonard said he was humbled and heartened by the board’s faith and trust members placed in his abilities.

Leonard has been a resident of Halifax County for 13 years and has resided in Southern Virginia for almost 25 years.

He is married to Nancy Hardie Leonard, a lifelong resident of Halifax County and an administrator in the Halifax County Public School System.

The couple resides in a home they designed and built on a Mount Laurel area farm that has been in his wife’s family for more than 100 years.

They have two grown children, Hans and Olivia, who graduated from William & Mary and Virginia Tech, respectively.

 Describing the process the search committee went through to pick the county’s next authority director, Search Committee Chairman Chris Lumsden said, “We have been thorough and detailed as we screened, evaluated and interviewed candidates for this position over the last four months.

 “After an extensive interview process, reducing 33 applicants down to two finalists, we are firm in our decision that Matt Leonard is the best candidate for this important position in our county. We feel that his ability to build and manage relationships, his expertise in construction services, his skills in budgeting and programming, and his drive and enthusiasm will position himself and the IDA for future success,” Lumsden added.

Lumsden said Leonard brings “a unique skills” set to the authority.

“Sometimes you look afar for the best candidate when all along the best candidate is right under your nose,” he added. “We’ve been fortunate to recruit him, and I believe Matt will do an excellent job as IDA director.”

Leonard received his undergraduate degree in organizational management and development from Bluefield College. He also earned a master’s degree in building and construction science management from Virginia Tech.

Leonard also is a certified mediator with the North Carolina Superior Court System.

In addition to his $100,000 annual salary, during the first 12 months of employment he is eligible for up to a $10,000 salary increase based on favorable performance and at the sole discretion of the authority directors, according to his employment contract.

Leonard’s employment benefits include retirement through the Virginia Retirement System, employee health insurance, an automobile to be used for work purposes only, and a $2,500 stipend for training and education and associated travel and lodging.

 The contract spells out Leonard’s employment is “at will” which means he is not guaranteed any specific term or tenure of employment.

At the conclusion of the Friday morning press conference, Chairman Cannon expressed appreciation to Interim Director Patsy Vaughan who has filled in since former Director Mike Sexton left at the end of March.

“She has been very helpful to the committee,” Cannon said as authority board members gave Vaughan a round of applause.

Vaughan welcomed Leonard to the staff calling him “a part of our team.”

“We welcome his leadership and communication skills that we can use in bettering our program,” she said.

 Following the conference, Leonard spoke with the media saying he is eager to get started and plans a four-prong approach to the new job.

 Included in this approach are reviewing organization and staffing, examining financial assets of the authority, work on getting the authority’s purpose and message out in “a broader and deliberate way” and focusing on the authority’s mission to target new business and industry for the county as well as work to meet the needs of existing business and industry.

 “There is a marketing aspect to this job, and you have to believe in what you’re selling. I love Halifax County. It’s my home, and I will have no problem in promoting it,” he said, adding, “I plan to hit the ground running.”