BERRYVILLE — Without giving a reason, the Clarke County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday voted unanimously to terminate county Economic Development and Tourism Director Len Capelli’s contract effective in 90 days.
The termination came following an approximately half-hour closed session held at the start of the meeting to discuss a personnel matter. Capelli was working Tuesday afternoon, but he did not attend the closed session and was unaware of the vote before he was contacted by The Winchester Star. He said he had no hard feelings.
After the board went back into open session, Chairman David Weiss called for a motion. Berryville District Supervisor Mary Daniel made that motion, reading a prepared resolution.
“The Board gives Len Capelli ninety days notice of termination of the Economic Development Service Contract,” the resolution stated, “and hereby directs county administration to provide such notice to Len Capelli in writing, such termination to be effective ninety days of the date of such written notice.”
Following the unanimous vote, Weiss said publicly “we thank Mr. Capelli for his services, and we wish him well.”
Weiss, the Buckmarsh District supervisor, would not say after the meeting why Capelli’s contract was terminated.
“We just exercised the termination clause,” he said.
When pressed for a reason, Weiss said, “I don’t think that’s important.”
Board Vice Chairman Bev McKay, who represents the White Post District, said he did not feel comfortable discussing personnel matters at length. Provisions of the Virginia Freedom of Information Act enable local governing boards to not explain publicly, if they choose, why they let employees go.
However, Capelli “was leaving in March when his contract ended,” McKay said to his understanding.
Capelli has been Clarke County’s part-time economic development and tourism director since 2015. In October 2018, the supervisors voted to enter into a new contract with Capelli — one that runs through June 30, 2020.
Many counties have full-time economic development directors who work to recruit industries and other businesses and retain existing ones.
But over the years, Clarke residents and officials have indicated they want the county to stay mainly rural and agricultural. Yet officials have said they recognize that Clarke must have businesses to provide jobs for residents who do not commute or work on farms, hence the need for some type of economic development effort. Tourism is considered part of economic development.
Capelli, who is in his early 70s, has spent more than 40 years working in sales and marketing management and economic development. One of his past jobs was business development manager for the Virginia Economic Development Partnership, the state’s lead business and industry recruiting organization.
Under his contract, Capelli is paid $39 per hour and works less than 100 hours per month.
After the meeting, both Weiss and McKay praised Capelli’s work.
“Len did a good job,” said Weiss. From an economic perspective, “he helped to put Clarke County on the map.”
“I don’t have any complaints” with his work, McKay added.
In a phone interview, Capelli acknowledged that the county government is undergoing changes. For example, County Administrator David Ash is retiring soon. In October, the supervisors hired Chris Boies, an administrator in higher education who previously worked in local government, to succeed Ash. Boies will start his new job in early December before Ash leaves.
“I understand the county wants to go in different directions” with economic development, Capelli said. He added that he accepts the supervisors’ decision and remains willing to help the county in any way he can in the future.
Weiss said the supervisors expect Capelli to continue working for the time being. In the meantime, he said, county officials will figure out how they want to proceed with economic development efforts.
He pledged that economic development remains a high priority for the county.
The Clarke County Economic Development Advisory Committee, which McKay serves on, meets at 1 p.m. today at the Berryville-Clarke County Government Center on Chalmers Court. Nothing pertaining to Capelli’s employment status is on the agenda, which was prepared before Tuesday’s supervisors meeting.