Periodically throughout the year, certain employees are recognized either individually or collectively for the service they provide. Often, this is in recognition of exemplary work or for persevering under trying circumstances, such as those associated with COVID. With this post, I would like to honor those who provide the daily leadership and direction to those employees—our Directors.
Within the City organization, we rely upon a collection of Directors responsible for providing oversight for operations ranging from public safety to solid waste, and from technology to libraries. All total, 15 or so provide this direction. Who are they? Let’s start with an overview, then offer more detail. Of these 15, one-third are women, one-third are people of color and, combined, they represent a mix of those that have served many years in the organization and those that are relatively recent arrivals. All have honed their skills for a number of years, very often having started at an entry-level position within their line of work, be that a police officer, a planner, or a library cataloguer.
Leadership in public safety is provided by two Chiefs: Chief Sam Roman in the Police Department and Chief David Hoback in the Fire-EMS Department. Chief Roman started as a Marine before transitioning to a police officer with the City of Roanoke, where he served as a Lieutenant, Captain, and Deputy Chief before he was named Chief in 2020. Chief Roman’s experience is complemented by a bachelor’s degree and various leadership-training certifications from highly respected institutions such as Harvard University and the FBI. Chief Hoback started his career as a Paramedic, later serving as a Field Supervisor, Battalion Chief, and Deputy Chief, before he was selected as Chief in 2007. Chief Hoback’s experience is complemented by a bachelor’s degree and further recognition by the National Fire Academy.
Mark Jamison provides leadership in Public Works, where he is responsible for engineering, environmental management, stormwater and transportation. Mark has been with the City for 18 years, serving as a Traffic Engineer and Transportation Manager before being chosen as Director in 2020. Mark holds both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in Civil Engineering. Leadership in General Services is provided by Jeffrey Powell, where he is responsible for sustainability, facilities, fleet management, solid waste and risk management. Jeffrey has a combined 32 years of experience in both the public and private sector, along with a bachelor’s degree and an MBA. His experience and degrees are complemented by a number of certifications, and he has even served as adjunct faculty at a number of institutions.
The Department of Technology is led by Vanessa Bohr. Vanessa oversees IT and E-911 operations, and has been with the City for 13 years, starting as an Application Developer. She was named Director in 2018. Vanessa holds a bachelor’s and a master’s degree, along with a myriad of complementary certificates. Amelia Merchant serves as the Director of Finance, leading the City’s finance, budgeting, real estate valuation, and retirement efforts. Amelia has been with the City since 2001 and was selected as the Director in 2017. She holds a bachelor’s degree and an MBA, along with various certifications. Amelia serves not only in a leadership role with the City, but also with the Government Officers Association of the United States and Canada, where she currently serves on the Executive Board.
The Department of Human and Social Services is led by Steve Martin and includes the City’s various social service programs, homeless assistance efforts, and foster care program. Steve has worked in his profession since 1988, and with the City since 2000. He was named Director in 2017. Steve holds a bachelor’s degree, along with a collection of certifications. Angelia Vernon leads the Human Resources Department. Angelia has been with the City since 2002 and was named Director in 2019. She holds a bachelor’s and master’s degree, and a professional certification with the International Public Manager’s Association.
Roanoke’s Public Library system is led by Sheila Umberger, who started her work with the City as the person who transferred the card catalog to a digital format. Named Director in 2004, Sheila holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees. Sheila has been recognized locally and nationally for her efforts with early childhood learning, community feeding programs, and efforts at advancing diversity. In 2016, the American Library Association—the oldest and largest library association in the world—recognized Sheila with the Peggy Sullivan Award for Public Library Administrators Supporting Services to Children. The City’s Planning, Building and Development Department is led by Chris Chittum who has been with the City since 1993, having been named Director in 2013. Chris holds a bachelor’s and a master’s degree, and is a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners.
Michael Clark leads the City’s Parks and Recreation Department. Michael joined the City in 2007 and has served as the Recreation Superintendent and the Parks and Recreation Manager, before being named Director in 2016. He holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees, and is a Certified Parks and Recreational Professional. The City’s Economic Development Department is led by Rob Ledger, who joined the City in 2009 after an extended period of employment with the Roanoke Regional Partnership. Before that, he enjoyed a successful career with a private environmental lab. Rob has served as Director since 2019 and holds a bachelor’s degree.
Berglund Center is led by Robyn Schon. Robyn joined the City in 1998 as the General Manager of Marketing for the Civic Center, later serving as Assistant General Manger until her promotion to General Manager in 2011. In addition to 35 years of experience in live entertainment venues, Robyn holds a bachelor’s and a master’s degree, and a certification in Public Assembly Facility Management.
The City’s Parking operations and Hotel Roanoke Conference Center are led by Brian Mann, who joined the City in 2018, first at Berglund Center and now in his current role where he oversees the contractual operations of the City’s parking operations and the Hotel Roanoke Conference Center. Brian holds a bachelor’s degree and is currently enrolled in an MBA program. Additionally, Brian brings years of experience with Virginia Tech and Radford University. The City’s Transit operations are provided under contract and led by Kevin Price, who was named General Manager for Valley Metro in 2018. Kevin has worked in transit since 1994, when he started as a bus driver in Blacksburg. In addition to his service in Blacksburg, Kevin worked in transit in Englewood, Colo. and for Regional Transportation District in Denver—at the time, the 10th largest transit system in North America.
This is the leadership team—an impressive group of men and women who lead the 1,700-plus folks who deliver services to our Community. I am honored to work alongside this group and I am consistently impressed with all that they and their teams are able to accomplish for Roanoke. We are truly fortunate to have such a great team in our City!
-- Bob Cowell