Council picks Herbert

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 10, 2003

Suffolk News-Herald

An experienced hand will take the city’s helm when City Manager Myles E. Standish steps down Jan 15.

For the city’s top post, the Suffolk City Council on Friday tapped Robert Steven Herbert, the city’s assistant city manager for development.

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Herbert beat out two other Virginians who were among the top contenders for the position: Shurl Montgomery, the most senior assistant city manager in Norfolk, and Marvin S. Bolinger, who is resigning as Fredericksburg’s city manager this month.

Herbert and the council will negotiate a final contract, including salary, during the next week.

He now earns approximately $98,000. In contrast, Standish is paid $109,000 annually.

Council is expected to vote on Herbert’s appointment during its meeting at 7 p.m. Wednesday.

&uot;I’m very happy,&uot; said Herbert, 57, late Friday. &uot;Suffolk is a great place and I’m looking forward to working to with the City Council.&uot;

Among his top priorities will be continuing the city’s strong economic development programs and strengthening efforts in neighborhoods and communications, Herbert said.

&uot;I think the City Council was very interested (during its last retreat) in working to improve communication between city staff and council members … and in overall communication between the city and the people who live and work here.&uot;

Herbert has played a key role in shaping the city since his arrival in Suffolk in March 1997, said Mayor E. Dana Dickens III.

Herbert has overseen the strategic planning and development activities in the planning, economic development, downtown development, public utilities, neighborhood development, and tourism departments.

Major accomplishments of his tenure include: the recently approved funding of the new Hilton Garden Inn on Constant’s Wharf; preparation of the Downtown Initiatives Plan; East Washington Street Plan; Fairgrounds Redevelopment Plan; three village plans and preparation; and implementation of the Unified Development Ordinance.

&uot;We have made major strides and celebrated much success over the last few years in our development efforts and we want this progress to continue,&uot; said Dickens. &uot;Steve knows our strengths and our challenges and has the management and leadership abilities necessary to direct the city towards achieving its collective vision.&uot;

Standish also applauded council’s selection of Herbert as his successor.

&uot;Steve Herbert is an extremely hard-working, dedicated professional and I’m sure he’ll do an outstanding job,&uot; he said. &uot;He has been committed to the city of Suffolk since his arrival six years ago.&uot;

In past months, several people have charged that the city planned to give Herbert the job, despite hiring an executive search firm to conduct a nationwide search for Standish’s replacement.

Standish dismissed those comments as false.

&uot;That is not true,&uot; Dickens said. &uot;Council went out into the marketplace with an open mind. We had approximately 75 applicants nationwide.

&uot;…Steve has done an excellent job for the city,&uot; he said. &uot;He earned the job. He is the right man for Suffolk at this point in Suffolk’s history.&uot;

Council interviewed five applicants before narrowing it down to the top three, Dickens said. Herbert was selected after an extensive interview Friday afternoon.

Before coming to Suffolk, Herbert was chief plans/policy officer and assistant director of economic development director in Portsmouth. Major accomplishments in that city include implementation of the High Street Ferry Landing, a new hotel and conference center, and Olde Towne historic preservation work.

Herbert also served as Norfolk’s economic development director from 1991 to 1992. Prior to that he was an executive and/or analyst for several three Hampton Roads companies that specialize in military-related sales.

Herbert joined the Navy in 1969 and spent 11 years on active duty. He was in the Naval Reserves for another two decades, retiring in 2000 as a captain.

Herbert, a 1968 graduate of the University of Virginia, earned a master’s degree in administration from George Washington University in 1979. Also, he is a 1998 Senior Executive Institute of the University of Virginia.