Dickens to leave council

Published 12:00 am Sunday, January 9, 2005

By Allison Williams

Touted as a regional ambassador, Suffolk City Councilman E. Dana Dickens III will leave his local government post to become president and chief executive officer of the Hampton Roads Partnership, it was announced Friday.

Hampton Roads partnership co-chairmen Alan S. Witt, CEO of Witt Mares, and Charles E. Brinkley, president and chief operating officer of Dominion Terminal Associates made the announcement at the Radisson Hotel in Hampton.

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After serving two terms as Suffolk’s mayor, Dickens was succeeded by Councilman Bobby L. Ralph last July. While mayor, Dickens rose as a prominent leader in Hampton Roads, becoming the face of regionalism as he served on the board of directors and the executive committee of the Hampton Roads Partnership.

&uot;There are few as qualified in our community as Dana Dickens to be president of our organization at this time,&uot; said Witt when he announced the Partnership’s choice for president. &uot;Dana served the city of Suffolk with great distinction and we expect even greater accomplishment and service as he assumes the leadership of our efforts to focus on issues that will make Hampton Roads more economically competitive.

&uot;I look forward to working with Dana. I believe he brings the essential personal leadership characteristics and will provide as president what it takes to advance the Partnership’s mission.&uot;

Brinkley also had favorable comments about Dickens’ appointment.

&uot;We are very fortunate to have someone who has spent time promoting the public’s well-being in both civic as well as governmental positions,&uot; he said. &uot;The work of the Partnership is of utmost importance to all of us living and working here in Hampton Roads. The Partnership’s success is a great hope for our region’s future.&uot;

Dickens, who chairs the Western Tidewater Water Authority, will assume the new post Monday at the Partnership offices in the World Trade Center in Norfolk.

Dickens will have other roles to maintain.

He leads the High Growth Commission and serves on the board of the Virginia High Speed Rail Development Committee. Dickens is also known for his integral efforts working with the General Assembly and the shelter industry on growth issues.

As of late Friday, Dickens had not submitted his resignation to the council, and said he is &uot;unsure&uot; as to when he’ll resign. Council is charged with finding a replacement for Dickens, whose term expires in 2006. Ralph said there is no word yet as to who would likely replace him, a process that will not be triggered until his resignation is received.

Ralph had nothing but praise for Dickens.

&uot;Dana has been an excellent council member and an excellent ambassador,&uot; he said. &uot;He has served his city well. Whenever you have someone who has served on that level, they are certainly going to be missed&uot;

In reaction to Dickens’ appointment, Councilman Curtis R. Milteer Sr.’s only comment was &uot;Congratulations and well wishes.&uot; He had no further statement about a likely replacement for the outgoing councilman.

Dickens spent Friday at the Hampton Roads Partnership getting acclimated. He believes Suffolk’s increasing visibility in the region might have been the catalyst that prompted the Hampton Roads Partnership to contact him about the position.

&uot;One of my personal goals when I became mayor was to get Suffolk more involved in the region,&uot; Dickens said. &uot;Several people have indicated the partnership saw what has occurred in Suffolk, and recognized that Suffolk has come to the table and become a player in the state.&uot;

The decision to leave Suffolk politics was not made easily, he said.

&uot;I’ve put a lot of time and energy in this city and into council activities,&uot; Dickens said. &uot;It’s not something that you leave without some soul-searching. But if you looked at the opportunity, it was something I couldn’t pass up.&uot;

Dickens is unsure whether he would have taken the job if had been re-elected mayor.

&uot;I think if they had come to me and offered it, I would have considered it,&uot; he said.

Dickens himself refused to speculate on who might be tapped to finish out his term. He said he would not be making any recommendations unless specifically asked.

&uot;I’d like to see someone who is knowledgeable and willing to roll up their sleeves and go to work.&uot;

Dennis Gartman, who is Dickens’ appointee to the Industrial Development Authority, also refused to speculate on a possible replacement

&uot;Obviously, I’m interested (in who holds the seat) since I serve at the whim of his appointment,&uot; he said, adding that he would not be interested in the position. &uot;I’d like to see someone appointed who understands that the growth of Suffolk’s economy is in the north and would pursue that rather aggressively. That was Dana’s strongest suite.

&uot;I’m dismayed at losing Dana as a councilman but this is the best thing for Suffolk and all parties involved,&uot; Gartman said. &uot;Having a Suffolkian as the head of a regional economic development agency is certain to be good for the city.

&uot;Suffolk is not really losing Dana because we will still be getting the benefit of his knowledge.&uot;

The Hampton Roads Partnership, which represents 10 cities, six counties and one town that encompasses approximately 1.6 million state residents, is a public-private organization formed in 1996.

Enhancing Hampton Roads’ competitive position in the global economy has been the mission of the group.

Now the Partnership is focused on a new strategic growth plan.

to promote regional citizenship and developing a regional economic plan.

, and building upon the region’s &uot;fundamental assets,&uot; reads a statement issued by the organization Friday.