Pete Huber is a busy man.
It took several calls to catch up with Huber to talk about his experience as Town of Amherst Interim Manager. The initial call caught Huber helping a pair of Council Members with the new Outlook email system. On the return call, Huber explained he was meeting with staff to discuss plans for a trail between the Town and the adjacent Sweet Briar College.
That’s the way it’s been since September 13 as Huber navigates each day. He was hired as part of the Berkley Group’s Executive Transition Assistance (ETA) Program, which provides an array of services tailored to smoothly guide a locality through its interim leadership period. Huber is one of nine (and growing) Executive Managers in The Berkley Group’s Transition Program.
“I spoke with (Berkley Group CEO) Darren Coffey during a VLGMA meeting in late June,” said Huber, who retired after 16 years as Pulaski County Administrator in January 2017. “The ETA Program is an opportunity for me to continue to serve. Service is still in my blood, and I still have interest in helping a community. Also, I feel I have learned things over the years that might be of help to others.”
It didn’t take long into retirement before Huber got the call to serve again. Huber loves to tinker and work on mechanical projects. He even once begged his mom, Maya Huber, to let him drop out of Emory & Henry College and return home to Northern Virginia to open an auto mechanic shop. He points out, “Local government management often involves taking something apart, fixing what is not right and putting it back together.”
Pete got that call to serve again late last summer. “I was with a friend of mine at the New River Valley Airport, working on an aircraft when Darren called me,” Huber said. “He said the Town of Amherst wanted to speak about their interim opening. I interviewed in August and started in mid-September. It happened really fast.”
Town of Amherst’s previous Manager, Jack Hobbs, served for 25 years and for five mayors. Hobbs resigned on August 9 to become Madison County Administrator.
“I really appreciated Jack’s help in the process,” Huber said. “He went out of his way to make sure this was a smooth transition.”
Amherst has a population of over 2,300 and is the county seat of Amherst County. The Town was founded in 1807 as a stagecoach station on the Charlottesville-Lynchburg road. One famous landmark is the roundabout located at the intersection of Main Street and U.S. Route 60. “The Circle,” as it is called by Amherst residents, is the oldest traffic circle in the VDOT system.
Huber said every day on the job presents a new challenge. The only routine parts are Monday night or Tuesday morning when accounts payable needs to be reviewed and the Tuesday 1 p.m. meetings with Mayor Dwayne Tuggle.
“My main goal is to set a good stage for the next town manager,” Huber said. “I’ve been involved in a variety of new things, but I’m also focusing on trying to keep projects going so things aren’t back logged too much.”
In the past, when a leadership position needed to be filled, counties and municipalities would call heads of state associations or agencies or call friends in the industry looking for a recommendation. Now with the Berkley Group’s Executive Transition Program, there’s a system and process localities can follow to fill their vacancy with a qualified and experienced administrator, executive or manager.
“We chose Mr. Huber because we felt he was the best fit for assisting us in finding a new full-time Town Manager, and for keeping the town running smoothly,” said Amherst Town Council Member Rachel Carton to the Roanoke Times soon after Huber’s hiring.
Coffey and Drew Williams (Chief Operating Officer) designed the ETA Program and say that Huber was the perfect fit for the town.
“Pete is an intelligent, experienced manager and a calming influence due to his professional, low-key personality,” Coffey said. “His presence has really benefited the Town of Amherst during its time of leadership transition.”
Huber is on a four-month contract. He’s two hours from his home in Pulaski County and stays in the Town of Amherst during the week. He lives in an apartment above the Travelers Tavern, which is two blocks from Town Hall.
“It’s a really neat town,” Huber said. “Everything is close and convenient. There are bike lanes everywhere, so I get to ride my bike all over. It’s a great situation. I really enjoy being here.”