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Waynesboro community development chief excited by challenge

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Leslie Tate

Leslie Tate

Leslie Tate spent 6 years as the director of planning in Augusta County, and now, she has recently become the director of community development for the City of Waynesboro.

She has gone from planning in one of Virginia’s largest geographical counties to overseeing planning in a small city that is undergoing many changes.

“It is certainly different from Waynesboro,” she said of Augusta County. “Over 90 percent of the county is zoned agricultural.”

There was a diversity of issues in Augusta County, from the rural concerns of residents in Mount Solon to the more urban areas such as Fishersville and Stuarts Draft.

She is excited about the future of Waynesboro.

“Waynesboro has a lot of momentum in outdoor recreation,” she said, speaking of the South River Greenway and the planned Sunset Park at the former city landfill.

And the surge in home construction in Waynesboro also bodes well.

“The growth shows that people want to live here and want to play here,” she said. “It is important for community development to listen to the citizens and cultivate that vision.”

Waynesboro’s newly merged community development department combines zoning and building functions and includes a planner and an engineer. All report to Tate in the department of 13.

Tate, who holds a bachelor’s degree in international studies and a master’s degree in urban and regional planning from Virginia Tech, said she was drawn to the opportunity in Waynesboro. She is an Augusta County native who graduated from Fort Defiance High School.

“It was something different,” she said. “It was more aligned about what I learned in school, more about urban. I can wrap myself around neighborhoods and people in a much more in-depth way than I could in the county. The county was so much more spread out.”

In addition the recreational projects and construction, Tate is looking forward to the changes in downtown Waynesboro that include plans for a branch of the Virginia Museum of Natural History and the transformation of the old Leggett’s building into a mixed use project.

“This will create a lot more people traveling here and more people making this their home,” Tate said. “There will be thriving restaurants and retail. Getting to watch this over time is exciting.”

Todd Wood, Waynesboro’s assistant city manager for operations, said the city was happy to find a worthy successor to Luke Juday, the previous director of community development, who worked for Waynesboro for 6 years.

“We are excited to have found someone with Leslie’s skill, talents and background to lead our newly formed community development department,” Wood said. “It makes it even more satisfying finding someone that was born and raised in our area. It is already apparent that she takes very seriously her service to the ‘citizen’ in all issues she touches. I look forward to seeing all the positive ways she will impact our community.”

Tate said she is eager to see projects come to fruition whether it is another phase of the South River Greenway or transportation projects.

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