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NEW: Arlington Economic Development’s No. 1 and No. 2 leaders are departing

The top two leaders at Arlington Economic Development, as marked, are leaving (photo illustration by ARLnow, via screenshot of AED website)

It’s not just Telly Tucker who’s leaving Arlington Economic Development.

Tucker become the county’s Director of Economic Development in January 2020, just before the pandemic, after serving in the same role for Danville, Virginia. He’s now returning to Danville to head the state’s Institute for Advanced Learning and Research.

But Tucker is not the only impending high-level departure from AED. Cynthia Richmond, the Arlington’s Deputy Director of Economic Development, is retiring, AED has confirmed to ARLnow.

“Telly’s here through the end of May. His last day in the office is May 27,” said AED spokeswoman Kelly Rindfusz. “Cindy Richmond announced her retirement earlier this year. Her last day with the County is June 17.”

It’s unclear who will replace the organization’s two top leaders, though AED’s No. 3 appears to be staying put.

“County management is developing a continuity plan and will release it in the coming week,” Rindfusz tells ARLnow. “No other senior management departures. Katie McConnell remains as AED’s Assistant Director along with the Division Directors for the department.”

AED also experienced a series of high-profile departures prior to Tucker’s hiring.

Former director Victor Hoskins and interim director Alex Iams were both poached by Fairfax County, while Christina Winn left for Prince William County.

Hoskins helped to shepherd Amazon’s successful bid for Amazon’s HQ2, which has produced its own gravitational pull of new development and new office leases, particularly in the Crystal City and Pentagon City areas. But the turnover at the top of AED raises questions about whether Arlington is maximizing its economic momentum, particularly at a time when pandemic-era work-from-home trends have caused office vacancy rates to rise.

Asked about the ongoing brain drain at the top of the county’s economic development organization, County Board Chair Katie Cristol deferred to County Manager Mark Schwartz, who issued the following statement to ARLnow.

Schwartz praised Tucker and Richmond’s contributions to economic development in Arlington while promising to recruit “talented and skilled leaders” to replace them at AED.

We have been fortunate to have Telly Tucker in the role as Director of Economic Development for the past several years. Telly has been an incredibly valuable team member, especially during COVID over the past two years, especially in addressing business challenges during the COVID pandemic and implementing our small business emergency grants. He has also been instrumental in attracting  businesses of varying sizes from Microsoft to Zebox, and facilitated the development of the “relaunch program” for small businesses. He has also advanced 5G Smart City/Innovation districts with JBG Smith and advanced the resiliency of our commercial market. While we are disappointed that Telly will be leaving Arlington, we are excited for him to have this new opportunity as the President of the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research (IALR), located closer to his family in southern Virginia. And, while AED’s Deputy Director Cynthia Richmond also has a scheduled retirement after 17 years with Arlington County, we appreciate the strong foundation they have both established for our economic development across the County. We will begin recruitment for both of these senior positions as soon as possible and confident that we will identify talented and skilled leaders to continue to support existing businesses, welcome new companies, and expand the economic development principles in our community.

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