A man often said to be instrumental in attracting manufacturers to Pulaski County over the past few years is the new town manager for Pulaski.
Mayor Jeff Worrell announced Tuesday morning that Pulaski County Community Development Director Shawn Utt will take over the town manager reins from John Hawley in mid-October. Hawley is retiring after 11 years in the town’s head management position.
Utt brings over 14 years of experience in planning and management to the job, half of which was in his current position with the county. As community development director, he has focused on economic development, comprehensive planning, grant writing and administration and public relations.
“The Town of Pulaski has a great deal of untapped potential, and I am excited to help lead the community forward,” Utt said of his new job. “I appreciate the trust and faith the town council has in me as their next town manager, and I am looking forward to working with the town staff to help make Pulaski a more prosperous community.”
Asked what he perceives as the first priorities to move Pulaski forward, Utt said his first priority is to “get in the saddle and figure out what’s really happening (and not happening). It’s easy to look from the outside and talk about needs, but I think the perspective changes a great deal once you’re on the inside looking out.”
Utt said he is leaving his county job the week of Oct. 18. He will take over as town manager no later than Oct. 21.
Worrell said one of Utt’s significant strengths is his experience, knowledge and commitment to planning since that is a future emphasis of town council.
“Mr. Utt’s outstanding background in planning was attractive to us in many ways. His work within and commitment to the region suggested he has an understanding of the challenges we face in Southwest Virginia and in the town of Pulaski,” said Worrell.
By working in conjunction with Virginia Economic Development Partnership and New River Economic Development Alliance (NRVEDA), Utt has been attributed with guiding industrial projects such as Phoenix Packaging and Korona S.A. to Pulaski County Corporate Center near Dublin and Falls Stamping and Welding to downtown Pulaski.
Utt worked closely with Aric Bopp, executive director of NRVEDA, on these projects. Bopp said of Utt’s move to the town, “Shawn is a critical player among the regional economic developers. We are fortunate to have him in a new, significant position of leadership in the town of Pulaski.”
Through his position with the county, Utt has already worked closely with the town on economic development projects, applying for an Industrial Revitalization Fund grant through Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development and by serving as the liaison between Pulaski County Board of Supervisors and Pulaski Town Council.
Following the 2011 tornadoes Utt played a critical role in attracting and disseminating funds for the recovery, as well as voluntarily using his construction skills to rebuild houses.
“One of Shawn’s greatest strengths is in making things happen by utilizing tools and resources readily available to him, and the town will be well-served by his abilities,” said Pulaski County Administrator Peter Huber. “I am glad to see him grow professionally and look forward to working with him in his new capacity as town manager.”
Before taking his position with the county, Utt was a regional planner for New River Planning District Commission and was public relations director for the city of Radford. He helped draft Pulaski’s Flood Mitigation Plan while working for the PDC and he also was involved in the drafting of comprehensive plans and zoning ordinances, two areas of importance to the town.
Utt also was instrumental in the start-up of the hardwood flooring company “Floors by Design.” This experience with entrepreneurship has been beneficial in his position as a board member of “Micro-Solutions,” a small-business development program of the county, town, and Beans and Rice Inc.
A native of Galax, Utt is a graduate of Radford University and is in the process of completing a master’s degree in public administration from Virginia Tech. He is a member of several professional organizations and was selected to participate in the Political Leadership Program of the University of Virginia’s prestigious Sorensen Institute.
His wife, Ann Margaret Gatchel Utt is a graduate of Randolph-Macon Woman’s College and teacher at Dublin Middle School.