RANSON – Ranson City Manager Andy Blake, who has been instrumental in guiding the city’s residential and commercial development over the past 13 years, will leave his post next month.
Blake will take a post as the deputy legal director for Berkeley County. His last day on the job in Ranson is Nov. 22.
“I have the sincerest of gratitude for the opportunities that I have had in Ranson, Blake wrote in a resignation letter he submitted Oct. 20. “I commit to making the transition as smooth as possible and wish Ranson nothing but success.”
He starts his new job Dec. 2. It will pay $117,500, almost $700 more than his current salary as city manager. His resignation noted his immediate withdrawal as the city’s representative on the Jefferson County Development Authority board and member of the Hagerstown-Eastern Panhandle Metropolitan Planning Organization.
Hired as Ranson’s in-house attorney in 2006, Blake was promoted to city manager in 2013, a position that saw him overseeing city government operations, development decisions and construction projects.
During his tenure with the city, Ranson’s population rose more than 30 percent from 2007 to 2018 to about 5,200 residents, according to the U.S. Census. The city’s tax base, according to tax assessment data from the West Virginia State Auditor’s Office, grew more than 23 percent while he was city manager during those same 11 years. He supervised a $5.5 million municipal budget and a staff of about 40 employees administering city operations and programs in planning and zoning, public works, finance and public parks.
In his first seven years with the city, Blake worked closely with former mayor Dave Hamill, who died in 2016, and former city manager David Mills.
One of Blake’s first major undertakings was revamping Ranson’s zoning code to adopt a SmartCode concept allowing for the development of more walkable and mixed-use neighborhoods with more public open spaces. Blake completed undergraduate studies at Shepherd University and earned his law degree at West Virginia University. He earned several awards and honors for his municipal projects and achievements. In 2016, he was recognized nationally for his work as an urban planner by the Congress for the New Urbanism, an urban planning association in Washington, D.C.
Updating the city’s comprehensive plan, rebuilding and extending Fairfax Boulevard, managing brownfield industrial cleanups, and obtaining millions in various federal and state grants were his most significant activities and accomplishments. While progress on Fairfax Boulevard has recently slowed, Blake said the road will be completed.
“The road will get built because it is critical to economic development and public safety, and one way or the other the city will be reimbursed, but the priority is to get it built and a groundbreaking could be held in the spring,” he said.
As the city manager, it was Blake’s job to oversee zoning changes and building permit approvals for the Rockwool factory, which promises to bring 150 jobs. The Rockwool plant has attracted intense criticism from some area residents who fear it will lead to more industrial activity in the county.