2015-05-06 / News

Stegmaier returns to work after cancer-related surgery

By Jim McConnell

County Administrator Jay Stegmaier spoke at the Wegmans groundbreaking ceremony on Midlothian Turnpike in mid-April. 
James Haskins/Chesterfield Observer County Administrator Jay Stegmaier spoke at the Wegmans groundbreaking ceremony on Midlothian Turnpike in mid-April. James Haskins/Chesterfield Observer Chesterfield’s chief executive is back at work on a full-time basis, more than six weeks after he underwent a cancer-related surgical procedure.

County Administrator Jay Stegmaier returned to the office part-time about two weeks ago. His doctors cleared him last Tuesday to resume his regular work schedule.

Stegmaier, 61, spoke publicly about his health issues for the first time during last week’s Board of Supervisors meeting.

Thanking county staff and citizens for their support during his absence, Stegmaier noted that “the past few weeks have been very challenging for me and my family” as he recovered from surgery and had follow-up treatments for an unspecified form of the disease.

“The good news is I’m past most of that,” he added. “I’ve had some good test results in the past few days. I’m back at work and on the road to recovery.”

The timing of Stegmaier’s absence was less than ideal, as the county government proceeded through the most critical phase of its annual calendar – budget season – without its top executive.

Stegmaier delayed his departure as long as possible. He presented the county’s fiscal year 2016 budget to the Board of Supervisors on March 9, went out on medical leave March 16 and was in surgery the next day.

Deputy County Administrator Bill Dupler noted at the time that if Stegmaier had any choice in the matter, he wouldn’t have opted to be out of the office as his staff helped the board hammer out final details of the county’s financial plan.

Stegmaier, who has worked for the county since 1979 and served as county administrator since 2007, concurred with Dupler’s comment and acknowledged that he typically would’ve had a difficult time walking away from his work responsibilities.

“This was different because I was dealing with a life-or-death situation,” he said.

While Stegmaier recuperated, the county enjoyed one of its least contentious budget seasons in recent memory. Unlike last year, when the Board of Supervisors failed to gain consensus on spending reductions and ultimately decided to increase the county’s property tax rate by a penny, the board unanimously approved a fiscal year 2016 budget that includes about $18 million in additional local revenue.

Board Chairman Steve Elswick praised Dupler, who filled in as interim county administrator, and other staff for “stepping up to the plate” during Stegmaier’s absence.

“Bill did a really good job. We know his capability, but I would say he exceeded our expectations,” Elswick said. “It was truly a team effort. That’s what you expect in that situation – for your employees to rise to the occasion.”

Dupler called Stegmaier “the ultimate collaborative leader” and credited him for fostering a team approach that allows staff to “keep doing the people’s business when one of us is gone.”

For his part, Stegmaier wasn’t surprised that the county government continued to operate smoothly without him.

“Most successful leaders in any organization emphasize the development of leaders beyond themselves,” he said. “Giving your people a chance to step into leadership positions on a regular basis is a critical piece of talent development.”

Asked if the medical leave prompted any thoughts of retiring and walking away permanently, Stegmaier said he always intended to return to his post unless his health prevented him from doing so.

“I’ve spent more time at work than home for 35 years,” he added. “I crossed that bridge a long time ago.”

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