Daily planner: Tucker watching county growth


Bob Tucker comes from a rural past much like the one Albemarle is struggling to preserve. He grew up on a farm in Moultrie, Georgia, that raised Black Angus cattle, hogs, tobacco, cotton, and peanuts.

There's one aspect of rural life Albemarle's county executive doesn't miss: feeding the hogs. "The odor," he exclaims in a barely detectable Georgia accent. "You haven't smelled anything until you've been around 250 head of hogs."

Tucker is pretty far off the farm these days, sitting in his office on the top floor of the Albemarle County Office Building, from which he's run the county for the past 15 years.

But protecting Albemarle's rural areas has been his agenda since he first came here 33 years ago, when the county started its first planning department.

Even in 1973, the philosophy was, "Encourage growth in designated development areas to discourage growth in the rural areas." Tucker recites the mantra he's said many times over the years.

And now the rubber's hitting the road. Residents in Crozet, Glenmore, and urban ring communities like Mill Creek are chafed that the Albemarle holy grail, its Comprehensive Plan, has designated them growth spots suitable for high-density developments such as Old Trail, Rivanna Village, and the soon-to-be-rezoned Breeden property south of town.

"The real challenge now– a lot of those development areas are seeing more activity," says Tucker.

Tucker has seen Albemarle move from the rural/suburban to a more urbanized, service-demanding community. He remembers when there was a drive-in at Hydraulic and Emmet where Kroger is now, and how driving by on the 250 Bypass, you could see the movie screen.

Meanwhile, it's budget time again. "We're trying to provide all those urban services– sidewalks, better police and fire response– and keep the tax rate low," notes Tucker. Albemarle's tax rate is 74 cents per $100, from which schools take the largest chunk, and 10 cents gets handed to Charlottesville.

Growth is an issue not unique to Albemarle, he points out. "Some people feel like we're out of control," he says. "We're not. We have one-and-a-half-percent growth. That's manageable. Look at Loudoun. It's grown 48 percent in five years."

It was under the influence of JFK's "ask not what your country can do for you" that Tucker came into planning. A friend at the University of Georgia when he was an undergrad told him about it as a way to control growth, and Tucker saw planning as what "I could do for my country."

He served as Albemarle's planning director and assistant county executive before taking over the top spot.

Tucker keeps a pretty low profile– and that's not an accident. "My motto is, don't get out in front of my board," he explains. That policy apparently has worked– Tucker has outlasted the board that appointed him 15 years ago, and seems to get along well with the current Board of Supervisors.

"I have no contract, and I serve at the pleasure of the board," says Tucker. He's seen colleagues get in trouble thinking they're king of the county. Tucker never forgets: "I have six bosses."

Age: 50 something

Why here? My wife and I moved here in 1973 when I filled the position of assistant director of planning for Albemarle.

What's worst about living here? Nothing is really bad about living here, but a little less humidity in July and August would be nice.

Favorite hangout? Sugar Hollow

Most overrated virtue? No true virtue is overrated.

People would be surprised to know: That I grew up on a farm in South Georgia

What would you change about yourself? To be able to carve out more time for me and my family

Proudest accomplishment? So far, my 33 years with the county and obtaining a AAA bond rating, making us the smallest county in the United States with one. For a local government manager, this equates to the film industry's Academy Award.

People find most annoying about you: My family tells me it's being a perfectionist.

Whom do you admire? Mother Teresa and JFK

Favorite book? Anything by Annie Proulx, John Irving, or Ian McEwan

Subject that causes you to rant? I don't rant, but it's disappointing to hear adults whine.

Biggest 21st-century thrill? My Blackberry

Biggest 21st-century creep out? Worldwide terrorism, a potential pandemic, and my Blackberry

What do you drive? BMW X5

In your car CD player right now: Something by Brooks and Dunn or Los Lonely Boys

Next journey? Hopefully to the beach, any beach

Most trouble you've ever gotten in? It could very well be agreeing to be interviewed for the HotSeat.

Regret: Not spending more time with my family over the course of my career, especially when my children were younger

Favorite comfort food: Peanut butter

Always in your refrigerator: Corona Light and lots of lime

Must-see TV: News channels, ESPN, and BookTV

Favorite cartoon: All those in the New Yorker magazines

Describe a perfect day: A morning run on the beach, spending the majority of the day with my family– reading on the beach and swimming in the ocean– then ending the day with a fresh seafood dinner

Walter Mitty fantasy: Owning a house on a secluded beach

Who'd play you in the movie? Robert Redford or Paul Newman

Most embarrassing moment? This is more awkward than embarrassing, but while in college I broke a date at the last minute with a young lady in order to go out with someone else, and later that same evening I ran into the young lady at a party. I made the right decision, however, since I've been married to the "someone else" for over 37 years.

Best advice you ever got? Treat everyone as if they will not be here tomorrow.

Favorite bumper sticker? We're not human beings going thru a spiritual experience, but spiritual beings going thru a human experience.

Bob Tucker