The state School Building Authority’s board promoted Ben Ashley from assistant director to director of architectural services on Tuesday and hired Sue Chapman, chief financial officer of the recently eliminated state Department of Education and the Arts, as SBA finance director.
The SBA board also voted to give raises to SBA staff. Tuesday’s votes were voice votes with no nays heard.
SBA Executive Director David Roach, who didn’t get a raise, said the moves will save personnel costs overall for next fiscal year because he’s not planning to fill the assistant architectural services director position Ashley vacated, thus dropping to three of those assistant directors, and Ashley and Chapman are planned to start with lower salaries than their predecessors. Ashley and Chapman will both make $85,000 a year starting off.
Three employees received just the $2,160-across-the-board raise state lawmakers approved for state workers this year.
The assistant architectural services directors — Mike Hall, Joyce VanGilder and Dana Womack — will each see their pay increase from $67,296 to $75,000. Roach said that’s due to a combination of the $2,160 raise plus extra pay deserved for them taking on extra duties with the elimination of Ashley’s assistant director position.
Roach said Senior Technical Assistant Angie Bradley is also taking on more duties and her position is changing to architectural services coordinator, with a salary increase from $47,785 to $55,000.
Roach also said he plans annual raises of up to $440 based on merit, evaluations, availability of funds and likely other factors.
The SBA uses state general revenue, bond proceeds and lottery money to fund school construction and renovation projects.
Ashley said he thinks the agency can handle the elimination of his former assistant director position.
He said anticipated policy changes will “put more of the planning aspects on the county itself and their administrators, and less on us to be totally involved in everything that goes on in the very early stages.”
“It’ll allow us to serve the counties more efficiently on the construction side of things,” Ashley said. “... We won’t be as involved as we were in driving the meetings and kind of running the show because we want local decisions to be made locally.”
Ashley is replacing Scott Raines, who resigned effective April 30 after over a dozen years on the SBA staff, and Chapman is replacing Garry Stewart, who’s been with the SBA since 1990, around the agency’s birth.
Roach said probably six people expressed interest in the architectural services director position, but only three submitted applications. They were interviewed by Roach; Rod Watkins, who said he retired in 2012 from working with Charleston-based ZMM Architects & Engineers; and Win Strock, who’s recently been a paid SBA consultant and last year publicly criticized how much the SBA was paying construction management firms.
Roach said there was no one at the SBA with the expertise to interview Ashley that wouldn’t be his subordinate if he were hired. ZMM is among the architecture firms that work on school construction projects funded by the SBA.
Ashley, 33, has worked as one of the SBA assistant directors since 2010. He received a bachelor’s degree in architecture from the University of Tennessee and a master’s degree in business administration from West Virginia University.
“I’m totally honored to be given this responsibility, and I look forward to serving the Authority and the state in this capacity,” he said.
He’s the son of Bob Ashley, legislative director for Republican Gov. Jim Justice and a longtime former Republican state lawmaker. Ben Ashley is also married to Suzette Raines Ashley, a former Republican delegate who’s the first cousin of Scott Raines, the man he’s replacing.
Ben Ashley said he worked with Raines at the SBA for 7 years, including 5 years as his subordinate, and he learned a lot under Raines.
“I hated to see him go and I think the world of him,” Ashley said, but he’s excited to fill his shoes.