DICKENSON COUNTY, Va. – The Dickenson County Department of Economic Development has been paired with two Master of Public Policy Tadler Fellows from the University of Virginia’s Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy, located in Charlottesville, VA. Dana Cronkhite, Dickenson County’s Director of Economic Development, will be working with the students over the course of the next two semesters on projects vital to the continued growth of Dickenson County.
In August, twelve students from the program traveled to Southwest Virginia and met with Cronkhite, and other local leaders, to learn about the culture, the strengths, and the challenges faced in rural Appalachia. During these meetings, Cronkhite was introduced to Raegan Larussa and Katharine Barbour, who have been tasked with examining and exploring public policy in Dickenson County as it pertains to housing, tourism, and increasing revenues within the county’s border.
Raegan Larussa is a 2nd year Master of Public Policy Candidate at the University of Virginia. She is originally from Texas and graduated magna cum laude from the University of North Texas with a B.A. in Political Science. Her professional background includes a year as an AmeriCorps service fellow at a charter school in New Jersey. She later completed a fellowship at a workforce development agency in New York City. Larussa will be focused on the ever-growing housing crisis in Dickenson County. She will be examining how the county can better position itself to be attractive to investors and developers.
"Visiting Southwest Virginia was an awesome experience,” said Larussa. “I learned so much about the history of the area and was in awe of the beautiful mountains, especially since I come from a pretty flat part of Texas! I'm very excited to work on housing initiatives within the County over the course of the next 8 months and look forward to learning more about Dickenson County."
Katharine Barbour is from Northampton County on the Eastern Shore of Virginia, a narrow peninsula east of the Chesapeake Bay. She is currently a second-year Master of Public Policy candidate at the University of Virginia and holds a B.A. in Foreign Affairs from UVA. She primarily focuses on rural policy, with a particular interest in educational access and outcomes in rural areas as well as innovative economic development strategies. Barbour will be focused on increasing revenue and tourism in the county by improving the online footprint for current and aspiring entrepreneurs/small businesses and how that relates to the tourism industry and local revenues.
"I’m looking forward to working alongside community leaders to harness Dickenson County’s already robust natural and cultural assets into a path toward further economic development,” said Barbour. “Growing up in a small, rural community on Virginia’s Eastern Shore, I have firsthand experience with many of the policy challenges facing Southwest Virginia. That being said, Dickenson County is a unique place with unique needs. I am incredibly excited about this opportunity to apply what I am learning about Southwest Virginia to a county-specific economic development strategy."
“We are honored to be able to take part in these students’ education and participation in The Tadler Graduate Fellowship,” said Dana Cronkhite, Dickenson County Director of Economic Development. “The challenges that we are facing in Dickenson County are vast and although we are making headway in many areas, we still have a long way to go. It is refreshing and motivating to be able to walk alongside such bright and talented students, and we look forward to learning their perspective and ideas in the coming months.”
Photo: Reagan Larussa
Photo: Katharine Barbour
2023 Tadler Fellows (left to right): Savannah Hundley, Raegan Larussa, Sam Roche, (UVA-Wise Vice President Shannon Blevins is in green jacket), Ryan Strand, Sydnee Pottebaum, Christian Oliver-Smith, Donna Reynolds, Sophie McGinley, Garreth Hayden, Conor O'Donnell, Katharine Barbour, Christin Choi