City Attorney To Retire
Thumma Named To Post Full Time In 2005
Posted: November 30, 2012
HARRISONBURG — City Attorney Earl Thumma Jr. will retire in the spring after providing legal counsel for Harrisonburg for more than 20 years.
The city posted a job opening for Thumma’s position on its website this week. Candidates are encouraged to apply by Jan. 14, though applications will be accepted until the position is filled.
A Harrisonburg native, Thumma, 66, served as the part-time city attorney for 14 years until 2000. At that time, a City Council carrying an anti-golf course platform replaced him with Tom Miller.
Council chose not to reappoint Thumma, Councilwoman Carolyn Frank said in 2000, because of a disagreement over a contract associated with the city-owned Heritage Oaks Golf Course.
In 2004, with a new council in place, Thumma was reappointed and has held the position since. He became a full-time employee — the city’s first full-time attorney — in 2005.
Thumma will leave city government at the end of March.
“It’s been a good client and it’s been a good job,” he said. “I’m just ready to hang it up and retire.”
Thumma had a private law firm that dealt primarily with real estate before joining the city. A municipal attorney must have expertise in a range of fields, including taxation, land use, contracts, litigation and employment law.
Councilman Charles Chenault, who was elected to the 2004 panel that reappointed Thumma, said the retiring attorney has those topics covered, and works while reflecting the city’s values.
“Earl represents, to me, what Harrisonburg is all about,” he said. “He’s been a great friend, a real gentleman. I think that still has a meaning. ... He’s not a fighter. He’s a negotiator.”
Chenault said he met Thumma almost 50 years ago, when the attorney worked summers for the Harrisonburg Parks and Recreation Department and Chenault participated in programs.
“As kids,” Chenault said, “we thought he put the sun up.”
At more than $131,000, Thumma has the second-highest salary in city government, behind only City Manager Kurt Hodgen. He graduated from the University of Virginia with a degree in commerce and then received a law degree from the Marshall-Wythe School of Law at the College of William and Mary.
Thumma thinks interest will be high in his position, similar to earlier this year when former Police Chief Don Harper retired and more than four dozen people applied for the job.
“The people that work for the city are easy to work with,” Thumma said. “You don’t have an overabundance of problems. It’s just a good atmosphere to work in.”
Contact Preston Knight at 574-6272 or firstname.lastname@example.org