NORFOLK, Va. (AP) - The city that is home to the world's largest naval base has hired a retiring Navy officer to help make it more attractive to active-duty military and veterans.
Capt. John S. Andrews started this week as a special assistant to Norfolk City Manager Marcus Jones. The Virginian-Pilot reports ( http://bit.ly/HlJtk3) that Andrews will be paid nearly $100,000 per year to help Norfolk grow its active-duty and veteran military presence. He will be one of the city's highest-paid employees
Andrews, 55, will retire from the Navy in June after a 29-year career as a naval flight officer. He was a top aide to Adm. John C. Harvey Jr., the four-star leader of the Navy's Fleet Forces Command, and he spent a year in Iraq with an Army unit as the chief of staff of the multinational security transition team.
A national survey last year named Norfolk the second-best place for veterans to live behind Oklahoma City. Norfolk officials hope Andrews will help the city take over the top spot.
Nearly one-fifth of Norfolk's residents are veterans, which is slightly less than neighboring Virginia Beach and on par with nearby Chesapeake, Suffolk and Portsmouth, according to U.S. Census estimates.
"I know there are opportunities to grow that military presence, but that's got to be somebody's job," said Mayor Paul Fraim.
The city paid about $116,000 last year to the Hampton Roads Military and Federal Facilities Alliance, a regional initiative created to protect, sustain and grow military and federal activity, according to its executive director, Craig Quigley. The alliance focuses on issues related to military facilities, Quigley said.
Andrews said he plans to concentrate on the concerns of current troops and veterans, including the state's tax on retirement benefits, which he said veterans dislike. Andrews said he would advocate abolishing it.
It was the military pension tax and the city's above-average unemployment rate that were noted by a national study commissioned by USAA and Military.com that ranked Norfolk as the second-best place for veterans. The city received high marks for its abundant federal jobs and industries looking for employees with military skills and for its attractive climate, affordable housing and access to base amenities and a VA hospital.
The city wasn't ranked in the 2010 list.
Andrews' job is unique to South Hampton Roads. No other city has a staffer solely dedicated to military affairs.
Virginia Beach had a military liaison, but the job was cut from the budget. Last year, Portsmouth wanted to pay a consultant $130 an hour to help the city grow its Coast Guard presence, but public outcry was so great the person hired resigned.
Norfolk resident Joe Floyd, who regularly speaks at City Council meetings, said the newly created position, which also comes with benefits, is a waste of taxpayer money because most military retirees don't plan to leave.
"They're not going anywhere," he said. "They've got the ships, they've got the commissary, and they've got everything. Why would they want to leave Norfolk?"
Councilman Tommy Smigiel said he wants to make sure that Andrews' performance is evaluated.
Andrews was one of 276 individuals who applied for the job, city spokeswoman Lori Crouch said.
His first job: move to Norfolk himself. Andrews grew up in Virginia Beach and he currently lives there.
Information from: The Virginian-Pilot, http://pilotonline.com
(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)