Jerry Schiro has spent his adult life in public service, and gives Lord Fairfax Community College, the lion’s share of credit for his success. He started and ended his career in Luray, and currently serves on the Luray Town Council. It was during his time as Luray Town Manager in 2004-05 that he and other area residents discussed the possibility of having a community college here, and it has been ten years since those conversations became a reality.
Schiro, a 1969 graduate of Luray High School, has a vested interest in Lord Fairfax Community College because he is a graduate. This happened after he started his career with Luray as a police officer and then later as chief, a post he held for ten years from 1975-85. Schiro received the award for outstanding graduate in police science in 1980 at LFCC and also attended the FBI Academy in 1981, the first police officer from Page County to do so.
“If it had not been for Lord Fairfax, I would not have been able to go to college,” Schiro said. “Even driving to Middletown like we had to do back then, it was an opportunity to get my degree and work at the same time. It was a significant step in my life and career to be able to attend LFCC.”
Schiro graduated from James Madison University and has completed graduate work at the University of Virginia. His career interest shifted from police work to public safety and municipal management in 1985. He left Luray in 1988 to pursue an opportunity in management in Purcellville and later moved on to Chevy Chase, Maryland. He came home to Page County, where he did a one-year stint as county administrator before returning to the town of Luray as manager.
“My first love has always been the Town of Luray,” Schiro said.
In 2003, the Town of Luray purchased the Vanity Fair Wrangler Annex on Hawksbill Street from V.F. Jeanswear after a corporate downsizing. The town intended to use the building as a business incubator. Schiro said there was some success with the incubation process, citing Kiariz Coffee, a book binding business, and the temporary move of the municipal offices to the Hawksbill Street site during the town chambers renovation process.
“Education is a key component of economic development,” Schiro said. “After talking with others, I met with Dr. Ski (former LFCC President John Sygelski) and asked if he thought the building could help provide more of a presence in Page County. He jumped at the opportunity to get a satellite facility of LFCC here.”
The process was not instantaneous. The Luray Town Council, Page County Board of Supervisors, LFCC College Board, and others worked tirelessly with the Commonwealth of Virginia to bring the project to fruition. The process from discussion to opening took about two years. The Center opened in January 2006.
“We used inmate labor, Tommy Wiatrowski served as the project superintendent, and the town served as the general contractor for the project,” Schiro said.
Schiro said that the opening of the Luray-Page County Center was a crowning moment for himself and all of those who had worked on the project.
“I would have to honestly say that’s the proudest accomplishment in my government career,” he said. “And I didn’t do it by myself. Many people were involved. But it is great to know that many people have opportunities that they didn’t have before because of the presence of LFCC in this community.”
Schiro served two years on the LFCC College Board until he accepted a position in Middleburg, Virginia and had to resign from the board. The LFCC Board meetings were the same night as the Middleburg Council meetings. Now retired from paid public service, Schiro serves on the Luray Town Council, serving a prior term from 2008-12. He also serves as a consultant specializing in Local Government Management, and is active in a number of community non-profit organizations.
“If someone had told me when I was a kid that I was going to be a town manager, or that I was going to spend a career in local government, I would have thought they were crazy,” he said. “I credit LFCC for helping me get started.”