Last July, Virginia Tech President Tim Sands expanded the role of the Office of Government and Community Relations at Virginia Tech and created a new role: director of local government and community relations in the New River Valley. After an extensive search this past fall, Emily Gibson starts in this new role on Jan. 10. 
According to Chris Yianilos, Virginia Tech’s vice president of Government and Community Relations, “the decision to create this new position was driven by the need to further engage community partners in and around the Blacksburg campus. Peer institutions around the country have created local community relations positions to the great benefit of universities and their surrounding communities. With her Hokie background, and her extensive experience in local governments in Virginia, including Montgomery County, Emily is a natural fit.”
Gibson came to Virginia Tech after spending more than 15 years in local government, including the previous seven years as the director of planning and geographic information system (GIS) services for Montgomery County. In her role at the university, she will serve as a key liaison for the university with the local governments and communities in the NRV as well as a central coordinator of university engagement.
Gibson will report to Elizabeth Hooper, associate vice president for Government and Community Relations.
“Emily brings a significant amount of local government experience and knowledge with her to Virginia Tech,” Hooper said. “Much of her career has allowed her to establish relationships with many of our community leaders. As a resident of Blacksburg, she understands firsthand the opportunities and challenges the university and the surrounding communities face.
“I was really impressed with her positive attitude and measured approach to her work. She has a genuine interest in local government and local policy, and I believe her strong communication skills will help her when interacting with community leaders in Blacksburg and beyond. I’m excited for her to join Virginia Tech.”
Gibson will be developing and cultivating meaningful relationships with key community groups such as local chambers of commerce, local economic development offices, and relevant regional trade associations. She will coordinate with university officials to facilitate engagement on issues of importance, including quality-of-life issues, infrastructure, sustainability, public schools, transportation, economic development, and planning.
“Certainly, when you’re working in Montgomery County, you’re working with the two towns quite a bit because the towns aren’t set up to exist on their own,” Gibson said. “They’re partnered with the county on many services such as courts and schools. The whole New River Valley excels at collaboration. I’ve worked very closely with the county, both towns and other localities, like Radford and Pulaski. We all collaborate on quite a few things here, and we’re unique in that way. Most areas do not enjoy as much collaboration.”
Prior to returning to Blacksburg in 2015, Gibson, her husband, and their family lived in Mathews, Virginia, where she worked in planning for Gloucester County for eight years. She also served as a planning commissioner in Mathews County.
Additionally, Gibson volunteered as a regional director on the Board of PlanVA (now LUEP), an organization formed more than 60 years ago to educate localities on land use and planning issues. In 2012, she was elected as vice president of legislative and policy affairs for the Virginia chapter of the American Planning Association and served in that capacity through 2016. She has been recognized nationally by Engaging Local Government Leaders (ELGL) with a Traeger Award in 2016 and 2019 as a top influencer in local government.
Gibson graduated from Virginia Tech in 2003 with a degree in environmental policy and planning. While attending the university, she worked for the National Bank of Blacksburg, so she certainly possesses extensive knowledge of issues important to both the university and to the New River Valley.
“After working in local government for 15 years, I have a good understanding of some of the constraints local governments experience and some of the frustrations they may have,” Gibson said. “I’m looking forward to learning more about the university’s perspective and working towards breaking down some of the internal and external silos that happen over time. That’s a talent that I have, just working on opening lines of communication and meeting people where they are.”
To learn more about Virginia Tech’s Office of Government and Community Relations, please click here.

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