Donnellan Takes Back the Reins

by ARLnow.com October 1, 2010 at 12:58 pm 3,513 15 Comments

Just four months after her service as interim county manager ended, Barbara Donnellan has accepted the county board’s offer to become Arlington’s first permanent female county manager.

Donnellan made her first public appearance as the newly-appointed county manager at a grand opening ceremony for the county’s new Department of Human Services building. She was greeted by county employees and members of Arlington’s state legislative delegation, including Del. Patrick Hope and Del. Adam Ebbin.

Donnellan brings 27 years of experience in county government and seven months of experience as interim county manager to the table.

When she first accepted the interim position, she says she was only interested in testing out the job.

“I wasn’t sure if it was something I wanted to do,” she said. Despite snow storms, a huge budget gap and other challenges during her short tenure, Donnellan says she came to enjoy the position.

“Toward the end of it I actually became interested in it,” she said. By that time, however, the county was concluding a long search for someone to fill the position. Savannah City Manager Michael Brown took the job, and Donnellan returned to her old post as deputy county manager.

On Wednesday, as Brown prepared his resignation letter, Donnellan was asked again if she wanted the job. She said yes.

“I’ve always had lots of opportunities to do some significant stuff, and this will allow me to continue carrying out the policies of the board, working with the workforce [to address] their needs, and giving the community the best that they can get from the government,” she said.

Donnellan says she’s looking forward to tackling another challenging budget.

“This will probably be my 28th budget in the county,” she said. “Finance is what I know. It is going to be a challenge. I think the community worked with me well last year in trying to sort through some of the issues around balancing the budget.”

“This year the market is a little bit better, and it’s not as difficult as it was going to be last year, but that’s not to say there’s not going to be a gap we’re going to have to close,” Donnellan added. “I’m going to work with my department directors, I’m going to work with the county board and we’re going to figure it out.”

County board member Chris Zimmerman says Donnellan was a natural choice to replace Brown.

“I think we’re very, very fortunate to have someone of the caliber of Barbara Donnellan here,” he said. “We could not be in better hands. Barbara is the kind of person who when we have an impossible job, she’s the one who always gets it done. I think there’s a very high degree of confidence in the person who now has the reins.”

  • Skeptical

    That’s “reins,” guys. As in equestrian harness. It’s also an antiquated term for kidneys, but I think they’re not involved here.

    • cj

      Taking back the reigns would mean reining in the Board?

    • Joe

      After yesterday, maybe it’s r-a-i-n-s.

  • G

    Congratulations to Barbara Donnellan. Sounds like she deserves it, and is well suited for the position.

  • el fat kid

    both spellings work….

    When discussing govt spending or action ‘rein’ w/ no g is the preferred spelling but when simply referring to overall control the ‘g’ is often used and fits particularly well when discussing the People’s Republic of Arlington.

    • la skinny adult

      Fat and happy, just like the People’s Republic of China.

      • el fat kid

        kinda funny tho b/c China might be the one place where supply-side economics actually works.

    • JohnB

      No, both spellings do not work here. Even if one were to accept that running Arlington is equivalent to a reign, “person who now has the reigns” makes no sense. If you want to use “reign,” then make it “who now reigns” or “who begins her new reign.”

      • After due consideration I have switched to ‘reins.’

  • shirley

    very exciting news. she knows her stuff, loves Arlington and knows how the board and how to manage/respond to it. Congrats.

    • Clarendude

      I didn’t see any mention – does she live in Arlington ?

      • Anthony

        Good question. Is it a requirement for the job?

        • Jezebel


  • carl

    It’s a shame Ms. Donnellan didn’t apply for the job to begin with, but I’m glad that Arlington is holding on to its top tier staff.

  • JimPB

    Congratulations and best wishes, Barbara Donnellan. Glad your talents and commitment to Arlington County were recognized.


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