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Arlington Appoints Business Ombudsman

Shannon Flanagan-Watson01(Updated at 1:25 p.m.) Arlington’s business community appears to have a new champion in the County Manager’s office.

Yesterday, County Manager Barbara Donnellan announced the appointment of Assistant County Manager Shannon Flanagan-Watson as the county’s new business ombudsman, responsible for working with the business community to identify improvements to the county’s business processes.

Flanagan-Watson served as the director of business development for the International City/County Management Association before coming to Arlington, according to her biography on the county’s website.

“During my listening tour with the business community last year, I learned a lot about how we can improve the way we do business,” Donnellan said in a press release. “One important component is appointing a senior-level person in my office to work on my behalf with the business community in coordination with County officials and agencies. Shannon brings the skills, passion and understanding of how important our work is in this area to nurture sustainable partnerships.”

Flanagan-Watson will report directly to Donnellan and work with the county’s BizTeam, an interdepartmental group created to assist small businesses with navigating the county’s bureaucracy. For site plans projects, however, the ombudsman will only become involved after County Board approval.

Flanagan-Watson will continue to serve as Assistant County Manager, and none of her responsibilities in that position have been removed, according to Arlington Director of Communications Diana Sun.

“This is not a new position, but rather a new area of focus for me as an Assistant County Manager, and I am excited for the opportunity to work with businesses here or looking to come to Arlington,” Flanagan-Watson told ARLnow.com in an email. “This new role will provide an additional resource and point person to ensure the permitting process in Arlington is as efficient and smooth as possible.”

Ombudsmen, by definition, are typically given a degree of independence from the organization over which they have oversight to ensure they are effective in advocating for the public’s — or in this case, the business community’s — best interests.

Photo via Arlington County

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