The announcement that Acting County Manager Mark Schwartz was elevated permanently to the top post comes as a surprise to no one. It does represent a missed opportunity to change course in Arlington.
The Board undoubtedly viewed their last attempt to bring in an outsider on as County Manager as a failure. Michael Brown’s short tenure ended when he and the County Board did not see eye to eye. While Brown graciously offered an excuse of his wife’s health when he resigned, it is no secret that the Board did not like having a County Manager who desired to do things differently.
The Board then elevated Barbara Donnellan, a long-term county employee to the post. Donnellan certainly was by all accounts well-liked and well-respected, a quality not to be taken lightly. More importantly to the Board, she was well entrenched in the status quo way of doing things in Arlington and already had an established reputation with Board Members.
Now Mark Schwartz has been given the job. His resume certainly backs up the hire on paper. Qualifications aside, Schwartz is someone who, like Donnellan, was part of an Arlington government that brought us the Columbia Pike streetcar, the artisphere and aquatics center. These were bad ideas that have since been mothballed because of public pressure or mounting costs that the Board could no longer support.
Maybe the national search the Board said it conducted did not find anyone equally or more qualified. That certainly may be true. But, it seems doubtful that any premium was placed on bringing in a fresh perspective to how Arlington County operates on a daily basis. And, that is a loss for Arlingtonians.
On the upside, Schwartz is an Arlington resident. So, if he recommends a tax increase, he will have to pay it.
Parents Deserve to Know
Surely what we experienced last weekend was a storm of historic proportions. However, many parents are beginning to ask why school has now been canceled for the entire week. Superintendent Murphy posted a news release on Tuesday, but as of the writing of this column has said nothing at length since then. So, it begs the question, what are the criteria that lead to school being closed for the entire week?