Arlington, VA

Update on 6/18 — The proposal to move the library has been withdrawn.

County leaders got an earful about the proposed relocation of the Columbia Pike Branch Library at a town hall meeting last night.

“An angry standing room crowd” holding “signs and banners” loudly engaged library and county officials at the Arlington Career Center, a resident who attended the meeting tells us.

Career Center and Patrick Henry Elementary School students were among those speaking out against the move. Officials in attendance included new County Manager Michael Brown and Library Director Diane Kresh.

The proposal to move the library from Walter Reed Drive to Arlington Mill Drive, further down Columbia Pike, has attracted a torrent of criticism from those who live near the library. One post about the move on the Arlington Library Blog has attracted more than 100 comments, most of them negative.

Deputy County Manager Marsha Allgeier, who also attended the town hall, had this to say about the meeting:

Last night’s meeting was productive. We will continue this conversation with the community on whether it makes sense to move the Columbia Pike Branch library from its current location on Walter Reed Drive to the Arlington Mill Community Center on Columbia Pike. Staff will continue to listen to the community until the County Manager feels he can make a recommendation to the Board. The decision on the design of Arlington Mill can be made without a final decision on whether the library branch should be moved. We will take as much time as needed to make a good recommendation to the Board on the future of the branch library, a library meant to serve all of Columbia Pike.

The Sun Gazette reports that change-of-government supporters took advantage of the public anger and gathered “several dozen” petition signatures outside the Career Center.

Photo via the Library Blog.

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An who’s who of Arlington civic society showed up at the county government building last night to greet new county manager Michael Brown.

Brown and his wife warmly greeted a long procession of well-wishers. The line was more than 25 deep at one point, snaking all the way back to the tables set up with cheese, crackers and other snacks for the occasion.

Among the people in attendance were county employees, heads of business associations, county board members and other local business leaders and civic-minded folks, including:

Barbara Favola, Walter Tejada and Chris Zimmerman, county board members; Angela Fox, President/CEO of Crystal City BID; Takis Karantonis, Executive Director of Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization; Diana Sun, Arlington County Director of Communications; James Pebley of the Arlington County Civic Federation; developer John G. Shooshan; Rich Doud, President of the Arlington Chamber of Commerce; and Shannon Flanagan-Watston, Assistant County Manager and Brown’s chief-of-staff.

County board chairman Jay Fisette was also in attendance. He delivered a short introduction of Brown later in the reception.

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After a week on the job, new Arlington county manager Michael Brown participated in his first county board meeting Saturday morning.

Board Chairman Jay Fisette kicked off the meeting by welcoming Brown to Arlington.

“Thank you Mr. Chairman, it’s great to be here,” Brown reciprocated later in the nearly five hour meeting.

Brown also took time to thank deputy county manager Barbara Donnellan, who served as interim county manager prior to his arrival. Brown said his transition was made much easier by Donnellan’s work on this year’s operating and capital budgets.

You can meet Brown in person tonight at public reception being held between 5:00 and 8:00 in the lobby of the county government building (2100 Clarendon Blvd).

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New County Manager Michael Brown has been so busy with staff briefings and catch-up readings this week that some county officials say they’ve barely seen him outside his office.

Despite his busy schedule, AVN (the county-run TV operation we wrote about on Wednesday) managed to sit down with Brown earlier this week to get his thoughts on Arlington and on the job ahead. He also talked about his passion for the outdoors.

You can also see the interview we did with Brown here and here.

Residents will get their first opportunity to see Brown in person on Saturday morning, when he makes his debut at the county board meeting.

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County Government’s Michael Brown Era Begins — Former Savannah, Ga. city manager Michael Brown was officially appointed as Arlington’s new County Manager today, a month and a half after his hiring was first announced. Brown’s first order of business this morning was meeting with County Board Chairman Jay Fisette. He also met with his staff and spent much of the day preparing for his first board meeting, coming up this weekend. A public reception will be held in the lobby of 2100 Clarendon Blvd next Monday (May 24) from 5:00 to 8:00 p.m. to welcome Brown to Arlington.

Iota Jam Session Reviewed — On Thursday night, The Infamous Stringdusters rocked Iota Club and Café in Clarendon. It may be the first time a band that includes a mandolinist, a dobro player, a fiddler and a banjo player started a performance with a “six-way fist bump.” More from jambands.com.

Endorsements for Berry, Murray — Conservative Virginia politics website Bearing Drift has endorsed Matthew Berry as the only GOP candidate who “has the capacity and wherewithal to give Jim Moran a run for his money.” Meanwhile, former Secretary of Veterans Affairs Anthony Principi has endorsed former Army colonel Patrick Murray, Berry’s opponent in next month’s eighth district primary.

DCist Does Brunch at Tallula — If you’re looking for a lumberjack-sized plate of pancakes, eggs and bacon, Tallula is not the place to find it. But the Lyon Park eatery does serve up some very artistic-looking brunch dishes that — when paired with one of Tallula’s dessert options — should satisfy all but the most voracious eaters. More from DCist.

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Michael Brown, Arlington’s incoming county manager, was honored on Friday by the city of Savannah, where he’s spent the past 15 years as city manager. A who’s who of Savannah’s civic and political establishment was on hand to wish Brown well in Arlington.

Brown was presented with two parting gifts: a gift certificate to Bass Pro Shops (Brown is reportedly something of an outdoorsman) and a painting of Savannah, according to TV station WSAV.

It was a remarkably elaborate ceremony for an unelected civil servant, which seems to suggest that Arlington scored a big “get” with the hiring of Brown.

Brown’s last day in Savannah is May 2. His first day in Arlington is May 17.

After all the attention Brown’s departure is getting in Savannah, we hope he lowers his expectations regarding media coverage in Arlington. After all, this is a place where only two members of the media — a lone TV cameraman and a reporter for an upstart local news website — bothered to show up at the scene of a bank robbery that occurred on a weekday morning in the middle of a major commercial district.

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In part one of our interview with incoming county manager Michael Brown, he talked about his decision to leave Savannah, where he’s been city manager for 15 years, and he discussed some of the budgetary and developmental issues facing Arlington. In part two, Brown talks about his goals and is asked about some specific issues he’ll be dealing with when he starts the job in May.

Q: What are some of your immediate and long-range goals as county manager?

A: At this point, I really need to listen and learn a lot before I start saying what I want to do. I’ve already begun the process; I did that when I was [recently in Arlington]. I need to very carefully listen to the board, to spend time with them as a group and spend time with them as individuals, see what their views and their visions are. That’s first. It’s not my role and not my nature to come in and prescribe to people that are well along their way in many areas.

Long-term I want to be effective, I want to be responsive. I want to continue their traditions of engagement and their traditions of high-quality services and a competent staff.

Q: The current budget proposal includes raising taxes. Some have said taxes should be raised higher, some have said taxes are high enough already. What are your thoughts on raising taxes during tough economic times?

A: That will be the board’s decision. They’re not doing it in a vacuum. They’re doing it in consideration of the past and the future. I read with interest several months ago the policy statement they had drafted [which prioritized funding for affordable housing, schools, and the social safety net, and called for the budget shortfall to be filled by a balance of tax hikes and spending cuts].

When they make that kind of policy decision, that’s the board’s call. They’re looking at the past, the short, the medium and the long range. I know that because that’s what they clearly demonstrated and that’s what we talked about in the interview process. So that’s a policy decision the board will make.

Q: Affordable housing is a major focus of the Arlington county board. How will you support affordable housing initiatives?

A: Clearly the board and the staff… do support diversity in the community and inclusiveness. That obviously does mean that a range of people must be able to live in Arlington and work in Arlington… so that means there has to be affordability.

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Michael Brown will become Arlington’s new county manager in May. The UVA alum and Northern Virginia native comes by way of Savannah, Georgia, where he’s served as the city’s top unelected official since 1995.

Brown talked to ARLnow.com over the phone from Savannah, where he’s busy preparing for the transition.

This is part one of the interview. Part two will appear later this week.

Q: You’re leaving Savannah, where you’ve served as city manager for 15 years. A lot of people there seem sad to see you go. Is it hard to leave? What convinced you to take the county manager job?

Brown: Well, it is, but you know — 15 years is a long tenure by any measure. Also, I think that a lot of things have been accomplished — not really by me alone, but by elected officials and by [my] staff.

There comes a time when it is possible to consider another chapter, and my wife and I think this is a great opportunity in Arlington. It’s certainly a great place to live and it’s a very good organization to work in.

Arlington has a great reputation, both as a community and as a government. It’s a world-class community and it is really a wonderful community. It’s got great leadership.

Q: There’s a “Change Arlington” movement that wants to take power away from the county manager (and modify the way county board members are elected). Does that concern you?

Brown: I’m aware of it and of course it would concern me, it would affect me. It is democracy — people can make proposals. It seems to me that the present system is working, but that’s up to the board and up to the stakeholders, the voters.

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Arlington has hired Savannah, Georgia city manager Michael Brown as its new county manager. Brown will replace current acting county manager Barbara Donnellan.

“Michael Brown is a thoughtful, articulate and dedicated manager who brings broad expertise and a record of strong fiscal management,” said county board chairman Jay Fisette, who announced Brown’s hiring this afternoon. “He has a proven track record of success on economic development, public safety, and regional and planning issues. We look forward to having him on our team.”

During his 15-year tenure in Savannah, Brown provided city assistance for more than $1 billion in development, including retail stores, hotels, and condominiums. He supported the development of Savannah’s waterfront and the creation of more than 5,000 units of affordable housing. He was also instrumental in historic preservation and directed the creation or renovation of numerous parks.

Brown helped the city pass a $890 million special sales tax, but also worked to sustain a 27 percent property tax reduction over 10 years.

A Prince William County native, Brown graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Virginia. His wife, Linda Lee, also hails from Prince William County. They have three children: Brendan, Alex and Rebecca.

Brown will begin his new job in Arlington on Monday, May 17.

“Arlington is a wonderful, world class community with great leadership including the Arlington County Board and staff,” Brown said in a statement.

“I am very appreciative of this appointment by the County Board. I hope that my skills and experience will be of real value in a number of initiatives such as plans for the growth corridors, neighborhood vitality, mobility, environmental sustainability, and good fiscal management. Also I share the Board’s and the community’s commitment to diversity and to inclusive citizen engagement and collaborative decision making. My wife Linda Lee and I are excited about Arlington’s many community cultural assets and opportunities.”

The Savannah Morning News has more on the resignation letter Brown sent to the city’s mayor today.

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