County Executive's Perspective - 2012 Board Retreat

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors held a retreat on Monday and Tuesday, Feb. 6-7. The two-day meeting, at the Workhouse Arts Center in Lorton, was an opportunity for the Board to consider its priorities and set a course of action for a sustainable future.

It was announced that no votes would be taken during the retreat, and some issues may be discussed again at future venues.

Day 1 - Session 4 of 4: County Executives' Perspective

County Executive Tony Griffin, who is retiring in April, presented his thoughts on his tenure. He has served in his current position since 2000.

  • County Executive’s Perspective.
    • Lifelong resident of Northern Virginia.
    • We will eventually achieve the things we want to, but it’s going to take patience and investment.
    • Been watching what’s been going on in the region for the better part of 50 years.
    • First professional job was with Arlington County in 1975.
      • Dealt with complaints about construction of I-66 inside the Beltway.
        • The conversation to build I-66 began in 1954 so this is a good example of how major projects take time.
      • Also had a role in the building of Metro from Rosslyn to Ballston. 
  • Role in the Region.
    • Fairfax County is a leader in the region.
      • One reason is because of our size.
    • Fairfax County is the largest contributor to the Council of Governments.
      • Wish Washington D.C. would contribute more.
    • Reality is that the region needs to be all together because major issues do not recognize political boundaries.
    • Recently approved the IMA for the Blue Plains Advanced Wastewater Treatment Plant, which is operated by DC Water.
      • Guarantees for at least the next 30 years the sanitary and wastewater structure.
    • Privileged to be the County’s voting member on the District of Columbia’s Sewer Authority.
      • Great success story.
    • Upcoming regional issues.
      • WMATA.
      • Water.
        • Washington Aqueduct.
          • 75% of customers are in D.C, but it also serves Arlington and Falls Church.
          • Question will come up in the future about who runs it.
        • Relationship between NVRC and COG.
        • Are there activities that should be done on a regional level instead of a jurisdictional level?
          • I have been quiet because Fairfax is the largest jurisdiction.
            • When Fairfax speaks, there often times become an inaccurate perception that Fairfax County wants to take over.
          • Fire service through mutual aid agreements is a good example of regional partnerships that work.
          • Stormwater, wastewater, clean air, and transportation challenges do not recognize boundaries.
      • Homeland security.
        • Chaired COG’s Chief Administrative Officers committee for 10 years from 2001-10.
        • UASI funding – averaged $55-60 million per year.
          • That number will decline – budget for homeland security has been reduced by one-third.
        • We have made a lot of progress with emergency preparedness, but there are sustainability concerns.
          • Capacity has been improved, but if jurisdictions start backing out, that capacity will be diminished.
  • Transportation.
    • County staff is well positioned to entertain the challenges identified by the BOS and the community.
    • Managing expectations is the biggest key.
      • There is a long list of projects to be completed, and they probably will be in time, but the key is identifying where the money will come from.
        • Federal and state funding has steadily declined. Earmarks don’t exist like they used to.
      • Examples
        • Fairfax County Parkway was primarily funded through the County and other means.
        • Dulles Toll Road was built because of the tolls.
        • Route 28 widening was funded by a special tax district.
        • Route 123 used earmarks and other one-time money.
  • Planning.
    • Strongly recommend modifying the APR process.
      • 90% of the County is substantially developed and is not going to change.
      • In the context of staff support, we need to be able to focus on the areas that have the potential to change.
  • Public Safety.
    • Relatively stable.
    • There are some pent-up needs.
      • Is it desirable for a police substation in south County?
      • Maintaining facilities.
      • Police stations.
        • Two-level station in Reston is a new model but working well
      • Wolf Trap Fire Station needs to be built soon – has been put off for years.
        • Would require 24 new positions – operating expenses are the key.
    • Leadership is sound and stable.
    • Biggest question – are staffing levels adequate?
    • No fire deaths in Fairfax County last year – first time ever.
    • Crime levels continue to decrease.
      • Much of that is attributed to the quality work of the Police Department.
      • Also because the County has invested in other areas, such as schools, after-school programs, libraries and parks.
  • Human Services.
    • Area with least personal experience.
    • Bottom line – we are doing a good job, but the staff is stretched and stressed.
    • On the edge of meeting mandated requirements.
    • Several initiatives underway to address disparities in communities.
      • Grant opportunity in south County.
      • We have a good delivery system, but the infrastructure for the delivery system is not adequate.
      • We have leased facilities in the eastern part of the County.
        • Initiative underway to see if we can replicate the south County experience to east County.
      • North County – existing space is overtaxed so we are renting space at Lake Anne.
        • Should be consolidated.
      • If the west district services could be moved out of Pennino Building, then all of the Health Department could be consolidated in Pennino.
  • Technology.
    • A lot of strength here.
    • Something the Board doesn’t get to see often – only when services are needed.
    • We have a significant investment in technology and we need to maintain that.
    • Currently implementing FOCUS project.
      • We decided not to customize the software – we are adapting our business practices to the new system.
      • It’s been a learning curve for staff, but with repetition, staff is improving their skillset.
      • Credit to the Department of Information Technology for keeping the infrastructure in place.
  • Libraries and Parks.
    • They have taken the biggest reductions over the past few years.
    • I believe strongly in parks and libraries, but compared to some of the other things the County does, they are not mandated.
    • I see an opportunity to put money back into those two, but we will be challenged to put everything back the way it was four years ago while paying attention to the tax rate.
    • Balance between the General Fund and the Park Authority fees has been growing. We have a greater reliance on fees now than in the past.
  • Budget, Finance and Tax Collection (“backroom operations”).
    • Things that are critical to the organization, but not viewed as essential to the public.
    • Further reductions in Finance and DTA would have had an impact on timely payments to vendors and revenue collection.
  • Organization.
    • We have a very good organization.
    • We are going to be challenged going forward.
      • Can’t recommend normal pay practices for staff for the fourth consecutive year.
      • Revenues are going up, but the outlook for compensation increases remains bleak for the next three to four years.
        • This will impact recruitment and the ability to retain quality staff.
    • Benefits.
      • Defined contribution model has become popular in the private sector, mainly because it shifts the responsibility from the employer to the employee.
      • Need to continue to evaluate whether or not to maintain defined benefit model.
    • I think we have good leadership – the deputies are strong and the agency directors are strong.
    • My legacy – shift in County culture; reduction of stovepipes.
      • There used to be a much more rigid structure between agencies and between employees and managers.
      • I have tried to consistently encourage a culture of engagement.
      • Taking advantage of resources that exist in each department and sharing those across agencies.
      • Interesting to compare budget from the mid-1970s to today.
        • We are doing a lot more today as a government.
      • Much more collaborative County today, both internally and externally.
      • Recommend successor attend the Senior Executive Institute through the University of Virginia.
        • Focus of the program is High Performing Organizations.
  • Summary.
    • Very good organization.
    • Concerned about employee compensation.
    • Funding will always be an issue.
    • Board is very good at telling me what I should be doing or what services need to be added, but the Board has not been very good about telling me what I shouldn’t be doing or what I can eliminate.
    • Concerned on behalf of the staff.
      • Like a rubber band, we keep stretching and stretching and the rubber band will eventually break.
      • We are close to the breaking point.
      • We are doing everything we did in the mid-1990s, but we have compensated by adding technology and not staff.

Board of Supervisors Retreat 2012

  Day 1

  Day 2

  Presentations & Related Media

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