He really wanted to be a city manager. He got his Masters in Public Administration from George Mason University. He still insists he is "a policy wonk."
He is now in politics and has been since 1995. The "he" is Dana Kauffman, Lee District supervisor on the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. And, he got there by getting less than 50 percent of the vote in that first race which was a five way contest.
"Joe Alexander had represented this district for 33 years. He let me know he was looking to retire and asked if I would consider running. I did consider it. I did run. And, here I am today," Kauffman explained. He has recently announced his bid for a third term.
Lee District is one of the most impacted by the exploding growth in Northern Virginia. It has within its borders the Springfield Interchange, otherwise known as "The Mixing Bowl," elements of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge Project, parts of Fort Belvoir, the western side of the Route 1 corridor, several Metro stations, and a myriad residential and commercial developments.
When asked what he viewed as some of the most daunting issues in the Lee District he said, "I have been trying to get rid of the Franconia GSA Depot for almost as long as I can remember. It is the largest wooden building east of the Mississippi, it leaks, and serves no useful purpose but to store hard copy patents," Kauffman explained.
It also occupies some very choice land near the Springfield Mall where all the various modes of transportation conjoin. The building also holds wiping rags and pencils, according to Kauffman. "It's the government's answer to Office Depot," he said sarcastically.
"Ironically, in the late 70's I was a GS7 management intern with the supply service. I was assigned to do a warehouse management audit on those buildings. I recommended they get rid of them. Twenty five years later I'm still trying," he said. "It just proves that government objects at rest tend to remain at rest."
NEXT THERE is the Army. With a part of Fort Belvoir in his district Kauffman must confront not only such things as the closing of Woodlawn Road but also a potential site for major league baseball.
"The real question is who is the Army?" he asked. "That is always the biggest challenge. Sometimes its Fort Belvoir, or the Washington Military District, or the brass in Baltimore. It's constantly changing."
Kauffman compared dealing with the Army and with private enterprise. "When you deal with the Army they never seem to know what's in their best interest. That's quite different from private enterprise. In the latter case you may disagree but, they know what they want."
A prime example is the controversy over the future of the baseball fields used by Woodlawn Little League for the past 35 years. The land now occupied by the four diamonds along Pole Road, a part of Fort Belvoir, has been proposed by the Army to be used for new military housing.
The dispute involves Fort Belvoir, Kauffman, Mount Vernon District Supervisor Gerald Hyland, and the Little League. Just this week U.S. Sen. George Allen (R-VA) drafted an amendment to the federal appropriations bill that would call for the Army to turn over the site to the county for continued use by the Little League.
In addition to the emotional attachment the league places on the site, it also has a very real practical investment in that location. Over the years it has spent approximately $100,000 to improve the fields.
But, Allen's amendment is only one possible solution. Kauffman has his own possible solution. There is a piece of county land running along the outer perimeter of the fields. It is approximately the same size as the 10 acre Little League site.
Kauffman has suggested a land swap. "This would solve everyone's problem. The League would maintain their diamonds and the Army would have land for their housing," he said.
ON THE SUBJECT of professional baseball coming to Northern Virginia, possibly locating a stadium at the old U.S. Army Corps of Engineers proving grounds, Kauffman has nothing but disdain.
"We are talking about corporate welfare in a time of great need," he said. "All the studies show that professional baseball is a losing proposition financially, except for the owners. And after they go into an area they want a new stadium in 10 or 12 years or they threaten to leave."
As for his top priorities, Kauffman listed the following:
* Continue to fight to get the tools we need to better control development throughout the county. "We need to better manage smart growth. Get more growth around the Metro stations. The western end of the County is hemorrhaging commercial vacancies while we, in this area, are popping."
* Working with the School Board to define the difference between a world class school system and a gold plated school system.
* Public safety. How to continue to fund the best police department in the region combined with all the other things people have come to expect from local government.
* Facing the challenges to satisfy the needs of a growing senior population. "Everyone has realized the fiscal pressure on our schools and brought about by our schools. But, the next real challenge is the senior element. More and more we are going to see counter demands between our seniors and our schools as the baby boomers age."
* Fairfax County is an urban area. "We are facing urban challenges and we need to study how we can provide big city services without loosing the suburban appeal that has brought people to this area."
* Transportation - both roads and mass transit. As Fairfax County's appointee to WMATA (Metro Board) he is deeply committed to developing all forms of mass transportation throughout the region and making it more passenger friendly. Kauffman is also committed to improving vehicular and pedestrian access and safety along the Route 1 corridor.
* Establishing a night court. Kauffman sees two primary benefits: the capital savings of needing fewer court rooms and the convenience of evening hours for citizens. He also acknowledged, "I would be willing to give up the night court for a real satellite courtroom at the South County Government Center."
* His "community building" programs such as Tour de Lee bike races, free concert series, Springfield Days, Health Plex, Lee District Association meetings, and Town Meeting.
Kauffman sees the greatest task ahead to be getting the General Assembly to seriously discuss the comparative roles of local and state governments. "Our biggest challenge is going to be keeping what power we have in local government. Particularly at the county level," Kauffman said.