Fogarty's Focus, Vision and Insight

Fogarty's Focus, Vision and Insight

Continuing the vision is the city's challenge.

It took Arnie five years to get used to the snow, which is still not high on his comfort list. Now he is heading back to where he started from, as the song goes: sunny California sans snow.

And, he is taking with him his two daily companions, Alexandria's Director of Planning and Zoning Eileen P. Fogarty and her accomplished artist husband John Clendening. Arnie, by the way, is their cat.

In November 2000 Fogarty left the position of Director of Planning and Community Development in Santa Cruz, California, to guide this city's planning initiatives. Now she is again heading west to Santa Monica, Calif., where she will direct its 114 staff, $20.3 million, Department of Planning and Community Development.

"It has been a great opportunity to work here as planning director at an extraordinary time in Alexandria's history when the deep commitment of the citizens coupled with unprecedented development pressures allowed us to physically shape and form the way the city will look and function in the future," Fogarty wrote in her resignation letter to City Manager James Hartmann.

She views her new city as one "very similar in many ways to Alexandria. There is a lot of public participation from a very sophisticated populace," she said during a recent interview in her City Hall office.

"They were looking for someone with experience in public participation and consensus building," Fogarty said. That has certainly been her trademark throughout 22 years of planning director experience.

Prior to going to Santa Cruz in 1996, Fogarty served as Director of Planning and Zoning for the City of Annapolis, Md., for 13 years. "There we put together a new City plan working with 52 different organizations in order to build a consensus," she said.

Then came Santa Cruz where the job took on the added challenge of recreating an agency "into a performance-driven department to direct and manage post-earthquake economic development and redevelopment issues along Monterey Bay" as well as the city's urban core.

Here, by initiating the "Plan for Planning," Fogarty has guided her staff, city officials, Planning Commission, and citizenry through such undertakings as the "Neighborhood Corridor Retail Strategy," a series of small area plans for various segments of the city, smart growth development assessment, Potomac Yard land use plan, and the Eisenhower/PTO city within a city. All the while she has worked to maintain Alexandria's historic charm and livability.

"Eileen has been an exceptional member of our city management team. She has worked hard to achieve City Council's vision for Alexandria. Her strong commitment to building community partnerships has set a new standard for leadership in this critical field. Alexandria will be forever appreciative of the many contributions she made in reforming our planning process," said Alexandria Mayor William D. Euille.

"She has really changed the face of the city in a very positive way. I hope that what she has brought here, including her art of consensus building, will remain. We have a lot to do and her vision should be continued. I hate to see her go," said Councilwoman Redella "Del" Pepper.

"The legacy she leaves is unmatched. She literally transformed the planning process in this city. She’s been a great asset to the city and an invaluable resource to the Planning Commission," said Eric Wagner, chair, Alexandria Planning Commission.

That sentiment was echoed by the Commission's vice chair, John Komoroske. "Eileen Fogarty was the mayor, council and city manager's gift of good planning to the citizens of Alexandria. In her too-short time here, she moved the city's planning to a new level, beyond what even Alexandria is used to," he said.

"She clearly got citizens involved earlier and deeper into the process. She also continuously pushed developers and the land use bar to do the right thing for the city and its citizens. And, even though they may not have enjoyed that process, it achieved a much better result not only for the city, but also, ironically, for the developers," Komoroske said.

Two members of Komoroske's "land use bar" also viewed Fogarty's tenure as very positive for the city's planning and development process. "She has played a key role in the approval of some very notable improvements within the city. I wish her well in her new and expanded role in Santa Monica," said attorney Harry "Bud" Hart.

"I believe Eileen has done an excellent job as director of planning and zoning. I'm very sorry to see her leave," said attorney Howard Middleton.

At most Planning Commission meeting there are a host of citizen activists expressing their views on a myriad subjects. One of the most involved is Poul Hertel who is also active on several planning task forces. "Eileen came here at a very difficult time for Alexandria development. She brought more openness and deliberation to the public process that many citizens were complaining was lacking. We need to maintain that legacy," Hertel said.

A NEW JERSEY NATIVE, Fogarty graduated cum laude from the University of New Hampshire with a Bachelor's Degree in Political Science. She got her Master's Decree in Political Science from Rutgers University and did post-graduate studies at Brandeis University. She also had a Ford Foundation Fellowship.

Her first job took her to San Diego when she was in her 20's. There she specialized in growth management and got a California state certificate in planning. That started her on the path that eventually led to Alexandria.

Along that path, during her tenure in Annapolis, she met her husband John in Rehoboth Beach in 1995. A Washingtonian, he was the Chief of Design for the Air and Space Museum on the Mall. He also was involved with building the second museum near Dulles International Airport after taking an early retirement, according to Fogarty.

"He is very excited about moving to an arts community. He can paint anything," she said pointing to one of his works on her office wall.

"I think my greatest accomplishment here was to create a planning environment. When I was hired, then City Manager Phil Sunderland, said he want three things: create a context where the entire community is involved; keep the community involved after the plan is in place; and quality," Fogarty said.

"One of the greatest accomplishments I've seen throughout my tenure is the willingness of civic and business leaders to work together. That must be maintained," she said.

"Alexandria has a very committed civic and business community. Who ever comes into this job needs to work closely with both groups. Over the last six years more than 20 million square feet of development has occurred throughout this city," Fogarty said.

"The remaining challenge is that you have to develop plans were people are in agreement as to what they are going to get. It's not the process. It's what comes out of the process," she stressed.

"It's been a great time to be here, to determine how Alexandria is going to look and function for the next 20 years. My greatest disappointment though is that I won't be here for the waterfront development. I would have liked to have seen that come to fruition," Fogarty said.

When asked to define her greatest accomplishment, she replied, "Maintaining the soul and character of the community during a time of explosive growth pressure. You always want to leave a community better than when you came. Always question c how do you do what you do and do no harm," she emphasized.

"I've been blessed with two excellent city managers who have been very supportive of our efforts. This city's Planning Commission is absolutely the best, bar none, that I've ever worked with throughout my career. All the commissioners have been outstanding," she said.

"I've also enjoyed working closely with the mayor and city council. They have been very supportive and involved. It's been a very good period in my life. It has been both a privilege and an honor to work in and for Alexandria," Fogarty said.