Alexandria's elected leadership, past and present, were joined by representatives from all branches of the city's land use power structure and civic activists last Friday night in the second floor ballroom of Gadsby's Tavern. They gathered to praise the six-year tenure of Planning & Zoning Director Eileen Fogarty.
"She has presided over a very active period of growth in our city. Eileen has met the ultimate test. She is leaving Alexandria in a much better place than she found it," said Eric Wagner, chair, Alexandria Planning Commission, in opening the formal part of the three hour reception.
Fogarty recently resigned to become Director of Planning & Community Development in Santa Monica, Calif. Her last day as Alexandria's planning director is this Friday.
Prior to the usual reminiscing and speeches of praise at such occasions, Fogarty was swamped by well wishers who filled the ballroom to overflow capacity. As stated by James Butler, co-chair, Alexandria Federation of Civic Association, "Eileen has been candid, competent, and confident."
"She has demonstrated a willingness to seek out the best ideas in the community. She is the genuine article. I hope the selection committee for her successor will keep her values in mind," he said.
In presenting a proclamation adopted by City Council to Fogarty, Alexandria Mayor William D. Euille said, "She has changed this city for the better and she is leaving us with a great staff."
When Fogarty was hired, then City Manager Philip Sunderland, oversaw the process. He is now chief of staff to Alexandria's former mayor, U.S. Rep. James Moran (D-8). During his praise of Fogarty, Sunderland noted one of the most important powers of government is land use.
"This brings together every element of community. It defines the community. It is both the soul and heart of the community. Yet, that power had not been exercised correctly in this community before Eileen," Sunderland said.
"When Eileen came in she said she was going to do three things. Bring visioning to the planning process. Get the entire community involved in the land use process. And, develop a process where the planning process would envelope the community." he said.
"If you think of all the changes that have occurred in the past six years she has done it all in a very difficult time. Eileen has accomplished each of those objectives," Sunderland said.
On the lighter side, Alexandria's present City Manager James Hartmann utilized a series of slides to highlight a roast of Fogarty. Among those slides, in the style of late night television host David Letterman, was a list of "Ten Reasons Why Not To Go To Santa Monica."
On the list were such items as the price of housing, earthquakes, and its "Mel Gibson's favorite place." But, in his conclusion, Hartmann summed up the entire room's true sentiment, "We are absolutely going to miss you Eileen."
In her response, Fogarty said, "I have been blessed with a great staff and incredible partners. During my 23 years as a planning director I have never ever seen a planning commission like the one I have been privileged to work with here."
"What Alexandria has is years and years of dedication. When I was hired Phil [Sunderland] said here's what you need to do. Now go do it. That would not have been possible without all the people I have been privileged to work with."
As a gesture of their admiration for her, Fogarty's staff presented her with three framed pictures for her new office. One was a scene of Old Town, a second was of her entire staff in front of City Hall, and the third was a montage of shots from throughout the city.
On a table behind her was a cake with an inscription that summed up the mood of the event: "Good luck Eileen — We will miss you."