Fairfax Honors Retired City Manager Sisson

Fairfax Honors Retired City Manager Sisson

City Hall Annex atrium will be named after him.

Two mayors and a city manager: From left, John Mason and David Meyer present Bob Sisson (center) with the prestigious Fairfax Award.

Two mayors and a city manager: From left, John Mason and David Meyer present Bob Sisson (center) with the prestigious Fairfax Award. Photo by Bonnie Hobbs.


Police Sgt. Ronnie Lewis (on left) gives Sisson an award from the City Police Department.


From left, U.S. Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-11) presents Bob Sisson with a resolution from the U.S. House of Representatives.

For more than a quarter century, Bob Sisson has done Fairfax proud as its city manager. And last Wednesday, July 11, friends, residents and dignitaries gathered in Old Town Hall for a special reception in his honor.

Sisson, 67, retired June 30, and Assistant City Manager David Hodgkins became acting city manager, the next day. He was among those feting Sisson and singing his praises. But first came U.S. Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-11), who also presented Sisson with a certificate of recognition from the U.S. House of Representatives.

Then Fairfax Mayor David Meyer and some members of the City Council took the podium, where Meyer announced that the atrium inside the City Hall Annex will be named in Sisson’s honor. Former and current Council members Jeff Greenfield and Janice Miller, respectively, organized the event along with City Clerk Melanie Crowder.

“Bob’s served with 25 people on the City Council and those who were mayors,” said Miller. “The 17 of us still living gathered recently [at a local restaurant] to celebrate his years of service. And it’s nice to see so many people come out tonight and express their appreciation for a man who’s done such a good job for us.”

State Sen. Chap Petersen (D-34), who also previously served on City Council, thanked Sisson for “making Fairfax City such a great place to live.” Then Fairfax Police Chief Carl Pardiny, Capt. Craig Buckley and Sgt. Ronnie Lewis of the City of Fairfax Police Assn. gave Sisson an engraved award made of crystal, on behalf of the Police Department.

“Bob’s overseen five police chiefs in the City, and we’re here today to celebrate his remarkable, long career,” said Pardiny. Noting that Sisson is “never satisfied with the status quo,” Pardiny said Sisson always asked him “really good questions” about police policy, and most began with the word, “Why.” And, he added, “We thank him for his service and commitment to the Police Department and public safety.”

NEXT TO SPEAK was former Fairfax Mayor John Mason, who headed the team that selected Sisson as city manager. “Most people think the mayor is the boss,” said Mason. “But the one who makes things happen is the city manager, and we thank Bob for his 27 years of service.”

Then Meyer returned to the podium to further honor Sisson. “The Fairfax Award is the most prestigious award that a citizen of our City can receive,” said Meyer. “From when it was first awarded, 25 years ago in 1993, only 11 persons have been recognized with it. The Fairfax Award is given to an individual whose contributions to our community have been rare and exceptional.”

He said he believed, by everyone’s presence at last Wednesday’s ceremony, that they, too, agreed that Sisson’s contributions to the city have been “rare and exceptional.” He also said Fairfax, as a community, has come a long way since Sisson came here from Olathe, Kan., in 1991.

Meyer explained how the City’s physical landscape has changed, with restored historic buildings and properties; undergrounded utilities in the downtown; new, restored and expanded public buildings; new and refurbished parks and trails, plus open space purchased and saved for future generations. “Streambeds were restored and many, new, residential neighborhoods [were built],” he said. “Our financial position is now the gold standard against which many jurisdictions measure their progress, with a tax base that has quadrupled and a AAA bond rating achieved during Bob’s tenure.

“Bobs characteristic modesty will lead him to give credit to the many, elected Councils under which he served and the many, volunteer citizens who helped in so many ways, over these last 27 years,” continued Meyer. “And while there’s an element of truth to all this, having a seasoned, professional, public administrator with a keen mind, unquestionable commitment to our City, high ethical standards, a keen sense of aesthetics and a quick and often subtle humor has made all the difference.”

More importantly, he told Sisson, “We remember and say thanks for your kindness and generosity of spirit. What is most remarkable is the impact you’ve made in the lives of so many people – many of whom may not know you or even realize the difference you’ve made. You are the best example of servant leadership in your profession and in our community; your work and your life is legacy work and legacy living. From a grateful community, please accept this Fairfax Award with our deepest, collective appreciation.”

Next, Hodgkins noted that Sisson worked nearly 24 hours/day, seven days/week, and related a powerful, personal story that wasn’t common knowledge.

“I’ve worked for Bob for 16 years,” said Hodgkins. “He’s been a mentor to me and taught me to love city government. He not only motivated us to follow through on things, he was a doer.”

Hodgkins explained how, about five years ago, Sisson helped save his life when he was having a heart attack. Hodgkins walked into Sisson’s office one day and said something was wrong with him and he thought it could be his heart. So Sisson told him to take an aspirin and meet him at the front door of City Hall so he could drive Hodgkins to the hospital.

But in the couple minutes that took, Hodgkins’s condition deteriorated dramatically. Seeing that, Sisson instead drove him to nearby Fire Station 3 where paramedics stabilized Hodgkins and then rushed him by ambulance to the hospital.

“I did, indeed, have a heart attack, and Bob visited me in the hospital,” said Hodgkins. “And whenever employees are hospitalized, he visits them. He’s a person who truly does care about the people who work for him.”

SISSON addressed the crowd last and expressed appreciation for the Council that hired him and Mason who mentored him and taught him “how to get the best out of a community. Everybody treated me so well, over the years. Not all cities have the respect Fairfax does. We have an excellent leadership team and excellent people who do the ‘real work’ of the City – those, for example, working at the property yard or on street projects.”

He said the two things he’s proudest of is Fairfax’s AAA accreditation and the fact that the City’s “reputation as a responsible and ethical City government” was the same when he left it as when he first came here. Furthermore, said Sisson, “I leave with a heart overflowing with appreciation for the opportunity I was given in the summer of ’91, the relationships I’ve built over the years and the kindnesses that have been extended to me by all of you.”

After the event, he said how much that night’s ceremony meant to him. “I was delighted,” said Sisson. “I’m so humbled and grateful for the outpouring we had here. It’s just a nice exclamation point on my time here in Fairfax.”