Laszlo Palko Hired as Fairfax City Manager

Laszlo Palko Hired as Fairfax City Manager

He formerly held that post in Manassas Park.

Laszlo Palko

Laszlo Palko

By the end of April, Laszlo Palko will take the reins as Fairfax City’s new city manager. But he won’t have to travel far from his last job, since he was most recently the city manager of Manassas Park.

He replaces Fairfax’s former City Manager, Rob Stalzer, who retired last Friday, March 1, after serving in that post for five years. Palko is expected to start around April 29; until then, Fairfax’s Deputy City Manager Valmarie Turner will be the acting city manager.

The announcements about both Palko and Turner were made at the start of the Feb. 27 City Council meeting. And since Stalzer unveiled his proposed FY 25 budget for the City, that same night, Palko will have to hit the ground running in the midst of budget negotiations as soon as he begins his new job. But obviously with his experience City officials believe he’s more than qualified for the task.

“When City Manager Rob Stalzer notified City Council last year of his plans to retire March 1, we began a nationwide search,” said Mayor Catherine Read. “We were fortunate to have a great field of candidates from which to choose. Laszlo Palko is a good fit for our urbanizing community, and we look forward to his leadership as we navigate unprecedented opportunities ahead here in our city.”

Palko attended Harvard University, focusing his studies on local government administration en route to obtaining a master’s degree in public policy. Palko’s roles as a leader began in the military as an Army officer from 2005-2010. He earned the rank of captain, served two tours of duty in Afghanistan as part of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, and was awarded the Bronze Star.

Palko then spent more than 10 years working in management in both the private and public sectors. He was a financial consultant for IBM and a management consultant for Booz Allen Hamilton before becoming the town manager of Lovettsville, Va. 

Next, in June 2017, he became Manassas Park’s city manager. There, he was responsible for overseeing the day-to-day and strategic executive management of that city’s departments as well as developing and recommending policies, strategies, annual budgets and ordinances. In addition, he managed the execution of the city’s budget and capital improvement program. 

However, perhaps Palko’s most impressive achievement during his tenure was getting Manassas Park on a solid, financial footing. When he started his job there, the city was in fiscal distress. But he helped lead its financial turnaround from a negative fund balance and no credit rating to a more than $16 million fund balance – equaling more than 25 percent of Manassas Park’s operating revenues – and a AA credit rating.

Now, though, he’s ready to start a new chapter and a new challenge in Fairfax. “I am honored and grateful to the Fairfax City Council for giving me the opportunity to serve as city manager for such a wonderful community with such a great and talented team of professionals on City staff,” said Palko. “I look forward to working for the City Council and helping them achieve their goals for the community. I am eager to engage with and provide high-quality service to City residents and cannot wait to provide my support to an amazing City staff as we work collectively to accomplish our shared mission to serve our great City.”

Like Mayor Read, Councilmember Jeff Greenfield, the longest-serving person on City Council, is also enthusiastic about the skills and experience Palko brings with him. “He’s got a passion for the budget process that is impressive, and he is the first bilingual city manager we have hired. His fluent Spanish will be valued in our community, and he is committed to being out in our City, meeting people where they are.”

Matt Kaiser contributed to this story.