Rob Stalzer Retires as Fairfax City Manager

Rob Stalzer Retires as Fairfax City Manager

Reflects on his career in public service and gives thanks.

Back row from left, Councilmembers Billy Bates, Jon Stehle, Kate Doyle Feingold, Jeff Greenfield, Tom Ross and So Lim, with (front row from left) Catherine Read and Rob and Cathy Stalzer.

Back row from left, Councilmembers Billy Bates, Jon Stehle, Kate Doyle Feingold, Jeff Greenfield, Tom Ross and So Lim, with (front row from left) Catherine Read and Rob and Cathy Stalzer.

Rob Stalzer’s retirement as Fairfax’s City Manager last Friday, March 1 marked the close of his illustrious, 43-year career in public service. And that career also included 18 years as one of Fairfax County’s top administrators before he came to the City.

At the beginning of the Feb. 27 City Council meeting, Fairfax Mayor Catherine Read and the Council formally recognized Stalzer’s many achievements, especially in Fairfax City. Read said he began his foray into local government in 1979 as a city planner for the City of Buena Vista, Va.

Next came stints with Roanoke County from 1983-1989 as its director of planning and zoning, and the Town of Herndon from 1989-2000 as its town manager. Stalzer then served from 2000-2018 as Fairfax County’s deputy county executive before retiring there and shifting to Fairfax City.

“I had a really good career in Fairfax County, was involved in memorable projects and I enjoyed it,” he said shortly after joining the City. “But there’s a difference in being the assistant and being the leader. And I felt like I had more to offer and needed to go somewhere else to do it.”

Stalzer was appointed city manager in November 2018, officially starting his new job in January 2019. And during last week’s Council meeting, Read read a proclamation listing some of his accomplishments here.

“Under Stalzer’s leadership, the Economic Development Office grew physically and through staff, and he prioritized economic development as a leading force in the City and Northern Virginia,” said Read. “He provided enormous support for the EDO and the creation of a strategic plan, as well as mentorship and thoughtful leadership.”

Noting that he led the City through the worst of the global COVID-19 pandemic, Read said Stalzer “thoughtfully administer[ed] federal CARES Act and ARPA funding to help residents, the business community and nonprofit partners while the City remained fully operational.” 

Then, she said, “Following the summer of 2020, when racial tensions were running high in cities across the country, Stalzer oversaw Connecting Fairfax City for All, an initiative that addressed legacy Confederate nomenclature, broadened the way in which City history is told on monuments and markers, and identified other ways to make the City more equitable and just for residents, business owners and visitors.”

Furthermore, said Read, “Stalzer transformed [Fairfax City’s] Capital Improvement Program into a realistic plan with attainable, prioritized projects and identified funding sources. The revised CIP provides details about the various funding sources, financing plans and delivery schedules for each project.”

In conclusion, she said, “Now therefore, I, Catherine S. Read, mayor of the City of Fairfax, express our profound and heartfelt appreciation to Robert A. Stalzer for his public service of successfully combined transformational leadership, innovative local-government management, relationship building and strategic partnering to build community and improve people’s lives.”

Accepting the plaque from Read, Stalzer thanked her and the Council for acknowledging him that way. As for his retirement, he said, “I have many mixed emotions. On the one hand I’m ready to do something different and not be on call 24/7/365 or feel the constant pressure to be responsive. 

“On the other hand, 43 years serving the City of Buena Vista, Roanoke County, the Town of Herndon, Fairfax County and the City of Fairfax is a great run. Like anyone after 43 years in local government management, I’m shaped by the significant events and projects in my career.”

Stalzer said they included “the Pennino Building elevator fatality, The Pentagon on 9/11, two anthrax attacks, the Sniper, Hurricane Isabel, Hurricane Katrina, the Sully District police shootings, Snowmageddon, Snowzilla, Carmaggedon, the Derecho and, oh yeah, the Pandemic.”  

But that’s not all. He also listed the Hollins Community Development Project, the Herndon Municipal Center, the McConnell Public Safety Transportation and Operations Center, the Reston Station/Wiehle East Reston Metro Station and helping lay the groundwork for the new Willard/Sherwood Health and Community Center in 2027. 

“There are too many memories, experiences and friendships to recount tonight,” said Stalzer. Then focusing solely on Fairfax City he said, “This is arguably the best job I’ve ever had. The staff is amazing, the organization is solid, the community is incredibly supportive. We’re making a real difference. As I share often with staff, we’re building community and improving people’s lives. On some days, we may save a life. As local government professionals, what could be better than that?”

“As an organization and a team, I feel we’ve really progressed over the last five years – I admit I’m biased,” he continued. “I also acknowledge that I walked into a great situation. We’ve had challenges that needed to be acknowledged and managed. We still do. But continual improvement is a never-ending quest for any organization. My successor will have stalwarts on staff, the mayor and council, boards and commissions, and the community to assist and guide him on the journey.”

Then, speaking directly to Read and the City Council, Stalzer said, “I really enjoyed working with all of you. To the staff, you are true professionals. You punch above your weight every single day and make me look so much better than I really am.”

He also acknowledged former Mayor David Meyer and Councilmembers Janice Miller, Michael DeMarco, So Lim, Jon Stehle, Sang Yi and Jennifer Passey for hiring him in 2018, plus the Councils of 2020/22 and 2023/24 for their support and commitment. 

“Finally, and most importantly, I want to acknowledge and thank my wife Cathy for her unwavering support and love for the last 31 years,” said Stalzer. “She’s my rock and we’re a team. I couldn’t do this job by myself. Thank you again for this recognition.”