Public service can range from a true calling of long duration to simply a short-term job in a bumpy career.
Within the past two years, two long-time Prince William County employees have earned promotions and two others have earned retirement. Interestingly, three of the four individuals began their 30-plus year commitments in the county planning office in the mid-1980s.
Tom Blaser retired in June 2016 as the county’s first transportation director. Tom was hired as a transportation planner in 1985 when the planning office included planning, zoning, transportation, the commuter bus program, ridesharing, the print shop, demographics and mapping. Yes, all that under one umbrella. Blaser earned several promotions during his 31-year public service career and ran the transportation department with a quiet, unassuming leadership that earned respect in both public and private circles.
Lisa Fink-Butler was promoted to the difficult and stressful job as zoning administrator late in 2015. Her 34-year career began in 1983 when she joined the planning office as an entry-level clerk typist just out of high school. Obviously, there have been many promotions on her career ladder, each earned by a superb work ethic coupled with a practical and fair application of planning principles and zoning law.
Susan Roltsch joined the planning office in 1986 and earned the promotion to a deputy county executive position where she served under four county executives and as acting county executive during one search for a new CXO. By choice, she never sought the top spot, preferring instead to serve at the deputy level with commitment and compassion. There was widespread respect for her throughout the county. She retired in November 2016 after a 30-year career with Prince William County. Planning Director Chris Price was promoted to replace her in November 2016 and Rebecca Horner was promoted to replace Chris as planning director in February 2017.
Planning positions exist to prepare and offer professional recommendations, but board of supervisors and community acceptance of such proffered advice is gained in no small part by the credibility of the planner. That often takes years to earn. As each of the above exemplary employees was interviewed for their first Prince William County jobs more than 30 years ago, they were urged to “stay awhile and make a difference.” They did and they have.
Barry Barnard was appointed Chief of Police in June 2016, marking the third chief in a row to be promoted from within. These internal promotions testify to the respect the police department has earned since being formed in 1970. Barry joined the relatively new department in 1976 as a patrol officer and has effectively served Prince William County for 41 years as it has grown from a population of 113,000 in 1970 to approximately 457,000 today.
Other notable and well-deserved promotions from within include Christopher Martino from deputy county executive to county executive in September 2016, Michelle Casciato from Director, Office of Management and Budget to deputy county executive in November 2016 and Ric Canizales from Planning Division Chief to Director of Transportation in August 2016. Of course, there are hundreds more dedicated public servants in county government and the school system. They too deserve recognition and thanks.
Prince William County’s “farm system” (A baseball term) for building and maintaining a superb professional staff began in the mid-1970s under the dual leadership of Kathleen Seefeldt, chairman of the board of supervisors and Robert Noe, county executive. “Hire the best and let them grow” was Noe’s modus-operandi. That philosophy of staff investment has paid dividends many times over and is still rewarding the citizens of Prince William County today.
Roger Snyder is a 35-year resident of Prince William County and served as the county’s planning director from 1980 to 1987.