Fairfax County supervisors on Jan. 25 sang the praises of David Rohrer, a former police chief who capped his 41-year career as deputy county executive for public safety.
Rohrer was a role model and his retirement Jan. 24 was “a sad day for a lot of us,” said Chairman Jeff McKay (D).
“We’ve got a great team here and it’s in large part built on the shoulders of things that you’ve done over a lot of years in Fairfax County,” McKay told Rohrer. “It must be quite a feeling to not be on the clock, for once, 24/7.”
Rohrer “led the department through change, challenge and tragedy, supporting his officers and embracing the future of policing through technology and training,” according to the board’s resolution, which passed unanimously and enthusiastically. He was respected by the community and known for his desire to hear from and engage with residents, the resolution read.
Rohrer began working for the county in 1980 as a patrol officer with the police department. In 32 years with the agency, he moved up the ranks, was appointed chief in 2004 and stepped down in October 2012 following his promotion to deputy county executive.
In that role, Rohrer oversaw the Fairfax County Police Department, Fire and Rescue Department, Department of Public Safety Communications, Office of Emergency Management, Animal Shelter and McConnell Public Safety and Transportation Operations Center.
Rohrer provided “steady, insightful leadership” during major snowstorms, change and reform in various departments and construction of the new Public Safety Headquarters, according to the resolution.
“Rohrer’s steady presence, professionalism and insight have made him an invaluable member of the Fairfax County team,” it read.
Supervisor Rodney Lusk (D-Lee), who chairs the board’s Public Safety Committee, said he appreciated Rohrer’s dedication and caring, as evidenced by the Diversion First program, as well as his insight and guidance.
Lusk also thanked Rohrer for stepping into the role of interim police chief between when Chief Edwin Roessler Jr. retired and the new police chief, Kevin Davis, came on board.
Supervisor John Foust (D-Dranesville) complimented Rohrer’s preparedness and “extraordinary talent.”
“I really appreciate how intense you could be, how thorough, how responsive,” Foust said. “Whether it was a countywide issue or a just a very specific, district-constituent issue, you always really thought it through and provided the best advice.”
Supervisor Walter Alcorn (D-Hunter Mill) thanked Rohrer for moving personnel out of the decrepit (and since demolished) Massey Building in Fairfax and into a far better working environment at the new Public Safety Headquarters.
Rohrer was dedicated to Fairfax County as an institution, but not wedded to the status quo, and had contributed mightily to the county government’s professional culture, said Supervisor James Walkinshaw (D-Braddock). Rohrer also served well on the Council to End Domestic Violence, he added.
“I think your career is a testament to the nobility of public service,” Walkinshaw said.
Rohrer was police chief when a gunman killed county police Detective Vicky Armel and Master Police Officer Michael Garbarino at Sully District Station in May 2006. Supervisor Kathy Smith (D-Sully) thanked Rohrer for attending annual commemorations of that tragedy.
Supervisor Daniel Storck (D-Mount Vernon) said Rohrer had navigated a long-term vision, set a steady course and communicated effectively with supervisors.
Supervisor Penelope Gross (D-Mason), the only current board member who had interviewed Rohrer for the police chief’s job, called his selection an “excellent choice.”
“I think you brought some humanity to the position,” Gross said.
Rohrer thanked board members for their remarks and their investments in public safety. He also voiced appreciation for County Executive Bryan Hill and other colleagues in the county’s leadership, but saved the most praise for public-safety staffers.
“They do an incredible, incredible job,” he said.
When talking to new employees, Rohrer said he used to stress what had changed in the county (e.g., its population, which doubled since he began his career) and what had not: the quality, dedication and professionalism of county employees.
“We see the heroism, we see the duty, but it’s the caring, it’s the compassion and the empathy of all of the women and men who serve Fairfax County – not just in public safety, but across so many agencies,” he said.