Vienna Planning and Zoning Director Cindy Petkac has stepped down, town officials said at the Vienna Town Council’s Jan. 24 meeting.
Petkac departed in December last year because she “wanted to pursue other professional opportunities,” said Town Manager Mercury Payton. “She said she was very proud and thankful for the planning-and-zoning team and for all their hard work and dedication and providing the best customer service.”
Petkac was “really excellent” at assembling a strong team in the Planning and Zoning Department and led Code Create, a comprehensive rewrite of the town’s zoning code that likely will be completed this year, Payton said.
“She encouraged professional development of her team,” he added. “She also promoted from withinthe department to demonstrate how successful we are at developing our staff, and was very detail-oriented.”
Mayor Linda Colbert also praised Petkac’s service.
“She did a good job in her department,” Colbert said. “It really was a team. She involved everyone and didn’t just run the department herself.”
Petkac’s efforts will help “shape the future of Vienna for decades to come,” the mayor said.
Deputy Planning and Zoning Director Michael D’Orazio now is serving as the department’s acting director, and planner Kelly O’Brien temporarily is taking over D’Orazio’s usual responsibilities.
The town has begun a national search for Petkac’s successor, but internal candidates also have a solid chance for the post, Payton said. The town manager cited his promotions of several town employees, including Marion Serfass as finance director, Michael Gallagher as public-works director and Christine Horner as deputy public-works director.
“If the internal candidate is the best, I’m eager to hire from within,” Payton said. “It demonstrates our commitment to internal professional development.”
The Planning and Zoning Department’s director position has seen comparatively high turnover in recent years. Before his suicide in September 2014, Greg Hembree had led the department for 27 years. Hembree was followed by Patrick Mulhern, who held the job from April 2015 until his retirement in January 2018, when was succeeded by Petkac.
The director’s job is a high-profile and high-pressure one. Land-use issues frequently are complex and politically fraught, as evidenced by the town’s former Maple Avenue Commercial (MAC) ordinance, which until the Council repealed it in June 2020 had allowed for construction of several controversial, high-density projects.
Petkac led the department during the height of the MAC imbroglios, as well as debates about permitting clusters of smaller “cottage” housing and ongoing discussions over whether to loosen the town’s long-standing rules on lot coverage in order to let homeowners make more outdoor use of their properties.
Before coming to Vienna, Petkac had served as chief of the city of Fairfax’s Planning Division.
A certified planner with the American Planning Association, Petkac previously had been a principal planner at Union Station Redevelopment Corp.; planning manager for the city of Duluth, Minn.; neighborhood planning coordinator for the District of Columbia government; and transportation planner for the Chatham County-Savannah Metropolitan Planning Commission in Georgia.
Petkac also has written several books of women’s fiction. According to her Website, cindypetkac.com, she was due to self-publish a book, “Her Legacy,” in late 2021 and hoped to complete another, “Honorable Ms. Underdog,” early this year.