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FairfaxVienna public-works director heads downstate

Vienna public-works director heads downstate

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Vienna Public Works Director Michael Gallagher stepped down Aug. 5 for family reasons and will relocate to the Blacksburg area, town officials said.

“Vienna is a really great place and holds a special place in my heart,” Gallagher said in a statement issued by the town Aug. 9. “I’m really going to miss everyone here.”

Town officials credited Gallagher for multiple accomplishments during his tenure. He facilitated a study of water-and-sewer rates, which served as the basis for a long-term pricing structure for upgrading the infrastructure serving both those systems and addressing growth needs.

Gallagher also spearheaded efforts to prioritize and implement sidewalk projects in the town, which routinely draw “spirited” public debate, to put it mildly.


In addition, he helped improve traffic flow and serve pedestrians by putting in place technical improvements to make the town’s street signals more responsive, officials said.

Originally from Cherry Hill, N.J., Gallagher earned a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from Virginia Tech in 1999. He told the Sun Gazette in 2012 that he chose that major because it offered a broad spectrum of options.

He received a master’s certificate in public administration in 2014 and a master’s degree in public administration in 2017, both from Virginia Tech. Gallagher also took an executive leadership course for local-government managers at the Senior Executive Institute of the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business.

Gallagher worked as a land-developer field manager with Richmond American Homes and spent a decade as a senior project manager with Urban Ltd. before joining the Vienna town government in July 2010 as a civil engineer.

Town officials in February 2012 promoted him to deputy public-works director, a new post created to ensure chain-of-command continuity when the director was absent.

Town officials appointed Gallagher acting public-works director in May 2016 after director Dennis Johnson retired and promoted him to director that September.

Vienna Town Council member Steve Potter admired Gallagher’s ability to stay calm under pressure.

“It’s not easy being in a position where any decision made is going to be challenged, but he handled it well,” Potter said. “Meeting after meeting, Mike was put in the unenviable position of having to defend or explain DPW decisions on actions being taken in the community’s best interests. I always respected how he kept his cool while laying out the logic and the factors involved in his responses.”

Gallagher also provided leadership training for his staff.

“I’m more proud of the team that I’ve assembled than any mechanics that I built,” he said. “Helping people grow personally and professionally with leadership skills has been truly rewarding.”

Gallagher led many projects for Vienna, but staff development was his most significant contribution, said Town Manager Mercury Payton.

“He has left the department in very capable hands,” Payton said.

“I appreciated his engineering knowledge and his professionalism but I also enjoyed talking to him about family and leadership among other topics,” said Mayor Linda Colbert. “I will miss him, but I am happy for his move back to his college town of Blacksburg, where as a Hokie he’ll be very happy.”

Council member Howard Springsteen said he had been impressed with Gallagher as he worked his way up the ranks.

“He managed a lot of projects, from roads to sewers to water pipes to sidewalks,” Springsteen said. “It’s going to be tough to fill his shoes. I’m sorry to see him go. It’s the town’s loss and no matter where he works next, it’s going to be their gain.”

Gallagher’s deputy, Christine Horner, is serving as interim public-works director while town officials conduct a search for a new director.

Gallagher in 2019 nominated Horner, who then was the town’s water-quality engineer, for a Rotarian M. Jane Seeman “Service Above Self” Award from the Rotary Club of Vienna. Horner performs her duties to the “highest ethical and professional standards,” his nomination read.

The Department of Public Works has 57 employees and a fiscal 2023 budget of nearly $8.72 million.

Gallagher is the second high-ranking town staffer to depart this year. Deputy Planning and Zoning Director Michael D’Orazio left earlier this summer and Kelly O’Brien is filling his role in an acting capacity until the town selects his successor.

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