The Purcellville Town Council on Tuesday continued its administrative shakeup, tapping Public Works Director Alex Vanegas to serve as interim town manager.
The action came two weeks after Town Manager Robert W. Lohr Jr. announced that he would step down from his post, effective June 30, after 24 years of service. Lohr announced his retirement during a contentious April 25 Town Council meeting, where many members of the public and a few councilmembers criticized the council majority, saying he was being forced out.
On Tuesday night, the council interviewed Vanegas and Assistant Town Manager Danny Davis for an hour each during a closed session meeting. Following an additional half hour of closed-door talks, the council emerged and voted unanimously to appoint Vanegas to the post.
“You have given us a difficult decision to make at 11:30,” Mayor Kwasi Fraser said before the vote. He thanked both Davis and Vanegas for “stepping up in this time of transition and change.”
Vanegas’ job will be to work with Lohr to ensure a smooth transition and then to manage the day-to-day operations of town departments. The council is expected to engage an executive search firm to help identify and recruit candidates to replace Lohr on a permanent basis.
“My philosophy of leadership is to always take a team approach to addressing the needs of the community,” he said. During his time with the council, Vanegas said he stressed the need to put political differences aside and work together for the town.
Vanegas, 51, has worked for the town for 12 years. He was promoted to be director of Public Works in 2013, after serving eight years in the department. He holds a master’s degree in Urban and Environmental Planning from the University of Virginia and a master’s degree in Organizational Management from George Washington University. He is a certified public manager through the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments and holds a certificate in Executive Leadership Coaching through George Washington University.
According to the council motion, Vanegas will return to his duties as public works director after the town manager post is filled.
Davis had been the heir apparent to Lohr. He was hired as the assistant town manager in 2015. Prior to that he worked in policy development and executive management for the Loudoun County government. He graduated from Purcellville’s Patrick Henry College with a bachelor’s degree in government and holds a master’s degree in public administration from George Mason University.