After nearly a year of temporary fill-ins, the Town of Purcellville finally has a permanent town manager.
The Town Council on Tuesday night voted 5-1-1, with Councilman Doug McCollum opposed and Vice Mayor Nedim Ogelman absent, to appoint David Mekarski to the post. The action follows 10 months that saw four other town officials act in the role.
“I chose this community from what I could discern on the webpage,” Mekarski said. “I would characterize myself as a servant leader—first and foremost I’m here to serve.”
He outlined four objectives that he has for the town—protecting and enhancing the community’s quality of life, enhancing the town’s revenue capacity, focusing on growth management and smart governance, and simply “getting the job done.”
Mekarski has more than three decades of municipal management, planning and economic development experience and is a certified planner with the American Institute of Certified Planners. He most recently worked for 12 years as the village administrator of Olympia Fields, Illinois—a 3-square-mile community with a population of 5,000. Before resigning that post in November, he was being paid nearly $175,000 annually, according to openthebooks.com.
Mekarski is also the former city manager of Vero Beach, FL. In 2005, he resigned from that post under pressure from the City Council after being accused of mismanaging money that the city allocated to help cover costs incurred from Hurricanes Frances and Jeanne in 2004. Mekarski was alleged to have used a portion of that money to fix the properties of city leaders and employees, which prompted an ethics investigation that eventually cleared his name, according to local media reports.
“With over two decades of municipal management, David Mekarski brings to our town a wealth of professional, practical, and educational experiences to successfully guide Purcellville through the challenges and opportunities before us,” Mayor Kwasi Fraser said. “He has demonstrated leadership in the areas of crisis management, revenue enhancement, business development, and comprehensive long-range planning. … As our new Town Manager, Mr. Mekarski will be committed to becoming involved with the social fabric of our community, to giving voice and volume to the needs of our citizens, and to leading our town operations to continue its delivery of best in class services.”
McCollum said he opposed the appointment because he preferred a candidate that had a “good relationship with Loudoun County.”
Mekarski is the fifth person to fill Purcellville’s town manager spot in less than a year. It was in May of last year that Rob Lohr retired and the Town Council unanimously appointed then-Public Works Director Alex Vanegas as the interim town manager. When Vanegas was placed on administrative leave in November, pending an investigation into reports of misconduct, Administration Director Hooper McCann took over for three weeks. Current Interim Town Manager John Anzivino was hired shortly thereafter and has led the town since Dec. 18.
Mekarski’s hiring ends a six-month town manager search that was led by Vice Mayor Nedim Ogelman and Councilman Ryan Cool. They put together a recruitment package and had it advertised from October to January on multiple municipal government organizations.
After the town received 29 applicants in January, department heads had the opportunity to meet with candidates before all Town Council members interviewed the top three in February. The top two candidates were then selected for final interviews with council members on Feb. 23. Once Mekarski was selected, Anzivino, Mayor Kwasi Fraser and Town Attorney Hank Day took the lead in the negotiation process.
“Mekarski will be committed to becoming involved with the social fabric of our community,” Fraser said.
The Town Council also unanimously voted to extend Anzivino’s contract until Mekarski starts work on April 16. Mekarski said he would show up a week early to help with the transition.
Vanegas remains on paid administrative leave, along with Police Chief Cynthia McAlister, Town Attorney Sally Hankins, a police officer, and a human resources specialist, all of whom are subjects of various misconduct allegations. According to the town’s accounting, the investigations have cost $357,293 to date, including $155,000 in compensation for the suspended employees and $123,961 for the lawyers and consultants hired to investigate the cases.