Purcellville Town Manager David Mekarski has been on the job for almost two weeks and is already up to speed on much of the town’s strengths and weaknesses.
Mekarski officially started work on April 16, replacing interim town manager John Anzivino, who acted in the role from Dec. 18 to April 13. Since then, he has been meeting with town business owners, reviewing tasks that Anzivino recommended be carried out before stepping down and is now preparing to accomplish a few of his own goals.
“I am going to aggressively work on that agenda,” he said. “First and foremost, I think it’s critical in light of the past situation with [fired interim town manager Alex Vanegas] to really restore the cultural alignment of the entire organization,” he said.
Once settled into his new home in town by May 7, Mekarski’s first line of work is to meet one-on-one with each of the town’s 82 employees, staring with at the bottom of the chain of command and moving up to department heads. In the meetings, he plans to ask staff members eight questions. While the first question will get staff members comfortable with Mekarski’s management style and expectations, the second will be used to find out whether or not an employee likes his or her job and what Mekarski can do to make it better for them.
Mekarski said he knows from his past experience working as a manager in other towns that staff members will give him “an explosive amount of ideas.” He said that if he ever implements one of those, it would create “so much energy” within the ranks of the town government.
“The talent pool that I have inherited is outstanding,” he said. “As a manager, that’s a huge foundation to build on.”
Mekarski said the meetings will take about three months and 40 hours to complete and will help him to guide the selected independent firm in its operational assessment of the town’s organizational structure this summer. “It’s a significant investment of time,” he said.
He will also be working to accomplish recommendations that Anzivino previously made, including suggestions to coordinate software purchases with the IT Department, encourage staff creativity in addressing and solving problems, simplify meeting agendas to increase meeting efficiency, and develop a press release policy to clarify which pieces of news should be released to better capture the media’s attention.
Simplifying meeting agendas sticks out to Mekarski as a way to solicit more resident input. He noted that there are many residents who have great ideas, but are not comfortable addressing them in a public setting. To solve this, Mekarski said he would be meeting with Mayor Kwasi Fraser and all Town Council members in a series of work sessions to find ways of gathering resident input in a more direct format.
Mekarski is also looking at possibly implementing consent agendas for the Town Council to use and save time at its meetings.
“The town’s agenda is often taken up by lengthy discussions on routine items that could be handled via a consent agenda or a more focused use of time limits,” Anzivino wrote in a prepared statement that he had Councilman Ryan Cool present at Tuesday’s Town Council meeting.
Mekarksi will also be working to develop a press release policy that will better define which pieces of noteworthy information should be released. According to Anzivino, the town’s press releases are currently oversaturated with information, which could lead to “diminished interest in having truly newsworthy information published.” “Typically, press releases are set aside for major events and announcements in a community,” he wrote.
Mekarski said he would be striving to develop the policy, in addition to a healthy relationship with members of the press. He said this would ultimately lead to greater transparency.
In setting out to accomplish these goals, Mekarski acknowledged that Anzivino also helped the town accomplish multiple tasks—like developing the fiscal year 2019 budget review and adoption process, appointing Interim Town Attorney Hank Day, developing the request for proposals that solicited responses from 14 firms interested in conducting an operational assessment on the town’s government structure, developing a more defined FOIA policy and hiring Mekarski.
“John did an excellent job,” Mekarksi said. “John has greatly assisted my efforts in giving me his professional observations as a manager.”
The Town Council on March 13 voted to appoint Mekarski from a pool of 29 candidates as the fifth individual to fill the town manager role in the last 10 months. He is now being paid $150,000 annually to lead town staff.