Daniel E. McKeever, 57; Falls Church City Manager

By Patricia Sullivan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, July 27, 2006

Daniel E. McKeever, 57, city manager of Falls Church for the past six years, died of complications of melanoma July 25 at the University of Virginia Hospital in Charlottesville.

Mr. McKeever guided the city government through a period of economic growth that brought tensions as well as tax revenue to the small, inside-the-Beltway city.

Mr. McKeever was described as an evenhanded, mild-mannered official who kept his head during political battles, and he helped the city weather Hurricane Isabel, cope with the terrorist attack on the Pentagon and reach agreement on downtown redevelopment, which had been a topic of discussion for decades.

He was a strong supporter of public safety, affordable housing and improved internal communication, and he oversaw an aggressive capital improvement plan for the water system.

"He was able to push the city forward and get past the idea that development was, per se, bad," said former council member Samuel A. Mabry. "He set the stage for the transformation of Falls Church, but unfortunately, he didn't get a chance to see it all the way through."

Mr. McKeever was sometimes caught up in controversies. In 2004, he urged city workers to call police if they spotted someone carrying a gun on city premises, a directive that didn't sit well with firearms enthusiasts. In 2002, he was accused of improperly taking a position against a ballot proposal that would have given residents the ability to limit large-scale residential projects in the downtown area. His response was typical, said several council members.

"This memo was not intended to play the role of explaining to the community the good points and the bad points about a referendum question," he said. He said that he was answering a request from the mayor to look at problems that might result if the measure passed and that he wasn't taking a position on the proposal itself.

The current mayor, Robin S. Gardner, said Mr. McKeever "approached things diplomatically. He was honest with each and every person. He had a mild demeanor but always let his opinion be heard." He was working until July 16, when he left for medical treatment in Charlottesville, she said.

"He was an excellent day-to-day manager and also pursued long-term issues, and that balance is very difficult to strike," said council member David F. Snyder. "I didn't always agree with him, but I always respected him as a conscientious, consummate professional. . . . I always did feel he had the best interests of the city at heart."

Mr. McKeever was born in Pittsburgh. He was a graduate of East Tennessee State University. He received a master's degree in urban affairs from Virginia Tech in Blacksburg while working as a police officer in nearby Roanoke.

In 1982, he became chief of police in Pulaski, Va., and eight months later was named interim manager of the town. He went on to become town manager. In 1989, he moved to Laconia, N.H., to become city manager. He was hired by Falls Church in 2000.

Survivors include his wife of 17 years, Cynthia Gannaway of Falls Church, and a sister.

© 2006 The Washington Post Company