Correction to This Article
An earlier online version of this article misstated the size of Arlington County.

Arlington's new county manager no stranger to community - or job

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By Christy Goodman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, October 1, 2010; 11:54 PM

A day after Arlington County Manager Michael B. Brown unexpectedly resigned Thursday, the county appointed as its first female county manager Barbara Donnellan.

"To be honest, this was not on my radar," said Donnellan, 53, who immediately began serving in her new role. "I'm very excited about the opportunity. I really am."

Donnellan, who has been with the county for 27 years, replaces Brown just four months after he took over the job. Brown, 59, resigned for personal reasons.

Donnellan has worked as director of management and finance, acting director for libraries, and in myriad other positions in the county, and she had been deputy county manager since October 2005. Donnellan grew up in Queens, N.Y., and received bachelor's and master's degrees from St. John's University.

"I've done it for seven months," said Donnellan, referring to a stint as acting county manager from November 2009 until May 2010, as the county searched for a replacement for former county manager Ron Carlee. "I'm not going in completely ignorant of what is expected."

Donnellan said she looks forward to having an impact on her community but said there are a few things she still needs to "get my hands around."

Arlington comprises about 26 square miles across the Potomac River from the District and has about 213,300 residents. Approximately one-quarter of its residents were born outside of the United States, and children attending the county's public schools speak more than 90 languages.

In his resignation letter, Brown said that it was a pleasure to serve Arlington but that he now wants to focus on his family.

"This action is regrettable but necessary because of the health of my wife, Linda Lee," Brown wrote in the letter, dated Sept. 30. "I need to take time now to assist her. That is proving difficult because of the work and time demands of the position of county manager," he wrote.

Brown did not return phone calls for comment.

The Arlington County Board approved a severance package of $110,000 and unused leave for Brown, officials said.

Jay Fisette (D), chairman of the Arlington County Board, said he was made recently aware of Brown's family issues, adding, "We had a little bit of time to think about it."

Donnellan proved herself, handling the record snowstorms and budget, before Brown's arrival from Savannah, Ga., in May.

"She knows the county. She knows the community. She knows the government, and it will be seamless," Fisette said.

Brown and his family will be returning to Savannah, Fisette said.

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