Behind every elected official is an administrator and behind him is a deputy and behind him . . . Elected officials may make policy but the quality of government is often determined by little-known men and women who hold the administrative jobs. Fairfax County's top administrators include a county executive and three deputies. This is the last of a series about them and what they do. Today's article reports on Deputy County Executive Sam Finz.
When the Fairfax Board of Supervisors needs information on growth trends in the county, they turn to Sam Finz. When there is a question about rezoning land, the Supervisors ask Finz. And when the Supervisors want statistics on projected traffic loads on Fairfax highways, they direct their requests to Finz.
Finz at 33 is the Fairfax deputy county executive in charge of planning and development, a job that ties him to the No. 1 issue in Fairfax - growth. Finz estimates that 85 per cent of all requests for information from the Board of Supervisors, mostly growth related, fall into at least one of six departments under his supervision.
"Most of the divisions under me overlap in one way or another," Finz said. "Together, they all amount to the infrastructure of the county."
In management lingo, Finz heads the Fairfax office or research and statistics, the office of comprehensive planning, the department of environmental management, the department of housing and community development and the office of environmental affairs. He also supervises the county's cooperative computer center.
In layman's terms, that means Finz has charge of government divisions that record statistics on the current status of Fairfax and project the county's future growth, plan for that growth and the public facilities it will requre, monitor the quality of the county's air, water and other resources, issue building permits, conduct building inspections, enforce zoning codes and run computerized data systems, among other duties. About 1,000 county staffers are under Finz's jurisdiction.
Finz is one of three new deputy county executives appointed in November by the Board of Supervisors at the suggestion of county executive Leonard Whorton. The three deputies report directly to Whorton and, at times, to individual Supervisors. They do not shape policy, as does the Board of Supervisors. But they influence that policy, and therefore the direction of the county by the way they interpret it, implement it and contribute to it through daily decisions.
"Even changing the wording in a zoning ordinance can have far-reaching ramifications on county policy for land use," Finz said. "I am responsible for seeing that my staff examines those ramifications and determines whether they conform to the route the county want to take."
Approving site plans, granting waivers for building requirements, enforcing zoning codes and approving or denying building permits are among the routine decisions that departments under Finz make daily. While Finz seldom acts on individual matters, he spends about 40 per cent of his day reviewing staff work "to assure that it is quality work, clear, to the point and consistent with what Whorton wants to present to the board."
Finz also indirectly initiates policy. A recent report on growth forecasts for Fairfax County that Finz authored - in which he predicted that the county's population will reach about 3.8 million by 1990 - serves as a guide for the Supervisors when they estimate public facilities the county will need and the amount of revenue it can expect to collect.
"The report is not officially endorsed by the Board," Finz said. "But it is a base the Supervisors accept as a planning tool, and one they will use to make policy decisions."
Frinz says he spends another 50 per cent of his day in meeting with Whorton and with department staff members. The sessions produce a constant flow of information between the executive and operational legels of county government. The remaining 10 per cent of the work day is spent on the phone, answering citizen inquiries and conferring with Supervisors or outside consultants.
"There's never a time at my desk that I'm thinking about planning the future of Fairfax County," Finz said. "That's something for which I reserve my own time at home."
Each Thursday he inspects curbs and gutters, stormwater drains and other county facilities.
"I like to see the logistics behind the problems we deal with," Finz said. "I can get a better feel for what has to be done if I throughly understand the problems behind what appears on paper."
Finz appears an unlikely candidate to be peering down gutters. Young, bearded and dressed in a business suit, Finz builds his career on headwork in offices rather than on legwork down subdivision streets. First and foremost, he describes himself as a manager.
Projects like streamlining administrative processes and increasing employee productivity fascinate him.
Board of Supervisors Chairman John F. Herrity calls Finz a "specualtive thinker - a thinker the Board can always expect to bring a different view to handling the issues."
Finz remembers when he came to Fairfax as a "faceless planner" back in 1972. The Board of Supervisors is "probably surprise to see me around. I don't think they thought I would have stayed five years then," he said.
A native of New York and a former engineering consultant to the federal government and private industry, Finz, who is divorced, is a member of a growing portion of the county's population - the single parent. Finz and his daughter Jacqueline, 10, live in Oakton.
Finz, who holds a bachelors degree in economics from New York University and teaches public administration at American University, says: "Under this Board of Supervisors, I've been given two very clear mandates concerning county growth. They are to streamline the development process in the county and to encourage a better mix of commercial and residential growth.
"There are a lot of different sides to be considered," he continued. "And that's where the challenge lies in a job like mine. You've got to consider conservation of resources while stimulating a good growth mix. The challenge is managing and changing the process to the satisfaction of so many needs and different groups."