Douglas M. Parks, a Manassas Park council member who for nearly 20 years demonstrated his fiscally conservative views by fighting for lower taxes and increased commercial development, died early Sunday of a heart attack. He was 56.

Parks, the longest-serving member of the City Council, was remembered by friends and colleagues as a man with a passion, evident in the committees he chaired and the public service to which he committed himself for two decades.

"He had a real love for the city and its welfare," said City Manager David W. Reynal. "Everyone looked to him for advice on issues, since he'd been here for so long. We're going to miss him."

After reportedly suffering from chest pains, Parks was rushed on Saturday night to Prince William Hospital, where he later died. A few years ago, he was diagnosed with a heart condition and was urged by doctors to adopt a healthier lifestyle, said Mayor Ernest L. Evans (R).

"This is just a real shock," Evans said. "Doug was the most dedicated. He missed only two meetings that I can think of, and that's because he was sick. He worked very hard for the city."

Because Parks's four-year term expires in June, his seat will be filled with a council-appointed member soon, Evans said, adding that this is the first time a member of the City Council has died while in office.

Evans said the council will place an advertisement for the vacancy, take applications and hold a public hearing in the nomination process, a procedure outlined by the state for vacancies on the School Board.

Parks, a Republican, was first elected to office in July 1980. He chaired the city's Personnel and Public Works Committees as well as the Planning Commission, in addition to serving on the council's Finance Committee.

"He'll be sorely missed by us," said William Weakley, the city's director of public works. "He was very supportive of the whole department."

Weakely said Parks was instrumental in many projects, including street improvements and urging other council members to approve equipment for public works efforts.

Parks supported development in the mid-1980s of the Conner Center, which now houses hundreds of industrial and commercial businesses. He was also in charge of planning the development of Signal Hill Park.

During Parks's terms as a council member, Manassas Park had one of the highest real estate and personal property tax rates in the state. But Parks was tenacious in his efforts to lower the taxes for residents and match the loss with commercial revenue, his colleagues said. He also was often the one who sparked debate as he provided his lone vote of opposition.

"He really brought a balance to the council with his views," said Marie Baker, a Republican who served on the council with Parks. "He had real conservative views, so real heated debates would sometimes break out over issues."

In addition to city appointments, Parks was the construction superintendent of Superior Paving Corp., a member of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters Local 132 and a founding member of the Manassas Park Boosters Club.

To honor Parks, the city will fly its flags at half-staff for 30 days, Evans said.

Parks is survived by his wife of 39 years, Joann; two sons, John Parks and Lawrence Parks, both of Manassas Park; four brothers; and three grandchildren.

The funeral will be today at 2 p.m. at Price Funeral Home, 9609 Center St., in Manassas.

CAPTION: The city will fly its flags at half-staff for 30 days in honor of Douglas M. Parks.