Harry E. Wells

Former Falls Church City Manager

Harry E. Wells, 87, who served as city manager of Falls Church from 1964 to 1983, died of congestive heart failure Sept. 7 at his home in Falls Church.

Mr. Wells began serving Falls Church in 1948, when he was hired as a town clerk for $67 a week. He later worked as city treasurer, purchasing agent, registrar of voters, clerk of the municipal court, clerk of the City Council, assistant city manager and acting city manager. In 1964, he was appointed city manager.

During his 20 years as city manager, Mr. Wells presided over what he called "an oasis" of public parks and community buildings in Virginia's smallest city and what was then the second wealthiest city in the nation with a per capita income of $12,885 at the end of his tenure.

Known as an easy-going man with a deep laugh, Mr. Wells described to The Washington Post in 1983 his own and Falls Church's progress over the years as going "from horses to the moon."

In 1979, City Hall in Falls Church was named the Harry E. Wells Building. In its resolution, the City Council stated: "Harry E. Wells has shown continually great love and affection for the city which has served as an inspiration for the public, city employees, city boards and commissions, and city councils."

Mr. Wells, who was born in Seat Pleasant, had lived in Falls Church since 1922. He attended Falls Church public schools and graduated from the old Western High School in the District, where he played on the basketball team. He also studied civil engineering at Virginia Polytechnic Institute.

From 1941 to 1946, Mr. Wells served in the Army Air Forces and was stationed in Saipan. He was an intelligence officer at his discharge. He later took courses through the University of Virginia extension in public administration.

After he retired in 1983, he told a Post reporter, "I don't think I'll ever attend another night meeting. Some 35 years of night meetings is enough."

Mr. Wells and his wife, as parents of a child with autism, became advocates and volunteers for the Northern Virginia Training Center in Fairfax County. They served in many capacities for Parents and Associates of NVTC.

He spearheaded projects for the center, including an indoor swimming pool, a nature trail, enclosed sun porches, an all-weather sports court and a picnic pavilion.

His wife of 57 years, Kathleen Kay McGinnis, died in 2000.

Survivors include six children, Michael Wells of New Milford, N.J., Patrick Wells of Manassas, Nan Wells Alcott of Woodstock, Va., Maggie Wells Schwind of Falls Church, Ruth Wells Porter of Springfield and Harry V. Wells of Fairfax; a sister, Shirley Hartwell of Palmyra, Va.; 15 grandchildren; and six great-grandchildren.