The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday tapped a former Fairfax finance official to be the new county executive and take over Virginia’s biggest local government at a time of continued economic uncertainty.
In a unanimous vote, the board appointed Edward L. Long Jr., who was once the county’s chief financial officer, to succeed retiring County Executive Anthony H. Griffin.
Long, 59, who was also a deputy county executive, retired last May. But he returned to the county government soon afterward as a contractor overseeing a $44 million project to overhaul and combine the county government and the county schools’ computer systems into to a new program called FOCUS.
For much of his career, Long labored on county finances, helping to shape policy and crunch numbers for a government that has long prized its AAA bond ratings.
“He worked his way up through the ranks and knows just about every facet of Fairfax County,” Board Chairman Sharon Bulova (D) said, “and has some . . . very good ideas for where he would like to lead us, continuing on a positive direction that we have enjoyed under Tony Griffin.”
As manager of the county’s affairs, Long will answer to the board and oversee the day-to-day affairs of a government that employes about 12,000 people and has a budget of nearly $7 billion.
Griffin, who turned 65 this month, announced last year that he intended to retire after 12 years as the county’s top manager. His last day is April 24, which is when the board will make its final markup on the fiscal 2013 budget. Long will take over April 25, making an annual salary of $257,282.
The board’s decision to bring back Long caps a search that began six months ago when Griffin said he would step down. The county signed a contract with California-based headhunting firm Ralph Andersen & Associates to recruit candidates. About a dozen candidates were identified, including two deputy county executives in Fairfax, according to sources who spoke on condition of anonymity because the deliberations involved personnel issues.
Long, who grew up in Alexandria and lives in Centreville, joined the county in 1977 as a budget analyst and has, by his count, been through at least 33 budgets. He will take over at a time the county is shouldering significant investments, such as transforming Tysons Corner into a mini-city and extending Metrorail’s new Silver Line to Dulles International Airport and through Loudoun County.
“I think the biggest thing the county’s going to face the next few years . . . is the new normal: In terms of the revenue stream to the county, it’s just going to continue to limp along,” Long told reporters Tuesday.
But Long, who studied political science in college and obtained a masters degree in urban affairs, said he was more than a guy in a green eyeshade. As deputy county executive, Long said he also took responsibility for agencies dealing with personnel, tax administration, auditing, purchasing and fleet management.
As for his swift return to Fairfax government, Long said the board’s generally congenial approach factored into his decision. “They agree to disagree, and they move forward, and that’s a very major factor for me,” he said.
“When I originally left, I had a lot of staff coming up to me, saying ‘Would you please consider coming back?’ ” Long added. “And the staff here is so dedicated and so strong, that was certainly one of the factors.”
Long entered the county’s Deferred Retirement Option Program and retired in May at age of 58 after 34 years of service, with a salary of more than $195,040. He returned the next month as the FOCUS project executive sponsor, earning between $95,472 and $143,208 a year. On Tuesday, Long said he would not be collecting his annuity.