Purcellville Town Council on Tuesday voted 5-1 to hire David Mekarski as the next town manager.
Mekarski comes to Purcellville with more than 20 years of local government experience, most recently as village manager for the Village of Olympia Fields, Illinois, a south Chicago suburb. He will make $150,000 annually in Purcellville.
The new manager said he wants to enhance the town's quality of life and revenues, manage growth and “get the job done.”
“I look at myself in a lot of ways as a conductor,” Mekarski, who was selected among a pool of 29 applicants, told the Times-Mirror. “We're here – citizens, staff, council – really to try to make beautiful music, to try to carry a movement, a composition together. Everybody has a certain role and responsibility.”
The incoming manager, who will officially take the helm in April, will come on board amid a particularly trying time in Purcellville. Several high-level town employees remain on paid leave, and independent investigations are racking up hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxpayer dollars. Council members have refused to comment on the status of the investigations, which stem from town management and council's decision to fire the police chief last fall. The chief, Cynthia McAlister, has since been rehired and placed on administrative leave.
Mekarski will take over for Interim Town Manager John Anzivino, who came to Purcellville in December following then Interim Town Manager Alex Vanegas' placement on administrative leave.
Mekarski holds a bachelor's degree in political science from the State University of New York, Buffalo and two master’s degrees – one in urban and regional planning from the University of New Orleans and the second in public administration from Oakland University in Michigan.
“If there's one way to characterize, I think, my management style … I would characterize myself as a servant leader,” Mekarski told council. “ … as a manager, I'm here to essentially lead your management team and your employees to accomplish your vision.”
Mekarski isn't without a brown mark on his resume. According to media reports, Mekarski was dismissed in Vero Beach, Florida, after an ethics complaint was levied against him. The complaint accused him of allowing city workers to use public resources to fix the properties of city leaders and employees following a hurricane and allowing alcohol consumption during the crisis. Mekarski was later cleared of all charges by the State Commission on Ethics.
Mekarski said he wasn't fired but “negotiated a settlement agreement.”
“There was specious ethics charges that were waged against me, which were completely, essentially, shown no probable cause by a Florida ethics commission,” Mekarski told the Times-Mirror.
Councilman Doug McCollum cast the lone dissenting vote against Mekarski's hiring, and Vice Mayor Nedim Ogelman was absent from Tuesday's meeting.
McCollum said he would have preferred another candidate who had closer ties in the Loudoun community. Current Assistant Loudoun County Administrator Robert Middaugh was among the finalists for the Purcellville post.
“With over two decades of municipal management, David Mekarski brings to our town a wealth of professional, practical, and educational experiences to successfully guide Purcellville through the challenges and opportunities before us,” Mayor Kwasi Fraser said. “He has demonstrated leadership in the areas of crisis management, revenue enhancement, business development, and comprehensive long range planning.”
Council on Tuesday also extended Anzivino's contract through Mekarski's start date, expected to be in the middle of April.