Editorial: The Legacy of Dan McKeever

Falls Church City Manager Daniel S. McKeever, 61, died peacefully at the University of Virginia Hospital Tuesday night from complications of melanoma cancer. Despite being diagnosed with the condition last November and undergoing extensive treatments since, he continued to serve effectively in his pivotal role as the leader of Falls Church’s city manager form of local government almost to the moment that a sudden turn for the worse sent him to the U.Va. hospital last Thursday. Even as recently as the City Council work session of three days earlier, he was energetic and insightful as he led the Council through a difficult discussion of residential infill legislation.

McKeever came to Falls Church in the spring of 2000 following a decade of turmoil and controversy in the city manager’s office. He immediately brought a sense of calm and stability to the position, even though he would subsequently lead the City through its most aggressive era of new growth in its history. Under McKeever’s direction the City approved construction of five new large scale mixed use development projects, all of which are now either complete, near completion or under construction. He also marshaled the process leading to the passage of a bond referendum and construction of the City’s first significant new school facility in 50 years.

His role in these developments was monumental. While exhibiting remarkable patience and calm self-assured leadership, he took a City inexperienced in matters of negotiating effectively with developers and made it a “tough customer,” exacting considerable proffers and concessions to the benefit of the entire community while the major new projects moved forward. In the context of this, he commissioned the development of an economic forecasting model that could project anticipated tax revenues from alternative forms of development as a tool in assisting the decision making process.

In the arena of fiscal policy, he secured the City’s top-rate bond rating despite taking on new school construction debt by leading the adoption of disciplined, formal fund balance and debt ratio policies.

McKeever also reformed and improved City Hall’s means of communicating with its public through the development of its web site, its e-news and its weekly Focus pages in the News-Press.

In the 1990s, prior to McKeever’s arrival, Falls Church went through no less than six city managers, three actual and three interims. But McKeever’s steady and affable style became clear from the day a reception to introduce him to the public was held at City Hall in April 2000. He took official reigns on June 1, 2000 and only two months later, during a microburst storm that sent trees and tree limbs careening into homes and streets, McKeever was out personally helping with the clean up. The photo of him carrying traffic cones that appeared in the News-Press then spoke volumes about him. It portended his years of stable leadership. It was unforgettable, as he was, and will always be.