Finding someone more passionate about city government than Cindy Mester would be difficult. She began working for the City of Falls Church in 2005 and has since moved into the role of Deputy City Manager, a role that includes a wide range of duties which she describes as “facilitating, collaborating and negotiating.”
Before beginning to work for the city of Falls Church, Mester spent over 20 years in Loudoun County, where she interned during her last semester at Longwood, which helped her to realize how much she enjoyed working with and being a part of a community.
“My basic function is to help build community,” she said. “I love local government because of that. I’ve been doing this type of work since 1983. My main role is to facilitate, collaborate and negotiate.” As Deputy City Manager, Mester takes on a wide range of responsibilities and various projects including the Capital Improvement Program (CIP), which “identifies capital needs of the community and indicates how these needs will be funded over the five year period” according to the City government website.
Overseeing the CIP includes “everything from developing the plan through the planning commission and Council, working with staff to implement and get grants,” she said. “Capital could be facilities like the library and City Hall or deal with transportation such as South Washington, and parks.”
Legislation is also a huge part of Mester’s day-to-day function. The City of Falls Church does not have a full-time legislative liaison so it has become one of the duties of the Deputy City Manager. She does this work predominantly at the state level with local politicians but during the pandemic this work now involves more at the federal level due to the pandemic and federal relief money.
Additionally, she works as the Pension Plan Administrator for the City, overseeing pension plans and other post-employment benefit plans for current and former City employees. She also serves as the Risk Manager for the City, overseeing insurance and claims as well as training staff to operate as safely as possible.
She also works to make sure ADA and Title VI are followed, has the IT department report directly to her, works on environmental sustainability in the City and has helped with a variety of special projects in Falls Church.
“Where I get seen in the community a lot is through special projects,” said Mester. “I get to work on a lot of special projects and that’s what I love doing. I get to work with affordable housing, ARPA, the Smart City partnership with Virginia Tech and more.”
The Smart City Partnership “aims to analyze the needs of the community, select technologies that can address these needs, and implement them in a Smart City test bed for evaluation in a real-world environment.”
This includes several technologies being implemented including adaptive lighting, smart parking and payment, smart intersections, data access and evaluation tools, and roadway and infrastructure development.
One of her passions is working with the arts community in Falls Church. She has worked with Creative Cauldron, the Falls Church Arts & Humanities Council and the Little City CATCH Foundation on a variety of projects including helping Creative Cauldron get into their current theater space for shows and camps.
“That isn’t because I’m an artist or actively involved in the arts community,” she said. “It goes back to facilitating and negotiating contracts, leases, partnerships with the City and getting Council approval on things.”
She was heavily involved in City Hall expansion and renovation, a project that was 12 years in the making and completed in 2019.
“It’s really fun, it’s diverse and no day is ever the same, which is something I love,” said Mester about her job.
She always knew she wanted to work with people but originally saw herself in a “more structured” program until she spent a semester-long internship with Loudoun County in college.
“What I found was that I really liked being out in the community,” she said when asked about how she became interested in local government. “This internship gave me a cool opportunity of being a counselor in a group home and learning how to adapt recreational activities and events for persons with disabilities so that they were inclusionary.”
After seeing what a difference she could make on people’s lives at the local level, she decided to stick with local government and work in Loudoun.
Mester has many exciting projects coming in the future, including working to bring more affordable housing options to the city and much more, particularly as things move back to being in-person.
Next time you see Cindy Mester around the city, make sure to thank her for all of her hard work.