BY JOHN-HENRY DOUCETTE
COURTHOUSE — The city council’s choice to follow the long-serving Jim Spore, gives the elected body a city manager who has overseen a number of major projects and understands the direction sought by the city’s elected leaders, officials said.
Hansen also had clear support from a number of city department heads and employees who attended the announcement of his selection at City Hall on Tuesday, Jan. 26,, and he recognized the council, colleagues, family and the public in his remarks during the meeting.
“It’s an extreme honor to be here and to have been selected,” Hansen said following the meeting. In remarks to reporters, he used words like “continuing” but also discussed pursuing “innovation” among approaches to the job. He discussed his influential predecessor, too.
“He taught me how to become an effective leader in local government,” Hansen said regarding Spore. “I am deeply indebted to him for where I am today.”
Officials noted Hansen has a lot of experience managing big projects, and Vice Mayor Louis Jones, who represents the Bayside District, read a partial list. City Councilmember Barbara Henley, who represents the Princess Anne District, said a number of them have been in the southern reaches of Virginia Beach, such as sand replenishment in Sandbridge and the new fire station in Blackwater. “I think he’s going to be a great city manager,” she said during an interview on Tuesday, Feb. 2.
“Experience,” she added, giving a main reason. “He also knows his way around the southern part of the city.”
Hansen, following the meeting on Jan. 26, told reporters he would continue to actively engage projects, including local issues and some of the matters of Virginia Beach interest at the General Assembly.
Priorities, of course, include the upcoming budget, but he also stressed engaging stakeholders effectively following instances in which some people criticized civic engagement and making the most of the council retreat that was scheduled to be ongoing as this edition of The Independent News went to press.
“We are a learning organization,” he said. “Mistakes can be made. We learn from those mistakes. … It’s a matter of making sure we have engaged all of the stakeholders.”
Amid that conversation, Mayor Will Sessoms took a seat in the council chamber to watch Hansen speak to the press.
“I certainly am all in on light rail,” Hansen noted at one point. “And I say this because — ”
“That’s my city manager,” Sessoms quipped, earning a laugh from some observers left in the chamber.
And Hansen pressed ahead with his comment: “— because connecting the two largest cities in the commonwealth is a critically important economic initiative that, for us to compete nationally, to grow … we need to invest in another choice for 21st Century workers to live, work and play.”
Hansen served as a deputy manager under Spore, giving oversight to five departments: budget and management services; communications and information technology, finance; public utilities; and public works.
When he came on at Virginia Beach, Hansen’s title was chief information and financial officer, but the title was changed to deputy, he noted, to better reflect the position within the organization.
He joined the city a decade ago, following a 31-year career in the U.S. Army, during which he worked his way from the enlisted ranks to become an officer and hold a number of leadership positions.
One important assignment along the way, he said, was the 20th Engineer Battalion, 1st Cavalry Division, at Ft. Hood, Texas. “I belonged to a brigade combat team called Iron Horse,” he said. “Because of my experiences with that, I was selected to be the chief combat engineering trainer of the U.S. Army, and they shipped me off to the deserts of the Mojave. …
“You’re responsible to contribute to a large organization that is critical to the successful completion of some rather serious missions, and when you do that well, and your soldiers move in unison, it’s a splendid thing to be a part of. It gives you great pride when you are training-focused and can bring combined arms together to contribute to mission success.
“And it’s not unlike here in the city,” he said. “We have so many diverse departments that provide such a wide range of support and services. But what makes us really good in the city is that we all work collaboratively together … ”