Fairfax County’s man behind the government, set to retire


By Fredrick Kunkle, Washington Post

Tony Griffin is probably the most powerful person in the metro area you’ve never heard of.

As Fairfax County’s county executive for more than a decade, Griffin has quietly managed one of Virginia’s most diverse and dynamic jurisdictions, a suburb of more than 1 million people that covers nearly 400 square miles. Only one person has held the post longer.

Most agree that Griffin has done the job well. Whether handling the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, guiding the urbanization of Tysons Corner or collaborating on the Metrorail extension to Dulles International Airport, Griffin has demonstrated an unflappable style of leadership that was first tempered in the jungles of Vietnam.

Now Griffin is retiring, perhaps to write a book and teach at George Mason University. His friend and former deputy,Edward L. Long Jr., will succeed him.

Over four decades, Griffin has achieved a degree of success that might have been unexpected by his demanding father or the Marine Corps officers who thought he wasn’t sufficiently gung-ho to lead. Running Fairfax, it turns out, has been a good fit for an introvert with an abiding passion for local government.

“You have to have the right temperament to do this kind of job,” Griffin said. “There’s a lot of stuff always happening, and you can’t overreact to it. You can’t under-react, either. . . .And fortunately, I think I have a good temperament, and I have a passion for local government, and so that combination has served me well.”

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