Dave Hansen stepping down as Virginia Beach’s city manager

Virginia Beach

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — Dave Hansen is stepping down as the city manager in Virginia Beach.

In an email obtained by 10 On Your Side, Hansen told city officials he will be resigning from his post Wednesday and submitting for retirement.

I want you to know I will remain your biggest cheerleader and don’t you ever believe you are anything less than the very best. Take care of yourselves, your coworkers and our citizens.

Dave Hansen

The Virginia Beach Communications Office issued a news release Wednesday that said Hansen’s decision came after a “lengthy discussion” Tuesday with Mayor Bobby Dyer and members of city council.

WAVY’s Andy Fox reports a well-place city hall source said Hansen decided to leave his post not because of the May 31 mass shooting, but because of pushback from some council members.

Calls to Councilman John Moss and Councilwoman Jessica Abbott were not immediately returned.

Hansen named Deputy City Manager Tom Leahy as acting manager pending council’s decision on appointing an interim on Sept. 3, the news release said.

“Dave deserves tremendous credit for all he has accomplished during his tenure with the city,” Dyer said in a statement. “His focus on building our solid infrastructure to rallying the city to support the incredibly successful Something in the Water, Dave has achieved more in the last three and a half years than many managers accomplish in their entire careers. I want to personally thank him for his service and dedication and wish him a well-earned retirement.”

This comes weeks after the Virginia Beach Interdenominational Ministers Conference called for him to be fired from his position — citing reasons including his “behavior, comments, and lack of leadership over the last three years.”

Minister Dr. James Allen provided the following statement to 10 On Your Side:

We are glad City Council leadership recognizes the need for a fresh start for the people of Virginia Beach. The city can now pursue a national search for a City Manager to continue to move VIrginia Beach forward while addressing the serious issues facing our city. We look forward to helping in any way we can.

Dr. James Allen

“I didn’t see it coming,” says Virginia Beach Vice-Mayor Jim Wood.

By 9:30 Wednesday morning, word had reached most that Hansen was resigning. He could have stayed, but decided to leave.

“You need the support of the majority of council and you really need the support of the super majority, which is 8 or 9 council members, and Dave’s support wasn’t there,” Wood added.

One of those who thought it was a time for change is Virginia Beach Councilman Guy Tower. “We needed to make a change because Mr. Hansen had lost confidence of majority of the city council and it was really clear to me.”

It was clear the good deeds of Dave Hansen were overshadowed by unfortunate comments he had made. Vice Mayor Wood knew of Hansen’s loose lips, but thought his ability to get things done outweighed that. “He did a number of projects: the Lesner Bridge, we are underway with major flooding projects, an honest aggressive capital program that started when he was a deputy city manager, replacing outdated buildings, renovating buildings, and the whole plan for the revitalization for the municipal complex … our city remains safe, the city Triple A Bond Rating is intact, so it is cheaper for us to borrow money. All of these are hallmarks of good management.”

All that, however, was overshadowed in Tuesday night’s closed session, which Hansen was present for. It was very informal with “straw” type votes taken.

“You can call it that … we took a couple of votes on how to proceed, but they weren’t votes on anything that would translate into getting rid of David,” Tower said during an interview at his home. “It just became obvious in the end of the meeting that it was time to make a change. I think a majority of the people agreed with that,” Tower said.

Hansen was known to get the “iron” out the door, to get things done. But in the end he upset too many people. Tower spoke about the dynamics of council and how each is impacted with feedback.

“A number of City Council, each of whom have their experience with him and have their own constituent feedback about him, decided it was time for a change and I am just one of those people.”

Wood added, “his management style put some people off, but I mean I’m looking at results, and he got things done.”

Both Tower and Wood agree what happened on May 31 did not have anything to do with the resignation.

But Gary McCollum with the Virginia Beach Interdenominational Ministers Conference disagrees, and weeks ago his group called for Hansen’s ouster.

“We are hearing of toxic work environments. They aren’t our words, they were the words of the employees. They talked about the nepotism, favoritism, and the unfair hiring practices. They talked about that to us … Mr. Hansen and I were both in the military, and when an organization is doing well you give all the credit to everybody else, but when things are going bad it is the person at the top and how he operates.”

In the end Hansen failed to manage his mouth. “It just became obvious in the end of the meeting that it was time to make a change. I think a majority of the people agreed with that … it was a mutual decision reached by Dave and the Council that it was time to make a change,” Tower concluded.

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