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‘The Task Is Mighty’: Deputy County Executive Rachel Flynn At Bisnow’s Future Of Fairfax County

What developments have cropped up along the Silver Line so far, and what is still in store? Will new corporate tenants in Reston Center and Tysons contribute to an even larger boom? These questions and more will be on the docket at Bisnow’s Future of Fairfax County event on Oct. 10. Register here for the event

Deputy County Executive Rachel Flynn

Fairfax County has already undergone a remarkable revitalization. The shopping-focused Tysons Corner area is now the booming corporate and residential destination of Tysons. The Silver Line, which has already attracted a host of new developments, will soon link the further reaches of the county to the heart of the District. Now, more change is on the way.

Continuing that revitalization is the top priority for Rachel Flynn, who was appointed deputy county executive in January. Flynn oversees many of the county’s most crucial economic levers, from transit and building codes to public works and economic initiatives. 

With a master's from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, Flynn has held similar jobs in public service in cities from Richmond to Oakland, but she comes most recently from Google’s headquarters in Mountain View, California.

Bisnow sat down with Flynn to talk through her goals and responsibilities and what she’s looking to speak about at our Future of Fairfax County event on Oct. 10.  

Bisnow: What were you up to at Google? 

Flynn: My focus at Google was developing office buildings to help the company grow within Silicon Valley. Google is large enough that it’s shifted focus from leasing office space to developing its own buildings that fit its needs.

Like a lot of places, Silicon Valley is dealing with challenges of growth — affordable housing, transit. I focused on helping Google to expand its office development with proper planning in mind.

Bisnow: How did you decide to come back to the East Coast and the public sector?

Flynn: I love public service, and I’d already been in planning positions in Lynchburg, Richmond and Oakland. This position allows me to oversee a broader portfolio. In addition to planning and building, I run the department of economic initiatives and transportation as well as public works and parks.

Bisnow: What’s the biggest challenge facing Fairfax County right now?

Flynn: Fairfax County was built on one type of land-use model. After the Beltway was created, it grew exponentially, with suburban residential subdivisions, office parks, shopping centers and malls. What we need to do now is give people options to have a variety of land-use patterns instead.

We’re starting to look at ways to enhance development for multi-use, live-work-play communities, that have greater density, greater connectivity and transportation, in places like Tysons and Reston. Employers and employees want to be in those spaces. We can’t just continue to widen roads, we have to think more creatively through development patterns.

Bisnow: What is your favorite part of your job?

Flynn: Working with the residents and businesses to come to consensus around issues so that everybody wins. I like making people feel heard. Maybe they learn something they didn’t know before, or they thought about what their neighbor said or the local business owner said. I really do love public service, going to community meetings and educating people.

Bisnow: What keeps you up at night?

Flynn: The changes I make take years to take hold. Nothing happens overnight, but we have to take action now, the task is mighty. The extension of the Metro was decades in the making, but they had the patience to plant the right seeds and help it change and grow.

Bisnow: What are you looking forward to at Bisnow’s Future of Fairfax County event?

Flynn: Meeting people. It’s so important to hear people’s stories and find out where their passions lie. Everyone has their role here, the public sector engages the community in master plans, creates the zoning regulations and codes, and the private sector puts its money and sweat into creating businesses and growth. I want to hear everyone’s ideas and find out what we can do to help them.

Bisnow’s Future of Fairfax County event is on Oct. 10.