FAIRMONT, W.Va. — The city of Fairmont is making history.
The newly appointed city manager, Valarie Means, is set to become the first female city manager in Fairmont history.
“It’s funny, I really didn’t think anything about the fact that she’s a female until somebody mentioned it after the meeting,” Mayor Brad Merrifield said on WAJR’s “Talk of the Town.” “She was the best candidate.”
Means, along with the other two final candidates, visited Fairmont last week for a tour of the city, meetings with department heads and more interviews with city council.
“They were all very solid candidates. It made for a difficult choice,” Merrifield said.
But, Merrifield said it wasn’t long before Means began to stand out.
“She had tremendous support from the department heads, and if you think about it, to go into a room with nine diverse people that all have different needs with their different departments — police, fire, water, sewage — and within a couple hours come out with strong support, I think that’s a special talent,” he said.
Means previously served as city administrator with the city of Hagerstown, Maryland from 2015 to January 2019. Prior to that role, she spent four years as the city manager of Weirton.
“She has a level of confidence that she’s kind of ‘Been there, done that’ kind of thing and she’s worked in a bigger city setup. She’s seasoned,” Merrifield said.
“I liked her method of thinking,” he added. “She doesn’t shoot from the hip. She seems to take pause, gather all of the information before responding, but she was not knocked off track with any of our questions.”
Merrifield feels that experience will make Means an asset to the city’s administration.
“Her finance background is very strong, and our finance director of many years is set to retire at the end of June,” he said. “The fact that she understands the culture, which all three candidates did, there should be no learning curve there on understanding the culture in not only Fairmont but West Virginia. We’re different, in a good way.”
Following the candidates’ visit last Wednesday, each council member had six days to digest and review the information before making a decision during Tuesday’s council meeting.
Now, they’re excited to get Means into the position and move forward.
“She’s excited for the opportunity to work with us,” Merrifield said. “We have so much to offer and so many things that we can do. She’s really excited to get on board.”