Virginia Beach's new city manager on first 30 days at helm: His challenges, impressions, goals

Posted at 1:19 PM, Sep 04, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-04 17:14:15-04

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - Hurricane Isaias blew in during his first week - not to mention taking over the helm in a global pandemic and a year after the mass shooting inside Building Two at the Virginia Beach Municipal Center.

"First 30 days, it felt like I was drinking from Niagara Falls. Now it is a fire hydrant, and pretty soon it will be a garden hose," said Patrick Duhaney.

The first month behind the 37-year-old new city manager's desk has been nothing short of taxing.

"Any kind of transition like this is difficult when you change leaders," he said. "On staff, council and myself."

He's leading up the most populated city in the Commonwealth, overseeing 7,500 employees and trailblazing as the first Black city manager in the Resort City.

"The community has really been receptive of me and is welcoming me as much as possible," Duhaney remarked.

The combat Army Veteran from Jamaica and former Cincinnati acting city manager is coming into a rocked foundation after 12 city employees were killed on May 31, 2019, right next door to his office. Duhaney says he’s very mindful of a shaken morale.

"[The] biggest thing I learned is how much that event permeates within the workforce, and it still on the cusp of a lot of conversations here," he said. "But everyone is banding together, and there is a lot of resiliency."

He has several goals he'd like to accomplish over his two-year contract.

"One of the biggest things is getting a handle on the budget. I haven’t managed in a pandemic; council members haven't governed in one," he said.

His biggest task in the coming weeks - hiring a new police chief.

"Most of the things people are asking for in terms of police reform and police oversight - our department already has those programs." he said. "But we can get better, and we are watching what is going on in country, in the state and in the legislature."

Other items he wants to dive into include addressing sea level rise and creating conversations with community and staff in a new climate of social unrest and racial inequality.

"Everyone is doing their absolute best to wrap their hands around each other to be kind and supportive and to meet the mission and needs of the city," he said.

Duhaney's salary is $270,000 per year.