Vienna officials announced March 31 that they had hired a planner from the city of Rockville, Md., to serve as director of the town’s Planning and Zoning Department.
Town officials chose David Levy after conducting a nationwide search and receiving applications from candidates in 10 states. Levy will assume his new job May 9 at a salary of $161,000.
Levy has extensive experience both in government and the private sector, town officials said. He has spent the last 16 years working for city of Rockville, Md., first as chief of long-range planning and then as assistant director for planning and business improvement.
“David Levy’s experience successfully updating Rockville’s comprehensive plan and updating the Rockville Pike corridor through a collaborative community process closely mirrors the approach Vienna has planned for similar updates,” Town Manager Mercury Payton said in a statement announcing Levy’s hiring.
“I am confident David will very capably lead Vienna through the next phases of our planning and zoning initiatives, not the least of which is our first major zoning-code update in 60 years,” he said.
That initiative, dubbed Code Create, is about halfway through its process.
Levy said he will work with the community to ensure its desires are being fulfilled. Another key element will be coordinating with other town departments, including police, public works, parks and recreation, public information and economic development, he said.
“Planning work is cross-disciplinary by its nature,” Levy said. “When all of those folks are on board an your working with the team, you not only have a plan but a chance to implement it. You need the departments with implementation authority.”
Payton said he was confident Levy would help achieve consensus amongst the Town Council and Vienna residents on the initiative.
“One of the qualities that was prominent [in the interview process] was his ability to understand communities, elected officials and leadership teams and be able to pivot and adjust, based on the needs of the environment,” Payton said. “Coupled with his educational background and his work in Rockville, he has a really wonderful combination of traits that will make him a good fit for Vienna.”
The town manager also was impressed with Levy’s lengthy tenure in Rockville.
“Serving in one community for 16 years is a unique trait that demonstrates his ability to experience multiple challenges,” Payton said. “It demonstrates stability and a desire to understand the heartbeat of where he serves.”
Levy was born and raised in Baltimore and earned a bachelor’s degree in history from the University of Pennsylvania in 1986 and a master of public policy degree from Harvard Kennedy School in 1992.
Levy also in 1992 obtained a certificate of proficiency in Spanish from the Galápagos Language School, then spent nearly two years as a special assistant to the mayor in the city of Quito, Ecuador.
Levy subsequently was the Brownfields Project coordinator for the Baltimore City Department of Planning from 1995 to 1998, then spent two years as a senior associate with PA Consulting Group in Arlington.
He then did a three-year stint as a project manager of ICF International, a global consulting and technology-services company located just south of the Vienna Metrorail Station. While there, Levy provided technical assistance and analysis to local, state and federal agencies regarding community and economic development, sustainable development and public management, Vienna officials said.
Before assuming his current post in Rockville, Levy was assistant commissioner for land resources for the Baltimore City Department of Housing & Community Development, where he worked on initiatives to redevelop or rehabilitate sections of the city, Vienna officials said.
Levy currently is vice president of the Maryland Chapter of the American Planning Association and a member of the Urban Land Institute, American Planning Association and American Institute of Certified Planners. He also previously spent two years chairing the planning director’s technical advisory committee for the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments.
The Vienna Planning and Zoning Department has seen some turnover at the top since Greg Hembree, who had led the department for 27 years, committed suicide in September 2014. Patrick Mulhern served as the department’s director from April 2015 until his retirement in January 2018 and was succeeded by Cindy Petkac, who departed in December 2021. Michael D’Orazio, the department’s deputy director, has served as acting director since Petkac left.
Levy lives in Rockville with his wife and two daughters. In his spare time, he likes to ride his bicycle, travel and play guitar (more acoustic than electric, out of consideration for his family).
Levy said he took the Vienna post in part because he wanted to try his hand as a department director. He became familiar with Vienna when working at ICF and said he has been struck by the town’s cohesive neighborhoods, parkland, and strong environmental ethic, as evidenced by its tree-preservation efforts.
“Vienna is a beautiful place,” he said.