"We look forward to working with Jim, City staff and Alexandrians to accomplish great things together," said Alexandria Mayor Justin Wilson. "With input through surveys, town halls and review panels, City Council sought to find a candidate who would reflect our values and we found that in Jim Parajon."
Parajon, 58, comes to Alexandria from the other Arlington, the one in Texas, where he has worked for more than a decade. His most recent role has been serving as deputy city manager overseeing a large portfolio including asset management, communications, legislative affairs, economic development, libraries, strategic Initiatives, municipal airport operations and the fire department. Under his economic development role, he oversaw the Esports Stadium Arlington, which seats 2,500 people and is 100,000 square feet, and opened in 2018.
“I believe very strongly in community engagement. As a professional planner, that’s my background. That’s my DNA,” said Parajon in a meeting with reporters. “As a professional planner, you don’t develop a plan or a neighborhood effort or initiatives without robust community engagement.”
In the 100 years that Alexandria has been led by a professional city manager, 16 of the 18 people who have held the job have been whtie males. Parajon’s appointment to the chief executive’s position will be viewed by many as a missed opportunity to have some diversity in the role. Asked about his commitment to inclusion at City Hall, Parajon says he led two reorganizations in Arlington to inject more diversity into local government.
“Yes I’m a white guy. What I would ask is that people give me a chance and engage with me and understand my perspectives,” he said. “I really feel strongly that the organization should reflect what the community looks and feels like.”
Before his current role, he served as community development and planning director, where he was responsible for the housing authority, building inspections, federal grant programs, development services and civil engineering. Before working in Texas, he worked in the North Carolina cities of Raleigh and Cary.
“I’ve had a pretty good and long career in other places, and I really wasn’t looking necessarily to become a city manager, but Alexandria spoke to me,” he said. “This is a community that seems to be highly engaged and very involved, and that’s different. A lot of cities don’t have that these days. It’s more sterile.”
Raised in Poughkeepsie, New York, Parajon is a graduate of Dickinson College in Pennsylvania. He completed his master’s degree in regional planning at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. In 2014, he was elected to the College of Fellows for the American Institute of Certified Planners. He served as an adjunct professor for the University of Texas at Arlington.
He plans on relocating to Alexandria with his wife of 31 years, Elizabeth, who is an educator with experience in both public and private schools. His children, Eric and Stephanie, are currently attending university. He will take office when current City Manager Mark Jinks retires in January.