Melissa S. Peacor
Prince William County Government
1 County Complex Ct.
Manassas, VA 22192
BA Political Science, Magna Cum Laude, University of Massachusetts, Amherst
Masters in Public Administration (MPA), University of Massachusetts, Amherst
Professional/business/civic/nonprofit organizations in which you are/have been involved and positions held:
International City/County Managers Association
Washington D.C. Council of Governments, CAO Group
Virginia Local Government Managers Association
International City/County Managers Association Performance Measurement Consortium Board
St. Francis of Assisi Parish, Parish Council
St. Francis of Assisi School Parents Council
National Political Science Honors Society
Who were the important mentors you have had and how did they impact your career?
My first mentor was a Professor at the University of Massachusetts, Dr. Jerome Mileur. As a professor, he inspired such interest in the foundations of our democracy as a country, the institutions that reinforce that democracy and the role of the citizens in ensuring that our democracy endures. He took a personal interest in me and my academic career and I did research for him as a graduate student. He was very involved in the town government in Amherst and that started my interest in local government.
My second mentor was the Director of Economic Development in the City of Seattle, WA. Her name was Christine Knowles and my job with Seattle was my first out of grad school in 1982. Not many women had positions of such leadership at the time. She inspired me as a mentor and as a woman. She literally took me under her wing and taught me what I needed to know in that transition from school to professional life.
My first supervisor in Prince William was John Schofield, who still works in economic development in the County. When I moved to Virginia, I applied for and was offered jobs in just about every jurisdiction in this region. But it was John’s passion for his job, his passion for the County that convinced me that this was the place I needed to be.
What do you consider your biggest personal and/or professional accomplishment and why?
My biggest personal accomplishment is my family – my husband and my son. My son is graduating from college this year and is going on to get a PhD in Chemistry. He is choosing a school right now. He is smart and funny and just a really nice man. I don’t know how it happened but it makes me very proud. My husband and I have been married for 28 years and he is my best friend.
My biggest professional accomplishment has always been hiring and nurturing the people that are the leaders of today and tomorrow. If I can leave behind someone who is ready to take my job and move the County forward, I will have succeeded.
What advice would you give to a young person graduating from college this spring?
Never, ever say –“that isn’t my job” be indispensible. As I look at the reasons why I have achieved success over the years I believe it is my willingness to do whatever it takes. Nothing is below me. When I started in Seattle, I was low man on the totem pole. At meetings, I would have to take the notes. I never thought – well I have two degrees, I shouldn’t have to take the notes. I willingly took them and before you knew it, I was calling the meetings. Always look for opportunities to grow your skills and your portfolio.
How do you achieve a balance between your professional life and your personal life?
Ah, the age old question. First, you marry right. Seriously, it has to be a partnership at home for both people. Second, you ask yourself that question whether when you go, will you be unhappy you spent one less minute at work or with the ones you love. Delegate, involve other people. You have to want others to succeed as much as yourself and doing that gives you more time to enjoy your own life.
When you were growing up, what did you want to be?
The first woman President of the United States. Still time, right? It was in college and grad school that I realized that the real way to make a difference was to work in local government. That is where the rubber really hits the road. That is where, as a public servant you can make the most difference in people’s lives. I tell my employees – we are so lucky to get up every morning and know that what we do helps people. Not many folks can say that. So, always wanted to be in government, so glad not to be the President.
What is your favorite book or movie and why?
My favorite fiction book is Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austin. Even today, the language, the themes, the love story teach us something. I don’t have any plans to read Pride and Prejudice and Zombies which is the hit right now. My favorite non-fiction book is Wait Till Next Year by Doris Kearns Goodwin known most for her book on Abraham Lincoln. It is the story of her youth growing up in Brooklyn and loving the Brooklyn Dodgers. It is the story of a young Catholic girl, her love of baseball and her parents and family and it just feels like my story. Plus after the Dodgers left Brooklyn, she became a Red Sox fan and I live and breathe the Red Sox.
My favorite movie is the Great Escape with Steve McQueen, the story of a group of American Prisoners of War escaping a German POW camp. It is about patriotism, loyalty, friendship and courage. What more is there?
What are two things about you that not many people know?
I play the guitar and sing and I can dance really well as long as it was with my Dad.
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