vonda doc martens Eric Wagner Selected AlexandriaNews
For more than two decades he served on the Alexandria Planning Commission, involved in overseeing the development of Potomac Yard, Eisenhower East, the Base Realignment and Closure Commission development at Mark Center, Landmark Mall planning, Waterfront planning and more. Wagner the 2017 Alexandrian of the Year. “That is not an easy task. We purposefully do not choose those who are paid for their endeavors, no matter how worthy the cause or how superlatively they perform their job. We also do not choose active politicians or appointed officials. Eric exemplifies the citizen volunteer someone who often performs behind the scenes without a lot of public glory. Our Board is pleased to honor him as 2017 Alexandrian of the Year.”
Wagner is executive vice president of Insurance and Diversified Operations for MedStar Health. In this role, Wagner has executive oversight for many of MedStar Health’s non hospital businesses, including MedStar Family Choice, MedStar Medicare Choice, MedStar Visiting Nurse Association and other home care businesses, and MedStar Ambulatory Services. He also has executive responsibility for systemwide government affairs and managed care activities. Previously, Wagner served as senior vice president of Managed Care.
Prior to joining MedStar Health, Wagner was with the healthcare strategy and consulting practice of Ernst Young and other consulting firms. He has more than 35 years of experience in the healthcare industry in operations, strategy, development, and finance. He has published several books, chapters and articles on managed care evaluation, development, negotiations and provider compensation.
Wagner has been an adjunct faculty member at Georgetown University, where he taught courses on healthcare policy and administration. He serves on the Executive Committee of the Maryland Hospital Association, where he also serves as chairman of the MHA Political Action Committee. He has also served on the board of directors of the Maryland Chamber of Commerce.
Wagner holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from the State University of New York at Stony Brook. He received his master’s degree in business administration with specializations in health administration and finance from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, where he was the recipient of the Bachmeyer Award for Academic Excellence.
Wagner moved to Alexandria in 1987. “My wife and I settled in Del Ray and wanted to get involved in the community so we attended a meeting of the Del Ray Citizens Association,” Wagner said. “They were looking for people to serve on the Land Use Committee and I volunteered, even though that is not my area of expertise.”
The rest, as they say, is history. “As a member of the Land Use Committee, I got involved in trying to stop the Washington Redskins from building their new stadium at Potomac Yard,” Wagner said. “I worked closely with Vola Lawson, Jim Moran, Kerry Donley and others on this effort. When there was a vacancy on the Planning Commission, I was encouraged to apply and was appointed. At the time, I had no idea I would serve as a member of the Commission for 22 years.”
Eric Wagner talks about his involvement in Alexandria (Photo: Katie Smythe)
Wagner served on the Planning Commission from 1993 to 2015. Patent and Trademark Office as the cornerstone of development in Eisenhower East; adopted Small Area Plans for Landmark/Van Dorn, Eisenhower West, Arlandria, Mt. Vernon Avenue, the Waterfront and more.
“There really isn’t a neighborhood in Alexandria that we didn’t impact during that time,
” Wagner said.
Former Mayor Kerry Donley has known Wagner for many years. “Eric has worked tirelessly on the Planning Commission for many years and often without fanfare,” Donelly said. “His decisions and the decisions of the Commission under his leadership have led to an improved City and a livable Alexandria. We should be grateful to Eric for his planned and executed the development of the controversial Washington Headquarters Services campus at Mark Center; service to Alexandria over the years and his imprint on the City is evident today and will be felt for many years to come.”
Many Planning Commissions decisions were difficult and controversial. “After we successfully stopped the stadium from coming to Potomac Yard, we had to work with the property owners to develop a plan that would meet their needs and the needs of our community,” Wagner said. “I worked closely with the original owners to develop a strategy that was a compromise between what the owner wanted and what the community wanted. City Council ultimately went in a different direction but that’s the way the land use process works.”
Councilman Paul Smedberg has known Wagner since the Del Ray days. “I first became aware of Eric’s work when he served as Chair of the Del Ray Land Use Committee and his early years on the Planning Commission and one thing that always impressed me about Eric was his strategic, thoughtful approach to issues.” Smedberg said. His focus on the long term benefits and implications of development and redevelopment projects have made Alexandria a better place to live and work.”
Many of the plans in which Wagner was involved are ongoing. “The Landmark Mall redevelopment has been particularly challenging,” Wagner said. “First, the property had three owners and that is hard enough but these owners genuinely didn’t get along and that made negotiations even more difficult. When Bill Euille was mayor, he went to Chicago to meet with the parties and because I was there on business, he asked me to join them. I hope that now Howard Hughes Corporation has managed to consolidate the property, something good will happen there.”
Euille worked closely with Wagner on many of the major developments. “I have had the opportunity to work with Eric for more than 15 years, during my tenure as a Member of City Council and as Mayor,” Euille said. “I found him to be an outstanding community servant, dedicated, responsible, knowledgeable and passionate, with outstanding leadership qualities. His love and desires for a better City has always been his badge of honor, and he is most deserving of this honor.”
Alexandrians are often passionate about land use issues. “In many ways, Alexandria is a small town but it is located in a very urban area,” Wagner said. “As a member of the Planning Commission, I knew that our decisions were not going to please everyone. My goal was always to make sure that everyone who had something to say was heard.”
One of those land use decisions resulted in an ongoing court battle. In 2014, the Planning Commission and City Council voted to allow La Bergerie to move to 329 N. Washington Street, to expand the restaurant and operate a small inn on the premises. Nearby neighbors took the matter to Alexandria Circuit Court where Council’s decision was upheld. The neighbors appealed the matter to the Virginia Supreme Court where a Writ Panel unanimously declined to hear the matter. Neighbors have asked the Virginia Supreme Court for a hearing before all of the justices and the Court has yet to rule on that request.
“While anyone has the right to take any decision to court, the appellants have lost at every juncture,” Wager said. “I was deposed for hours because when Patsy Ticer was mayor, she voted to appoint me to the Planning Commission and she is the mother of one of the owners of La Bergerie. For some reason, the appellants tried to say that her vote impacted a decision I made 20 years later. That’s absurd.”
Joint City Schools Facility Investment Task Force meeting (courtesy photo)
Nearly two years after Wagner left the Planning Commission, he was called on to volunteer once again in Alexandria. In June 2017, Alexandria City Manager Mark Jinks appointed Wagner to serve on the Ad Hoc JointCity Schools Facility Investment Task Force. Council approved the appointment of the Task Force after the Alexandria City School Board “reprioritized” more than 80% of their Capital Improvement Program budget in FY2017.
“I agreed to serve on the Task Force because I thought I could be of assistance and because it is important that the City and ACPS work together to ensure that we use our resources in the most effective and efficient manner,” Wagner said. “While we all understand that once Council appropriates money to ACPS, the School Board can use it as they see fit, it is important that the two elected bodies work closely together and spend money the way they tell the public they are going to spend it.
“While there are no absolute guarantees, I believe that if the Capital Project Council the Task Force is recommending is appointed, it will help. The Council will be comprised of the City Manager, the ACPS Superintendent and members of their staff. They will discuss projects as they move along and will identify areas of concern before there is a crisis,” Wagner said.
The Task Force will present its final report to City Council and the School Board tomorrow night.
Will Wagner agree to serve on another Alexandria Board or Commission? “Not one like the Planning Commission,” he said. “However, if I am needed to serve on a short term group like the Task Force and I think I can be of help,