If you live in Fairfax County, chances are you’ve benefited from James Patteson’s hard work without even knowing it. The 2001 Master of Public Administration (MPA) graduate is the director of the county’s Department of Public Works and Environmental Services, which is responsible for Fairfax’s public infrastructure.
A successful government employee, James is humble about his many accomplishments, which include appointments in various leadership positions in Fairfax County – among them, working in the County Executive’s Office and serving as the Director of Facilities Management and the Director of Land Development Services before taking on his latest role. He’s also a busy dad who holds an MPA with a concentration in local government from George Mason University’s Schar School of Policy and Government.
“I enjoyed the GMU experience,” he says.
James took on his MPA at a frenetic time – in 1997 he was a working dad with small children who was looking for a program that could accommodate all the needs of his busy life. With its schedule of classes geared toward the working professional and niche coursework offerings, Mason was a fine fit.
“GMU has a great reputation within Fairfax, provided a local government concentration, was less than a mile from my house, and offered night classes that fit my working schedule,” he says, adding that, as a father to young children at the time, the school also was kind to his family responsibilities.
James credits his MPA experience with allowing him to hone crucial management and leadership skills necessary to his line of work. Grad school also helped him develop the confidence he needed to apply those skills toward advancing his career and serving Fairfax County in many fulfilling capacities.
“I was able to take lessons from the classroom and immediately use them to address challenges in local government,” he asserts. “My professors were flexible with assignments, which allowed me to use real work issues as case studies in the classroom.”
Upon graduation, those lessons translated into valuable tools for employment in the public works sector. Today, James and his team strive meticulously to plan, build, operate, and maintain the roads, trails, sewers, solid waste facilities, and buildings that keep Fairfax County running. He acknowledges that this critical and rewarding work is possible in part thanks to his days as a Patriot and lauds George Mason University’s top-notch instructors and networking opportunities for contributing to his career successes.
“The mix of professors with academic and professional backgrounds provided a great combination of theoretical thinking integrated with ‘real world’ practices,” he says. “The program also provided a venue to develop professional relationships with other students, professors, and practitioners in public administration. The relationships I developed while at Mason continue to be a great resource.”