When Gerald Gordon officially retires from his post as president and CEO of the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority on Jan. 4, the county will look very different from when he stepped into the top role in 1987. During his 35-year career with the organization, Gordon oversaw a virtual transformation of Fairfax. From a once sleepy area to a metropolitan center of Northern Virginia, Fairfax is now home to 117 million square feet of office space, including the headquarters of at least nine Fortune 500 companies, 600,000 jobs, multitudes of residential developments and the hard fought Metro extension. The next CEO will no doubt have big shoes to fill as Fairfax continues to position itself as a business-friendly powerhouse. Here, Gordon shares with us what he’s learned along the way.
What is the one piece of advice you wish you had heard when you were starting your career?
Things tend to even out. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. It will work out.
What has been your greatest achievement so far? Your greatest regret?
My greatest achievement to date has been the creation of the finest team of economic development professionals—both individually and collectively—anywhere in this country. My greatest disappointment is that my 35 years passed by so quickly.
When did you feel you had “made it”?
When the leaders of this extraordinary community, for whom I have such enormous esteem, began to feel that I had something to contribute.
How do you define success?
Success is when you know deep inside that you have done your best. Win or lose, it was the best I could do.
What job or position have you previously had that helped you get to where you are today?
Leadership positions throughout my life, whether in Scouts, sports or other activities, from childhood on.
What do you do after a disappointment?
Wait until spring training.
Give us an idea of your work/life balance philosophy.
That has changed numerous times over the years. It always depends on what is going on, both in one’s life and at one’s job.
What is the one thing you do for yourself every day, or at least once a week?
Speak to my children.
What’s one thing you still want to do with your life?
Teach and write—and play some golf.
Any advice for those who are going into your field?
Listen and learn. Whatever you hope to do, chances are someone else has already done it and succeeded or failed. Either way, you can learn from their experiences.