Up Close: Doug McLiverty, Fairfield leader, military vet, USS Wisconsin volunteer

April 8, 2018

Doug McLiverty is all about service to his nation, his family and his Fairfield community. The Army brought McLiverty and his family to Virginia Beach in 1993 and it’s where he decided to put down roots.


His children, Christopher and Amy, are Kempsville High School graduates and he and his wife, Darla, still live in the home that made them fall in love with their 750-family Kempsville neighborhood almost two decades ago.


In fact, he cares so much about his community, he’s president of the Fairfield Civic League, which meets the first Monday of the month, from October through May, at Fairfield Elementary School.


In his leadership role, he strives to be a voice for his neighbors and an instrument by which quality of life is improved in a community beset with traffic concerns.


Born in New York City, McLiverty grew up in Westchester, New York. After graduation from State University of New York in Oneonta in 1974, he enlisted in the United States Army.


His successful career spanned 20 years and two continents and in 1994 he retired as a lieutenant colonel.


Following retirement, he embarked on a career at Joint Forces Command in Suffolk, Va., where he has worked supporting joint training, war games and force development.


He and Darla met while he was stationed at Fort Polk, La. He is proud of their 42-year marriage, something he acknowledges is a rare thing in a military family.


During his Army career, he and his family had an opportunity to travel in Germany and Europe, but did not get the opportunity to travel to places in the United States as much as they would have liked, such as St. Louis to visit his son and two grandchildren, as well as, the Grand Canyon, San Francisco, Seattle and Colorado.


A sense of permanence and home is what inspired he and Darla to remain in Fairfield after their children moved on.


“We stayed in the house, even though we don’t need the big house, but we like the neighborhood,”  he said, adding that his home is a simple, one-level ranch design.


In his spare time, McLiverty enjoys volunteering as a tour guide on the USS Wisconsin, something he’s been involved in since 2014. 


He loves many types of history and “meeting all the people who come to the area, talking about the story of the ship and meeting former crew members,” he said.


Another aspect of the work he thoroughly enjoys is playing up the inter-service rivalry with his neighbor and co-facilitator, Retired Navy Captain Jim Donovan.


“Guests like that,” McLiverty said.


It was McLiverty’s time in the Army that taught him how look at a problem then operationalize it to solve it. He remembers an instructor telling him, during his operations research training, “If you can’t find a real-world problem that you can help to solve then all of this is for naught.”


A chance to apply that lesson came shortly after he moved to Fairfield the neighborhood. He remembers the evening well, enjoying a jog through the neighborhood, but noticing that he was “choking on fumes and dodging cars” along the route.


He also noticed a young girl struggling to cross the busy and sometimes potentially dangerous intersection at Lord Dunmore Drive and Vestry Drive. 


That was when he knew he needed to take action.


He reached out to neighbors to reestablish the civic league that had been dormant since the 1980s.


The problem with some civic leagues is that they “Form up, take on a problem, solve the problem and then they go away,” said McLiverty.


Before anything could be done about the traffic, he said, pollution leaked from a nearby gas station and a dry cleaner had to be mitigated first.


“It took forever, that’s why it’s taken so long to fix the intersection,” he said.


The intersection was fixed but, traffic remains a problem, he said. In fact, it has actually increased since that day years ago when he first noticed the perilous situation.


He attributes the rise to motorists who rely on travel navigation systems and applications, such as Waze and Google maps, to save them time and gas.


“People have become very accustomed to the convenience of using our neighborhood as a shortcut,” he said.


However, it isn’t just automobiles that use the shortcut. Many large trucks ignore the “No Through Trucks” sign posted on Lord Dunmore, he said.


McLiverty said he has written letters to businesses, such as Devil’s Backbone, Sysco Foods and Deer Park, letting them know that their drivers are endangering the safety of residents and their families. Yet, he continues to observe large delivery vehicles using the neighborhood as a shortcut. Plans are in the works for a meeting with city leaders to discuss a way forward to alleviate the increased traffic in the neighborhood, he said.


He also hopes to see some of the new residents in Fairfield come forward to become engaged in their community, working as he is to protect home values and quality of life in Fairfield.


McLiverty said that older residents eventually move on, with younger residents moving into the homes they once occupied. This thrills him, he said, as he delights in seeing these younger residents and their families active in the common areas of the neighborhood, riding bikes and walking dogs.


He would also like to see that joie de vivre spirit parlayed into community involvement, noting that it is tough to speak for an entire community when only 10 and 20 percent of the neighborhood residents belong to the civic league, which also impedes the progress of neighbors meeting neighbors.


“Lots of neighborhoods have this," he said. "You know the people who live to the left of you and to the right of you and across the street from you,” yet they don’t know the people beyond that.


McLiverty said that part of the challenge lies in the professional and personal demands on homeowners in a fast-paced society.


“People are busy," he said. "They don’t have a lot of time to attend meetings and circulate petitions.”


As a result, the civic league has increased using electronic and virtual engagement through Facebook and NextDoor.com, increasing the flow of information to residents, while working as a supplement to the organization's webpage and newsletter.


The civic league also has activities planned for the spring and summer, including "popsicles in the park," a community yard sale and a Fourth of July party where neighbors can gather and meet the people who live beyond their block or cul-de-sac.


As for the future of his community, he would like to see some of his new neighbors express an interest in civic league leadership. In fact, he wouldn’t mind someone stepping in to relieve him as president. He’s been doing it since he was 44. He’s 65 now.


Looking beyond his neighborhood borders and into the future of Virginia Beach, he recognizes the challenges faced in a city where infrastructure has not kept pace with the growth of residential and commercial development, he said.


“The roads have not expanded and now we’re adding more and more people to an already gridlocked situation,” he said, referencing a recent evening when he and his wife ventured out for dinner and once they reached Princess Anne Road, traffic was at a standstill.


“I love Virginia Beach, but it’s really hard to move a mile,” he said.


He said that continued economic development needs public-private partnerships for continued economic growth, citing the amphitheater as an example of a successful partnership.


He also said that representatives from Divaris Realty have gone to civic organizations, touting Town Center as a future headquarters for major corporations that would make it possible for young professionals to stay in the area rather than relocate to New York City or Washington, D.C., but that the announcements haven't come to fruition.


“I’ve yet to see any headquarters here,” he said.


This scenario is what motivates him to urge caution where public money and private development co-mingle.


That there has been progress, he said, but knows that his mission is not yet accomplished and he will continue to work to make his community a livable and pleasant community.


“I get loved for it, I get congratulations, I get called 'obsessed,' ” he said.



In his spare time, Doug McLiverty enjoys volunteering

as a tour guide on the USS Wisconsin,

something he’s been involved in since 2014. 

Courtesy photo.




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