Department of General Services


Nolan found new, exciting challenges in public real estate

For Mike Nolan, a career in public service came as welcome change after years spent working in the private sector.

"Public service is much different than private. It's just a different process, everything we do, we try to do the best job for the taxpayers," Nolan said.

Nolan's background in engineering, urban planning and development services allowed him the opportunity to work for architecture firms, developers and financers in New Jersey. But in 2012 he decided he needed a change.

"In the private sector I designed and built a lot of projects and toward the end it just felt like the same project over and over again without new challenges," Nolan said. "I just felt like I had done all I could do and I wasn't feeling challenged anymore, so I wanted to do something different, something less ordinary."

So after 30 years working in New Jersey, Nolan decided he wanted to find a job in the public sector, specifically in Virginia. He left home, moved to Virginia and took a job at the Department of General Services (DGS) under the Division of Real Estate and Facilities Management (DREFM). In his role as property acquisition manager, Nolan is balancing dozens of property acquisitions at once, and the crisis management that comes with gaining ownership of property.

"Coming to DGS, I was able to apply much of what I had learned in private sector from the engineering standpoint, surveying, planning, real estate in general, and I was able to bring well rounded experience," Nolan said. "And DGS is able to tap that experience to do feasibility studies and planning work to build value into surplus property that DGS is trying to market and sell."

Nolan said he values the diversity in his day-to-day work at DGS, both with the tasks and projects he's working on and the people with whom he interacts.

"I get to work with everybody from agency staff and consultant staff all the way up to the owners of large corporations and agency directors and legislators," said Nolan. "It's that diversity that brings a lot of interest and motivation, and there's always something new and exciting to solve."

One of Nolan's most rewarding aspects of his job is to support the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (DGIF) in their acquisition of land.

DGIF receives annual federal funding, which they use to acquire several thousand acres each year, most of which is used for wildlife management areas. Nolan and DGIF work closely with federal agencies, conservation groups and private landowners to obtain the land.

"So that's really the frosting on the cake for me," Nolan said. "It's the most exciting thing you can do. I mean you're focused on several acquisitions over the course of a year that may be between three, four, five thousand acres total for that year. And it's permanently protected land that's open to the public."

Nolan has spent time hunting and fishing on the DGIF land that he helped obtain.

"I shot my first deer in Virginia on one of those properties, and that's pretty cool," he said. "After tearing up the land and building on it for 30 years, now I get to help preserve it. It really truly is working from the other side of the table."

Plus, Nolan said, he gets to walk out and see and preview the land before obtaining it, which gets him outdoors and away from his desk, something he has valued since he was a boy.

"I began surveying land when I was 15, and probably from that time, I knew I wanted to work outside," Nolan said. "I just liked being outside and in the woods, and this has provided me that opportunity in a professional arena."

"DGS and the agencies of the commonwealth are benefiting from Mike combining his civil engineering experience and his passion for the outdoors and conservation to acquire, protect and create the opportunity for public access to the Commonwealth's most valuable natural resources," said Holly Eve, Director of the Division of Real Estate and Facilities Management. 

Spending time outdoors coupled with the diversity of people he interacts with, the projects he works on and the public service mission to serve the taxpayers is what Nolan said keeps his job so interesting.

"I feel it brings a lot of fairness the way the public sector conducts business, to constituents of the state, to the users of facilities, to the general public really," Nolan said. "Whether it be how we procure something or build something, everything we do we look at how will this be perceived by the public and by our peers, and we want to do the best job for them."