The funny thing is Anne Marie Green had never planned on a career in government.
She couldn’t predict that life would one day bring her to the Roanoke Valley. And she didn’t know that her work would allow her to help countless people by making Roanoke County a better place to live, work and play.
“I didn’t realize back then how lucky I would be,” she said.
Green, 62, is wrapping up a 30-year career with the county that included serving as its community spokeswoman and taking the helm of two different departments at points when both were tackling big tasks.
The Alexandria native retired effective Sunday and is diving into a new role as the president of the nonprofit Council of Community Services.
“We’re going to miss her incredibly,” said Melinda Rector, who has worked with Green for the past 29 years. “She’s meant the world to a lot of us.”
Green, who for the last four years has been head of the county’s human resources department, once pictured herself not in the halls of government but in the halls of the courthouse.
She earned a law degree from the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., and joined a practice in the capital city.
But she realized something was lacking for her on that path. So when an opportunity arose to shift gears and go to work as an aide to her hometown’s city manager, she took it.
“I realized I loved working in local government,” she said. “I liked being able to make that direct impact and improve people’s lives.”
Local government is where the rubber meets the road for many of the most fundamental day-to-day services, she said.
While excited for the new chapter that lies ahead, it will be bittersweet to leave the county, Green said.
“I’ve loved working here,” she said. “Roanoke County is a wonderful place.”
During her time in Roanoke County, Green played a part in milestone projects ranging from the creation of the 158-acre Spring Hollow Reservoir to the siting of the Smith Gap Landfill to the establishment of the first county police department.
As the county’s spokeswoman throughout the 1990s, she was on the front lines in public debates through everything from contentious referendums to regional cooperation talks.
Green never shied away from questions and worked to build relationships with neighborhoods, said Elmer Hodge. As the county administrator at the time, Hodge hired Green.
“That brought a lot of credibility, her willingness to meet and talk and consider other people’s needs and concerns,” Hodge said.
“She brings integrity and honesty to everything she does,” he said. “We were lucky to get her and lucky to have her with the county for so long.”
Green joined the county, hired on as its public information officer, in 1989. Her move to the Roanoke Valley from Alexandria was inspired by her now-husband, Mac Green, a Salemite and former city vice mayor. The couple, who live in Salem, fell for each other after meeting at a statewide conference for local government leaders.
In 2000, Anne Marie Green was picked to serve as the new director of general services, a department that touches every household and county-owned facility. Trash collection, maintenance, fleet services and green energy projects all fall under the office’s umbrella.
During her tenure, Green shepherded the process of replacing the county’s outdated and cramped fleet services garage with a new facility that allowed the county to do more work in-house and boost its efficiency.
The updated facility, located on Hollins Road, is now a major operational hub that can serve everything from standard cars to trash trucks and fire engines.
In 2015, when controversy beset a former county human resources director, Green was asked to step in and steady the ship.
She was drafted to take over as interim director of the department and ended up in the position permanently.
Green handled the delicate transition as she had other challenges in the past — with tact, directness and a determination to do good work.
Speaking to her earlier years as public information officer, she said she saw firsthand the crucial role that transparency and empathy play, not only in building strong relationships, but in arriving at the best decisions.
“I think that’s when the process works best,” she said.
More so than any one flagship project, Green said, the memories that will stick with her are the small, behind-the-scenes moments when someone turned to her office for help in a difficult time. An employee who needed more leave to be there for a sick relative. A citizen whose home flooded and was left with a pile of bulk refuse they didn’t know what to do with.
“People needed help and you could help them,” she said. “They were having a really bad day and you could make it a little better.”
Melinda Rector, who started working for the county as a typist in 1990, said for her and others, Green was a mentor in public service.
She always encouraged Rector not to shrink from new challenges — whether it be going back to school or working her way up to her current position as operations director for the animal shelter.
“Anne Marie wants everyone to succeed,” Rector said. “She never told me, ‘Oh no, that’s not going to work,’ or ‘You’re not going to be able to do that.’ That’s not who she is.”
Green helped inspire Rector to build a career in government service.
“She showed me how much good we can do,” Rector said. “I think that will be her legacy.”
“She did so much good for this county and for its citizens.”