Mr Fitzgerald was chosen as successor to Colin Sinclair after an intensive three-day selection process.
Mr Fitzgerald, 42, hails from Merseyside and has been chief executive at Rotherham since 2001. He is a University of London graduate and subsequently took a post-graduate course in management studies at Central Lancashire and gained his MBA at the University of Salford.
Although discussions went on into the evening Mr Fitzgerald was the unanimous choice of the committee and will be recommended to next week's council meeting. Subject to the necessary formalities and medical, Mr Fitzgerald is expected to start work in January.
'I can't wait to get started,' he said. 'Sunderland is a fantastic city with enormous potential and the city council has already proven itself with top performing services and successful regeneration. But there are some big challenges on the horizon, which will provide me with a wonderful platform to take these developments on to the next level.'
He began his local government career in 1983 at Sefton MBC and has since worked for Knowsley, Liverpool and Bootle City Challenges - both as director - Liverpool City Council and Calderdale MBC.
Sunderland leader Bob Symonds said: 'There were some very strong candidates and choosing one was difficult. But I'm sure that we picked the outstanding person for Sunderland. It's going to be a hard act to follow, but I'm confident Ged Fitzgerald will now help us continue achieving our vision and ambition for the city.'
Present chief executive Colin Sinclair, who retires at the end of the year, said: 'I've had ten wonderful years here - times of great change and achievement - and I'm sure the next phase will be just as momentous. Ged Fitzgerald is a superb appointment for the city and I'm sure he will build on our reputation for innovation and excellence.'
Statement from Rotherham MBC
Rotherham's chief executive Ged Fitzgerald has announced he is leaving in the new
year to take up the post of chief executive at Sunderland City Council.
During his three years in Rotherham Mr Fitzgerald has overseen a transformation in the way the authority operates and improvements in the way it delivers services to the public. Since his appointment the council has twice achieved beacon status and in June this year received the prestigious Investors in People award.
'While we have achieved a lot over the last few years there is a lot more to be done in the future,' he said. 'I would like to have been here for those changes but the opportunity to become chief executive of Sunderland City Council was an opportunity I could not refuse.
'I will always have happy memories of my time in Rotherham.'
The leader elect of Rotherham MBC, Roger Stone, said he was
sad at Mr Fitzgerald's decision but could understand his reasons for leaving.
He said: 'However, he has laid some excellent foundations for Rotherham during his
time here and we will continue to look forward and build on those policies. We wish him and his family well in his new challenge.'