Dranesville District Embraces a 'Great Divide'

Dranesville District Embraces a 'Great Divide'

Former Dranesville Supervisors:

Happy Bradley, (R), McLean, two terms: 1964 - 71.

Rufus Phillips, (D), McLean, 1972 - 75.

John Shacochis, McLean, (R), 1976-79.

Nancy Falck, (R), McLean, 1980-87.

Lilla Richards, (D), McLean, 1988-91.

Ernie Berger, (R), McLean, 1992 - 1995.

Stu Mendelsohn, (R), Great Falls, two terms: 1996 - 2003.

Route 7, the major east-west thoroughfare that divides Herndon on the south from Great Falls and McLean to the north, might as well be the Great Divide where the cohesiveness of Dranesville District is concerned.

Although the district also includes the Town of Herndon and the community of Great Falls, since the mid-1960s, Dranesville has been represented on the Board of Supervisors by people from McLean, which has the largest post office and most voters.

Three successive supervisors who have been in office for the last 15 years have all come from the same precinct, Kenmore: Democrat Lilla Richards and Republicans Ernest Berger and Stuart Mendelsohn.

McLEAN IS DEALING with infill development and major roadbuilding projects such as the Dulles Toll Road and widening of the Beltway. Great Falls hasn’t yet reached build-out, so most land use cases in Fairfax County come from McLean.

Great Falls was too small, and its residents too isolated, to encourage political organizations other than an active Republican women’s club.

School issues, which usually unite communities, aren’t handled by the supervisors. And although students from Great Falls west of Springvale Road once attended Herndon middle and high schools, they were reassigned to Cooper and Langley after a 1995 boundary adjustment for Aldrin Elementary School, severing the one link between the communities.

And Herndon’s Town Council and Planning Commission decide local land use and zoning issues there.

So where government is concerned, there is little commonalty to unite north and south in Dranesville District, where one of the first skirmishes in the Civil War took place on Dec. 20, 1861.

And just as Route 7 divides Dranesville District, Georgetown Pike, where the Battle of Dranesville took place, serves to connect McLean and Great Falls.

“There seems to be a lack of intermingling between Herndon and McLean,” said Bill Byrnes of McLean, who ran for Dranesville Supervisor in 1995 and has been active in a Herndon theater troupe.

“The bulk of the population [in Dranesville District] lives in McLean. The [Herndon] Town Council focuses attention locally. The [Fairfax] county government is less important to Herndon,” Byrnes said.

In recent years, only two residents of Herndon have represented Dranesville District on major Fairfax County panels such as the Board of Supervisors, School Board, Planning Commission and Park Authority.

WHEN JUDY DOWNER, a Herndon Realtor, was appointed to the Fairfax County Planning Commission by then-Dranesville Supervisor Ernie Burger, she presided over a controversial proposal to build the Gannett Company’s world headquarters at Tysons Corner.

She also rode out an 18-month struggle over residential development of Evans Farm and a number of unpopular decisions about where to locate monopoles to support cellular telephone systems.

Rick Thoesen, also from Herndon, was Mendelsohn’s second appointment to the Fairfax County Park Authority. But Thoesen was elected mayor of Herndon on May 7 and will resign from the Park Authority in November. During his term, Dranesville District’s cultural differences caused some heartburn for Thoesen.

In Great Falls, his efforts to help a newly-formed group establish a visitors’ center at the Old Schoolhouse backfired, offending some longtime Great Falls residents who had fought in the 1970s to preserve it. Thoesen and the FCPA abandoned the idea and the group, known as the Great Falls 4Cs, dissolved.

In McLean, residents at Evermay initially protested the Park Authority’s plan for Clemyjontri Park, saying it was developed without their input.

Thoesen held meetings for months, soothing their concerns and getting a master plan approved at Clemyjontri early this year.