Working behind the scenes of Springfield

Although so many people are involved in Springfield, here are some of the key players. In addition to elected officials, these are a few of the involved people around Springfield.

<sh>Darcy Whalen

<bt>As the chairman of the Springfield Days festival, Whalen gets the summer to relax before gearing up for another festival. The preparation for May's festival begins in September. That's when she sits down with the committee chairpeople and lays out an agenda for next year's event. This year they are incorporating a web site so people can provide input, volunteer and register sponsors all year.

"We start in September. It's evolved from a tiny little kiddie carnival," she said.

Whalen grew up in Mantua near the City of Fairfax and now lives in Fairfax Station. She went to school in the area, graduating from George Mason University. She first started working with the Springfield Days festival in 1994 and was the chairman of last year's parade.

"I do the parade entirely myself, I love it," she said.

<sh>Tawny Hammond

<bt>Getting the neighborhood in the neighborhood park is what Lake Accotink Park manager Tawny Hammond's goal has been ever since she started her job in 1997.

"Lake Accotink has always been a neighborhood park. It's affordable fun, free fun, people can get away," she said.

Partnerships is one of the main thrusts of Hammond's efforts, which includes schools, civic associations and businesses. Crestwood Elementary School, Cardinal Forest Elementary School and Lynbrook have taken part in activities at the lake which included reading programs, conservation and clean-ups.

"We're becoming part of the community," she said.

Hammond is originally from Illinois and started with the Fairfax County Park Authority in 1989 when she resided in Falls Church. She started at Lake Accotink in 1997 and purchased a house in Springfield in 2000. The 500-acre park is just part of the ecosystem to Hammond.

"The bay starts right here in your own backyard," she said.

<sh>Bob Gray

<bt>Springfield revitalization has been the focus of CSPARC (Central Springfield Area Revitalization Committee) and the current CSPARC president Bob Gray. With roots in Springfield dating back to 1964 when he first worked in the Springfield area, Gray has taken on the two- to 10-year revitalization project, which is just entering the early construction phases.

"I think it's coming along real well, we're moving in a number of directions. It's a long-term project," Gray said.

In the near future, two parts of the revitalization efforts that will start include murals on the back of businesses bordering the central Springfield area and a portion of south Backlick Road beautification.

Gray is also the vice president of the Prosperity Bank which also has roots in Springfield.

"Since I live here and work here, I have a dual role," he said.

In the coming months, Gray is stepping down as president of CSPARC and another local resident, Skeeter Scheid is taking over. Gray will remain active in the revitalization plans.

<sh>Steve Titunik

<bt>The role of the Interchange Information office has shifted since its inception and Virginia Department of Transportation information specialist Steve Titunik is a major player. Located in Springfield Mall, the VDOT office has gone from providing information and listening to complaints about the I-95/I-495 highway interchange project, to a liaison between citizens and VDOT. As the senior representative at the office, he is in touch with the one-of-a-kind mission the office has adopted, marketing VDOT and transportation.

"We've brought VDOT to the people. It provides a forum for the exchange of ideas," he said.

Titunik, a resident of Fairfax Station, has lived in the greater Springfield area for approximately 30 years. He's seen the transportation options increase from just a car, then buses, trains, carpools and metro.

"I have strong personal commitments here, I am home. Somewhere in there [house hunting] is that decision of transportation," he said.

<sh>Nancy-jo Manney

<bt>In addition to enticing members of Springfield's expanding business scene to join the Springfield Chamber of Commerce, executive director Nancy-jo Manney has embarked on a new mission of crossing the ethnic lines in a multi-cultural society. Springfield's businesses have branched out in this way and it's a new area for the chamber.

"We would definitely like to see an increased membership, it's {ethnically owned businesses] a slow growth. The language barrier is our biggest hurdle. When we're looking for a director of membership, we may look for someone who is bilingual," she said.

Manney grew up in Maryland but her family has lived in Springfield for years. She moved here in 1994 when the demographics were different than now. That was also when the interchange project was still a vision. She has noticed a difference among new business plans now that Phases II and III are completed, which dealt with the immediate Springfield area. While construction was in process, the area was not attracting businesses.

"Three years ago, that was the case," she said.

As the chamber expands, Manney's office in Springfield Plaza will follow suit. Expansion, which she hopes to be completed by the end of summer, includes a meeting room and office space for another employee, if the chamber decides to hire.