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What's Ahead for RA?

Glenn Downing and Barbara Aaron are longtime family friends. They live in the same neighborhood, they talk often and they watched their daughters grow up together.

And now their friendship has shaped the March election of Reston Association (RA) Board of Directors.

About a year ago Downing, RA Board president and Hunters Woods representative, asked Aaron to help him run his upcoming campaign for re-election. But Aaron told Downing she may be mounting a campaign of her own. Downing encouraged his friend to run, but suggested she pursue the open at-large seat instead of the Hunters Woods seat, which Downing then occupied. Aaron said she felt more comfortable running for the Hunters Woods area, so Downing decided to run for the at-large seat himself.

Now Downing is running against three other candidates for the at-large seat: Jenn Blackwell, Chad Davis and Vicky Wingert. Aaron is running unopposed.

Downing said he and Wingert, former executive vice president with RA, are the most well-known candidates for the at-large seat. He predicted they would be the two front-runners.

"It’s a shame that only one of us is going to survive this race," Downing said.

Wingert resigned as RA executive vice president around a year and a half ago, after an eight-year stint at the position. She now works as community manager for the 4,000-unit Montclaire homeowner’s association in Prince William County. Reston has around 21,000 units.

"I took a year-and-a-half and did nothing," Wingert said. "I really got to enjoy RA facilities for the first time. I used the pools, I kayaked in the lake and I walked the trails."

Even though Wingert headed up RA staff as the executive vice president, she said she will stay out of day-to-day operations as a board member.

"I’ve been there, I’ve done that," said Wingert of her work with RA staff. "I don’t want to do it again."

Downing said he believes Wingert may need an additional year or two of separation before she comes back to RA. He said Wingert may be able to withhold most of her tendency to give staff members specific direction, but added "it will be impossible to control all of it."

<mh>Focus on Responsibilities

<bt>Wingert said she wants to focus on RA’s core responsibilities: maintenance of pools, open space, trails and other public facilities. She said RA may be drifting away from those responsibilities. She mentioned a Reston college and the incorporation of Reston as two initiatives that may not be worthy of RA attention.

"The board has looked at incorporation twice," said Wingert. "It’s always the same outcome. Is this the best way to serve the citizens? In 2005, the RA office lease is up. RA needs to find a home or it will be a homeless homeowner’s association. It’s not sexy, or anything fun to deal with, but it is something that needs to be done."

She also mentioned that soon lake structures will need to be replaced. Reston’s lakes are 40 years old, but the spillways and other structures have a 50-year lifetime.

"Of course, we should take care of our parks, fields, trails and other facilities," Downing said. "But we do have an obligation beyond those things. Our charter calls for us to maintain our homeowners’ property values."

Downing pointed out that people moving into a new area routinely evaluate the public schools. So, he figured, a Reston college would only help raise property values. He said RA would only act as a facilitator for a Reston college and would not pay to build or maintain such a facility. The incorporation of Reston as a town or city is also being discussed in an all-volunteer committee, at no cost to residents, said Downing.

Blackwell, like Wingert, is focused on Reston’s facilities. She said the board should examine transportation structures and make the necessary improvements.

"Lighting is important," Blackwell said. "A few residents have mentioned they would like to see more lighting on the trails. I think we should also try to get crosswalks at pedestrian crossings in light of some recent accidents."

Blackwell also said more attention needs to be paid to Lake Anne revitalization.

"Lake Anne is something all of Reston can enjoy," Blackwell said. "This area needs a facelift. I hope people would be willing to give some of their assessment money to Lake Anne. Lake Anne businesses are wonderful because they are so eclectic. But that also means they don’t have the capital to pay for neccessary improvements."

<mh>An Important Voice

<bt>Both Downing and Davis describe themselves as fiscally conservative. Even so, Davis, an accountant by trade, said being fiscally conservative does not mean short-changing the community.

"I care deeply about the community," said Davis. "Caring about the community doesn’t mean you have to support everything that comes to the table."

Both Davis and Blackwell agreed that the board would benefit by the addition of some younger voices. If Davis or Blackwell is elected, either one would be among the youngest board members.

"If you look at the dynamics of Reston, you have a broad range of ages," Davis said. "It only makes sense to have that broad community represented on the board."

Blackwell, a resident of Northpoint, agreed.

"A lot of people in Northpoint are in my age bracket," Blackwell said. "I think ours is an important voice."