Working Behind The Scenes In Springfield

Working Behind The Scenes In Springfield

Although 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.

Darcy Whalen

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, planners are concentrating on the successes and shortcomings of last year's festival around Memorial Day weekend. Weather played a big part in the 2003 festival.

"We barely were able to get everything off because of the rain," Whalen said.

In September, she will meet with the Springfield Days committee, looking for "new and different," ideas.

Some activities that will always be a part of the festival include fireworks, the Lake Accotink boat race and the Miss Springfield competition. A pageant for the younger girls might be looked at for next year.

"We've talked about being a little Miss Springfield," 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 the 2001 parade. Due to the weather this year, planners may look at options that will work if it rains next year.

"Eighty degrees and sunny all weekend would be very nice," said Whalen.

Tawny Hammond

Reaching out to the community is a main thrust of Lake Accotink Park manager Tawny Hammond. Getting people involved is one way for residents to invest in their neighborhood park, Hammond said. Activities such as the summer concerts, cardboard boat regatta and the annual clean up day are ways the neighbors get involved.

"People start to look at Lake Accotink like their park," Hammond said.

Fairfax County Park Authority recognized Hammond for her efforts in this direction. Recently, she was awarded the A. Heath Onthank award.

"I was speechless, she said. "A lot of people work and don't get recognized."

Partnerships are a way that Hammond reaches out to surrounding community. Accotink is partners with Crestwood, Lynbrook and Cardinal Forest Elementary Schools in the Springfield area. By being partners, the schools incorporate the lake in science lessons, outdoor activities and environmental activities. The school-aged-child care is another group Hammond works closely with and she is trying to arrange things with The Wild Bird Center in Burke for some bird-oriented activities.

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.

Bob Gray

Springfield revitalization has been the focus of CSPARC (Central Springfield Area Revitalization Committee) and past CSPARC president Bob Gray weighed the group's successes to date. The expansion of Lee Volkswagen on Backlick and the Townplace Suites project are two areas connected to revitalization.

"We've seen more things come to fruition," Gray said.

An area that is also connected to revitalization is the "neighborhood college," education curriculum. It's a new program that will start at the Northern Virginia Community College medical campus, teaching leadership with a sense of community, said Gray.

"It tells them how to use the system to make things happen," he said.

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 its early construction phases. Gray works closely with the new president Skeeter Scheid. They realize it's not a speedy process.

"Discussions are perking along," he said.

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.

Steve Titunik

With the Springfield Interchange project past the half-way point, Steve Titunik at the interchange information office in Springfield Mall recognizes a change. In earlier phases, much of the work was ground level and not as apparent to bypassing motorists. Now, the project has entered another area, highlighted by the 120-foot overpass from I-495 south to I-95 south.

"Every day, more and more is coming out of the ground," he said.

No longer are motorists going through and wondering what's the hold up. Once phases VI and VII get started in late-2003, the project will be on the final stretch.

"We're comfortable that this fall we'll be starting the last two phases," 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.

Tammy Shapiro

As the president of the Springfield Chamber of Commerce, as well as the owner of Talk of the Town, a gourmet gifts store in Springfield, Shapiro brings a real business sense to the chamber. She looks at the attractions in Fairfax County as a draw to businesses and the root of economic growth.

"The quality of education brings a lot of people here, which helps business," she said. "It's a draw."

Shapiro started in a corporate concierge business and her entrepreneurship grew from there. Talk of the Town started as a catering business, moved into gift baskets and branched out into corporate gifts as well.

"I started my business while I was working there," she said. In 2000, she won the National Designer of the Year.

Originally, Shapiro grew up in New York, and then moved to California, where she tried to strike it big in Hollywood. She had some successes.

"I did pursue the acting thing," she said. "I did a lot of walk-ons."

Now Shapiro is raising a family in Springfield and is grateful the economy in this area is still fairly strong. Although she maintains her business, she still has time for her children.

"Here the wife can still stay home," she said