When Supervisor Michael R. Frey (R-Sully) was deciding who to name as the Sully District's Lord Fairfax for 2003, he was surprised to discover that Jeff Parnes had never held this honor.
"Maybe it's because he's been redistricted so many times," said Frey. "But Jeff has seen so much out here and been involved in everything. He's been involved in land use since he was in Greenbriar, he's been a staple of the Sully District Council since its inception and, certainly, he's been involved in his own community."
He noted that Parnes, 52, of Chantilly Highlands, has been "an invaluable part" of most of the planning efforts in western Fairfax County, including the Route 50 Corridor, Fairfax Center area and Route 28 Corridor studies. So, said Frey, "For all the districts he's been in, I'm glad I got the chance to name him as Sully's Lord because I think he's been such a critical part of Sully since its creation."
Originally from New York, Parnes graduated from Syracuse University in 1974 with a bachelors in math. (Proud that this year's basketball team is the NCAA champion, he gave a hearty, "Go Orange)!"
He and his wife of 29 years, Daria, assistant branch manager of the Kings Park Library, have two children. Son Adam, 25, of Reston, works for Nextel; daughter Sarah, 22, is doing masters research in environmental science at Harvard. And Jeff works for Northrop Grumman in information technology.
As for him being named Lord Fairfax (for which he and the other honorees will be feted with a dinner, June 2, at Mike's American Grill in Springfield), his wife is delighted. "I'm always proud of Jeffrey," she said. "He's a good person, and he always does a lot for the community."
While living in Greenbriar for five years, Parnes was a member and chairman of the Greenbriar Civic Association's Land-Use Committee and, in 1982, he was the GCA's Citizen of the Year. He was involved with the Chantilly Youth Association, Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts and served on numerous Area Plan Review task forces in various districts.
He's land-use chairman of the Sully District Council of Citizens Associations and is past president of the Sully District Council and its current Webmaster. He's on the Fairfax County Federation of Civic Associations executive committee and is Webmaster and past president of the Chantilly Highlands Homes Association.
Parnes attends meetings twice a week, but enjoys doing it. "It's easier today than it was years ago when I had to ditto, fax and mail things out," he said. "Now with e-mail, the technology is so much better. I like the sense that we're accomplishing things." Often, he said, the citizen groups are able to modify developers' proposals with residents' input to tailor a particular result.
For example, the Fairfax Center area study he was active in, in the 1980s, in Greenbriar helped shaped the area from Waples Mill Road to Stringfellow Road and Route 29 to Route 50. "I discussed with [developer] Til Hazel what road improvements should be put in place," he said. "When TRW was built, as Greenbriar's land-use chair I signed off for the Greenbriar community on the proposals.
Parnes also chaired a study for land use along the Route 50 Corridor, running from Greenbriar west to Route 28. And it was no easy thing. Said Parnes: "Some of the meetings were so contentious, we had to have police backup." Still, it's worth it, he said: "The community you live in is only as good as you make it to be."
At the same time, he managed to study and receive two masters degrees — from GMU in 1988 in management sciences and operations research, and from Virginia Tech in 1999 in information systems. Now, in his spare (!) time, he likes to work on the computer, work in his backyard flower and vegetable gardens and tend to the 34 trees on his quarter acre.
But even with all these activities, said Daria, "He's a wonderful husband and father because he's very caring. He sets the bar to which we all aspire. When my dad was alive, he took him out every Saturday. And he takes time to listen, so people on both sides of issues respect him."
As an undergrad at Syracuse, he helped support himself by running a "taxi" service with his own car. On weekends, he drove people to New York, where he stayed with his mom (his dad died when he was 15), and drove them back to Syracuse on Sunday.
"That's how we had our first date," recalled Daria. "In 1971, he drove me to New York in the back seat and, going back to Syracuse — where I was a junior — I was in the front seat next to him. Soon, he was making me dinner or, rather, defrosting it."
He was also an Eagle Scout and was in the Alpha Phi Omega fraternity — a service organization — in college, so perhaps that's where his call to community service began. Now, Parnes said he's honored to be named Lord Fairfax. Oddly enough, he said, "I never considered myself a candidate — I was pleasantly surprised."