Hunter Mill District Council Dissolves

Hunter Mill District Council Dissolves

Group cites lack of participation from members and supervisor.

About a year ago, Mike Tobias, chair of the Hunter Mill District Council, and the rest of the Council's board decided that it was time to call it quits. Participation in the group had dwindled to one or two participants, Tobias said, and he cited a lack of interest from Supervisor Cathy Hudgins' (D-Hunter Mill) office as one of the reasons for the decision.

"Supervisor Hudgins and her staff really didn't participate," Tobias said.

District councils operate in most of the county's magisterial districts, the exceptions being Dranesville and Mount Vernon, according to staff in the various supervisor's offices and now, Hunter Mill.

District councils act as umbrella organizations for various homeowners and civic associations in the district and allow them to make sure that different parts of a district are aware of what's going on.

Also, Tobias said, they allow supervisors to work with their community. "This is a way for supervisors to keep tabs on their communities," he said.

According to Tobias and George Orlando, former treasurer of the Hunter Mill District Council, Hudgins didn't come to meetings or respond to the group. This, he said, gave members a feeling of pointlessness. "Since they [members] didn't think they were being heard, why go to another meeting?" Tobias said.

"One of the reasons you do this is to meet with the supervisor," Orlando said. "When your supervisor's not interested, it's hard to get your associations interested."

Hudgins defended her record and said that the diminished attendance is not a result of neglect on her part. "My relationship has always been very inclusive," Hudgins said. "I seem to recall that they were having a challenge with participation in the organization."

TOBIAS AND Orlando both said that the group's programs were interesting. "We had some very, very good programs," Orlando said.

The council, Orlando said, would often have area politicians in attendance, or experts on topics like education, land use or traffic management.

Tobias explained that the group would host different guest speakers who would explain various issues, particularly emphasizing how a homeowners or civic association might get involved in government operations, "things that really are helpful for homeowners associations to run properly," Tobias said.

Many of these programs, Hudgins pointed out, may have covered areas that fell outside of the purview of a supervisor, and she explained that it might be difficult for her staff to attend every meeting. "It's good for my staff to be there," she said. "But to get my staff to attend evening meetings, it's a big imposition."

The District Council's meetings, said Orlando, took place in the North County Government Center, the same building where Hudgins' offices are located.

Hudgins attended the meetings only rarely, Tobias and Orlando said, and only when other politicians would be in attendance. "Whenever we invited [Sen. Jeannemarie] Devolites (R-34th), suddenly Cathy was there," Orlando said.

Hudgins disagreed with this characterization. "I came whenever I was invited," she said.

According to Tobias, Hudgins had a standing invitation to attend. "We asked that a liaison be assigned to the meeting," he said.

When Hudgins first took office, in 1999, she would attend regularly, Orlando said. "When she first came in, she was there quite often," he said.

NOW THAT the group has dissolved, it has donated its remaining funds to the Hunter Mill Defense League. "They were among the most involved in the Hunter Mill District Council," Tobias said.

The League, however, does not deal with the magisterial district, but with "Hunter Mill Corridor," which is Hunter Mill Road and the land along its length. The road weaves through three districts: Hunter Mill, Providence and Dranesville. "Hunter Mill Road is the unifying factor," said Jeannette Twomey, chair of the League.

While the corridor cuts a path through part of the district, the League is not really in a position to take on all of the issues facing the Hunter Mill District, Twomey said.

Twomey is disappointed that the District Council is dissolving, she said. "We valued it as a forum for people to become informed."

Now that the group has formally dissolved, Tobias' hope is that a different entity will step in to fill the void. "Hopefully a new group will form with fresh blood and actually serve a purpose again," he said.