Candidates for the Board of Trustees in Burke Centre introduced themselves to their possible future constituents Thursday, Feb. 8.
Audience members met three new candidates for trustee positions. The board, which governs the Burke Centre community and its 5,862 households, is made up of seven trustees, and all but two — at-large trustee and board vice president Luanne Smith and Landings trustee Sam DiBartolo — are running for another one-year term. Susan Lukas, a write-in candidate, is running against Marc Flaster for the Commons trustee position, which he currently occupies.
"I'm running for Commons not because I don't like Marc, but because I want to bring a fresh perspective to the board, and represent the Commons a little bit more on some of the issues we face that may be different than some other neighborhoods," she said.
Lukas, who has served on the Oakwood homeowners' association, urged another look at Burke Centre's bylaws and increased communication with the residents of the community.
"Maybe we need to go back and look at this and say, 'Are we now at the point where things have progressed in the world and community that we need to re-look at some of those things?,'" she said.
Lukas suggested an online meeting place for community members who may not be able to make it out to meetings. Resident input is vital, she said, and the board must reach out more to get it.
"Whether their perspective is negative or positive, it would help us reach a good balanced solution," said Lukas. If she were elected to office, she said, she would examine issues such as increasing safety for pedestrians along Burke Commons and Coffer Woods Roads by adding sidewalks along them.
Kala Leggett Quintana is also running for the first time, for the Woods trustee position. Quintana grew up in Fairfax County, attending West Springfield High School and George Mason University. She has lived in Burke Centre for eight years and worked with board members to establish a community parking district in December.
Quintana said that communication was the most important part of her platform. "It's important to me that I communicate with you about what is going on in the neighborhood," she said. The Burke Centre Web site could use some refurbishment, she said, and suggested allowing residents to complete transactions such as dues renewal or pool fees online.
ANOTHER ISSUE Quintana said she was concerned about was transportation. She serves as the public outreach director for the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission and had recently returned from the General Assembly session in Richmond, where delegates were conducting hearings on transportation.
"It's important that our delegates and senators hear from us about that," said Quintana. "You can't pave your way out of gridlock."
Jimi Grande, running for the Landings trustee position, is a five-year resident of Burke Centre. His main concern is the rising cost of assessments in Burke Centre. On Nov. 10, the board raised the general assessment fee for residents for the second time in two years, from $113 to $118 per quarter, a move that Grande, as a resident, opposed.
"The last year has been tough on families," said Grande, citing rising fuel costs and assessments. "I don't want to increase assessments just because we can." If Burke Centre ever undergoes a shortfall, then trustees can think about a special assessment to cover the cost, he said, but continuing to increase regular fees is not the way to go.
Three-time Ponds trustee Colette Sheldon also listed communication as key. She will continue current efforts working with Fairfax County to examine the impact of widening Burke Lake Road and to put up fencing along it, she said.
"I enjoy working on this board and I think the board has worked really well together this year," said Sheldon.
Sheldon said she will also keep working with fellow trustee Joe Berner of the Oaks neighborhood to impose traffic-calming measures on Marshall Pond Road, Oak Leather Drive and Freds Oak Road.
"People have been really good about petitioning to get these areas addressed with the county," she said.
ENERGIZING THE CLUSTERS is the primary goal for Berner, who has lived in Burke Centre for nearly 10 years.
"I inherited a fairly active neighborhood council but it has dropped off a little bit," he said. Election slates for cluster positions have not been filled yet, he said. As Oaks trustee, he said, he will work on encouraging residents to attend meetings and provide input on neighborhood issues.
"The issue isn't whether you agree or disagree, it's whether you can see opinions and say your opinions clearly so that people can see where you stand," he said.
Berner said he will take the long view on future issues that arise in the community, and will make decisions based on how they would apply for the next five years or more.
Phil Pool, at-large trustee, is running for his third term on the board. Before becoming a trustee, Pool served on the Burke Centre budget and finance task force.
"I'd like to make the Conservancy run more like a well-oiled business," he said.
Marc Flaster, also running for the Commons trustee position, described himself as a "consensus builder." He is most proud of his work with the Condominium Review Task Force, he said, in examining the relationship between condominium residents and Burke Centre.
"I think I can help lead the way to improve Burke Centre," he said.
Flaster, who voted against the most recent assessment increase, also urged a second look at the use of the increases.
"I'm concerned about how careful and how prudent we are in asking our residents to pitch over some more of their dollars," he said.
Board president and Woods trustee Greg Smith, who is running for an at-large position this election, said he was also concerned about the increase.
"We have come to a firm financial footing," said Smith. "We need to continue the process and not slip back into allowing costs to escalate and grow without having good checks and balances."
As an at-large trustee, said Smith, he would be better able to represent the entire community. He wants to continue to try and streamline the way the board works, he said, by examining cluster operations as well as the board's efficiency in work sessions.