Kathy May was recently recognized by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors for her 12-year role as the director of advocacy for The Arc of Northern Virginia and endless dedication to improving the lives of citizens with mental disabilities. A Fairfax resident, May currently works as the director of the Northern Virginia office of Voices for Virginia's Children in Fairfax Station. She is this week's People Profile.
Number of years in the community: I have lived in Fairfax since graduating from college in 1981, 25 years ago.
Family: I live in Fairfax with my husband of 20 years, John May, and our 16-year-old son, Sam.
Education: I have a B.A. in mathematics from Smith College in
Current job: I am currently the director of the brand
new Northern Virginia office of Voices for Virginia's Children, an organization that advocates for children and youth by promoting program and policy solutions, focusing on early care and education, health care, family economic success, and foster care and adoption.
Achievements: My awards and recognitions include: Leadership Fairfax 2006; recognition of my work for individuals with developmental disabilities by the Fairfax Board of Supervisors, May 2006; EP Maxwell J. Schleifer Distinguished Service Award, MassMutual and Exceptional Parent Magazine, 2005; Lady Fairfax, Springfield District, 2004; NASW Virginia Chapter, Public Citizen of the Year, 2004. I am very proud of the 12 years I worked for The Arc of Northern Virginia on behalf of individuals with cognitive, intellectual and other developmental disabilities and their families. At The Arc, I was part of the team that advocated for an unprecedented influx of $50 million in state funding for mental retardation services. In 1994, I was a co-founder of a start up non-profit organization that is chartered with increasing public awareness about fragile X syndrome and raising funds for research leading to treatments or a cure of the condition. Fragile X syndrome is the leading known inherited cause of cognitive and intellectual disabilities including autism and my son, Sam, has fragile X syndrome. Since 1999, FRAXA has funded over $1.5 million of research annually with funds it has raised, successfully worked with members of Congress to earmark funds for research, and worked with NIH and the CDC to increase their research efforts as well. Today, some researchers believe that within a year, clinical trials will be underway to test drugs that target some of the symptoms of fragile X.
Activities/interests/hobbies: My favorite activities are spending time with my family, reading good books, sitting on a beach, and drinking a cold bottle of champagne with my husband on Friday evening.
Favorite local restaurant or place in the community: I have several favorite restaurants but with my son and husband I enjoy Anita's Mexican restaurant. When my husband and I have an opportunity to go out alone, we
head to Artie's for dinner and drinks at the bar. However, our very favorite place to eat, drink and celebrate life is in our very own beautiful backyard on Popes Head Road!
What are your community concerns? What are some ideas you have on ways to improve your community? Fairfax, by nature of being large and very diverse, has a number of challenges. The challenges that particularly concern me personally are, first, providing adequate and appropriate human services to a large and diverse population to ensure the protection of vulnerable members of the community, maximize prevention services and supports, and promote self-sufficiency. Also, developing and preserving affordable Housing. Those who teach us and protect us, young families, individuals with disabilities, recently retired individuals, and single adults just starting their careers need to live among us. It is critical to preserve the county's existing stock of affordable housing by exploring: first-time homebuyer programs, public-private partnerships, providing a dedicated source of revenue for affordable housing, and improving the use of tax credits and housing choice vouchers.
What brought you here? I came to Fairfax because I was offered a job with AT&T Long Lines in Oakton after graduating from college.
What community "hidden treasure" do you think more people should know about? My favorite hidden places in the county are the trails at Fountainhead Park in Clifton.
When you were younger, what did you want to be when you "grew up?" It changed weekly and ranged from a Catholic nun to a hairdresser to a lawyer. My mom tells a story that when I was about 4-years-old she asked me that question and I answered "a curtain." She and my dad became very concerned that might be a bad sign that I just wanted to hang around all day.
Where do you see yourself in five years? That is a moving target. In five years my son will be through the Fairfax County education system. I hope we can find him meaningful and rewarding work and a happy and safe place to live so that my husband and I can then begin to focus on our future feeling secure about his. If all that is in place, I hope that my husband can retire from his current full time job and do something he loves and that I still love what I am doing and can continue to do it.
Personal goals? To live big everyday.