As unincorporated areas in Fairfax County, Great Falls and McLean rely on government officials to make sure their voices are heard. Each community also has a citizens association that acts a liaison with officials.
The citizens associations each have committees designed to do research, speak with the principal decision-makers, and help the group come up with a position on each issue.
"If an issue arises somewhere, we start a committee, or the board assigns it to a committee, who will study the issue and make recommendations," said Rob Jackson, president of the McLean Citizens Association. "As a board, we will decide what we support or oppose, and suggest changes."
The MCA have committees for such issues as budget and taxation, education, environment, parks and recreation, planning and zoning and transportation. They also have a special Tysons Corner Liaison Committee, whose charter was recently extended to make sure the MCA stays involved in the Tysons Corner development process.
Jackson says he sees the MCAâ€™s primary function as a place for the community to be heard.
"Anyone can come to our meetings and raise an issue. Weâ€™ll give them time to express their concern, and we will address it," Jackson said. "Generally, people arenâ€™t very shy about letting us know if thereâ€™s a problem."
The 40-member MCA board offers a variety of opinions and is not shy about backing those opinions up.
"We have a very diverse board, we donâ€™t all think alike," Jackson said. "We like to get input from a lot of different sources, and we do our homework to support what we say."
Great Falls has its own citizens association, which is also dedicated to expressing the will of residents to those in power.
"The role of the Great Falls Citizens Association is to help focus, define and voice issues within our community," said Bill Canis, a board member on GFCA. "We have no mayor, no town council, weâ€™re represented at the county level, who we work closely with."
Supervisor John Foust (D-Dranesville) said his district, which includes McLean and Great Falls, as well as Herndon, Vienna and Falls Church, is very involved with their surroundings.
"Theyâ€™re very active, very vigilant when it comes to proposals that would change their community," Foust said.
"I think we have a credibility when it comes to elected officials," Jackson said. "We donâ€™t expect them to vote with us every single time, but we expect them to listen."
Canis said "people recognize the Great Falls Citizens Association as a solid representation of the issues at hand, we try to get widespread community input."
Information on the MCA can be found at www.mcleancitizens.org, and the GFCA can be found at www.gfca.org.