Candidates Sound Off at RA Forum

Candidates Sound Off at RA Forum

Five vie for two at-large seats, one for South Lakes district.

From left, Reston Association board of directors candidates Richard Chew, Eve Thompson, John Farrell, Michael Sanio, Donna Miller Rostant and Tom Vis at the RA headquarters Wednesday, March 14. Thompson, Farrell, Sanio, Miller Rostant and Vis are running for two open at-large seats, while Chew is running unopposed for the South Lakes district seat.

From left, Reston Association board of directors candidates Richard Chew, Eve Thompson, John Farrell, Michael Sanio, Donna Miller Rostant and Tom Vis at the RA headquarters Wednesday, March 14. Thompson, Farrell, Sanio, Miller Rostant and Vis are running for two open at-large seats, while Chew is running unopposed for the South Lakes district seat. Photo by Alex McVeigh.

— Five residents are running for two open at-large seats on the Reston Association Board of directors, while past board member Richard Chew is running unopposed for the South Lakes District. Current Vice President Paul Thomas will not be running for re-election, opening up one seat, and incumbent Tom Vis is hoping to keep his seat.

John Farrell, Donna Miller Rostant, Michael Sanio, Eve Thompson and Vis are the candidates for the two at-large spots.

Farrell has lived in Reston since 1984, and has served on cluster boards and homeowners associations all around the area. He has also been president of Candlelighters Childhood Cancer Foundation and the president of Fairfax Girls Softball.

He said if elected, he hopes to end bickering among directors, as well as push for more transparency in its dealings.

"There are too many secret deliberations, too many secret discussions and decisions," he said. "There shouldn’t be any surprises in our association, you should know what’s coming well in advance of the board actually deciding on it."

Chew Runs Unopposed in South Lakes

Richard Chew, who served on the Reston Association Board as an at-large member until 2011, is running unopposed for the South Lakes district director’s seat. The seat is currently held by RA president Kathleen Driscoll McKee, but she is term limited and unable to run again in this year’s election.

"As a director, I will challenge the board to be great, to better position itself to meet the challenges ahead," he said. "The board must take its governance to a higher level. We must introduce ways for RA members to participate constructively ... to reach a broad consensus on what is best for the association."

Chew said that RA’s annual assessment is always a hot button issue in the community, and that it is incumbent on every board to make sure they are maximizing the value paid by the members.

"We need to recognize that there are members who don’t think their assessment dollars are being spent wisely, and in this economic environment it’s not a surprise," he said. "The board’s responsibility is to be fiscally responsible and respect every dollar we take from our members. We need to be smart about our spending on essential services and more cautious about expenses that do not directly support our mission."

He also said he is a proponent of receiving recreational proffers to finance facilities that the RA is hoping to eventually build.

"We need to get them from developers around the two Metro stations. If we don’t get them, we’re not going to be able to build the two facilities that I hear most about when I’m walking house to house. That is, a 50-meter indoor pool and indoor tennis," he said. "We can finance those if we get the proffers, but if we don’t, we’re probably going to never be able to build them, it would require too much in terms of assessments."

Miller Rostant moved to Northern Virginia in 1997, and become involved with events such as the Reston Triathlon and Reston Runners Women’s Distance Festival (which she serves as director) before moving to Reston two years ago.

"We have a lot of positive changes coming with the Metro Silver Line and also a lot of challenges," she said. "Reston is great, but we’re at a crossroads, and Reston can be greater. We need to make sure that with the coming of Metro we retain what is Reston about Reston."

She said that, if elected, she is fully prepared to work with any number of local and county agencies to make sure Reston is represented when it comes to the benefits of redevelopment.

"I would work and coordinate with the Reston Community Center and the other Fairfax County authorities, because the reality is, we’re an association, but Fairfax County is involved in a lot of development as well," she said. "Working together is how we will get things done. A cooperative effort to work with the county so that Reston Association will get the money, instead of fooling ourselves and thinking we can go and demand all this stuff."

Sanio moved to Reston with his family in 2004. He has been involved with the RA Environmental Advisory Committee, and has 25 years of experience in non-profit management. He also serves as director of sustainability for the American Society of Civil Engineers and the Sustainable Committees Award Foundation.

"Growth can bring new services to Reston, but also more traffic, noise and congestion," he said. "That’s why I’m driving for the idea of sustainability. Sustainability is growth that meets the needs of all residents of Reston, protects our natural areas and ensures our long-term economic viability."

Sanio also said he would push for the RA to take a greater role in the redevelopment process going on in this area.

"I would work to proactively engage the association in the development that is occurring and will occur in the next five years," he said. "It’s absolutely essential for us to get in front of the process so we can shape it to benefit all of us. It’s important to become knowledgeable and educate the entire community, and frankly, we have to start now."

Thompson has lived in Reston for the past 25 years, and served two years as chair of Lake Anne Merchants Association, where she now leads marketing and events efforts. She also serves on the Reston Historic Trust board of directors.

"The next five to ten years will be really important to Reston’s future," she said. "I think it will be during this time that we secure our immediate legacy or lose hold of it. I think it will be challenging to manage the growth that Metro will bring, and we’ll have to draw a tight line in the sand around our guiding principles."

She said her experiences with the ongoing plan for redeveloping the Lake Anne Village Center has given her a glimpse of what might be in store for Reston as a whole.

"It encapsulates properly the risky place Reston is in," she said. "When I see the scope and the potential for the redevelopment, it’s exciting thinking about what it could be. But when I think about how wrong it could go, it’s terrifying to me. Reston is special, and we’re going to have to insist in keeping our standards high."

Vis, who is running for a second term, has lived in Reston since 1979. He said he is concerned with the actions of previous boards, who he believes might have kept assessments low at the cost of neglecting long-term costs.

"Prior boards may have somewhat compromised our ability to find long-term maintenance of the pools, the pathways, the lakes and dams," he said. "The way the budget cycle is run, looking at only a two-year picture, sometimes we may have jeopardized the long-term picture, but over my last term I have worked to change the way we look at that."

Vis also said he hoped to improve biking access around the community. He said he lived about two miles from the RA headquarters, but he drives most of the time.

"When I first moved here, I had a bike, but I never rode it because I never felt comfortable riding on streets that had no shoulder. I never felt comfortable riding on pathways that seem to be more about walking than riding," he said. "Right now, I personally don’t think Reston is especially bikable. How do we fix that? I know a lot of biking experts in the area, and I’d be mindful and listen to them."

The election is open until 5 p.m. Friday, March 30, which is when paper ballots must be received, or online votes must be cast.