Column: Changing of the Guard at Reston Citizens Association

Column: Changing of the Guard at Reston Citizens Association

The recent Reston Citizens Association (RCA) Board election, although it received little media coverage, was an important event for Reston. RCA Board members who provided the energy and intellectual leadership to inform and advocate for the community on critical issues have stepped down. In particular, we’ll miss President Colin Mills who provided a steady flow of thoughtful reporting and commentary on vital issues like the Byzantine master plan process (Phase 1) and the county’s stealth plan to eviscerate Reston Regional Library. Terry Maynard, with Dick Rogers, did extensive research and analyses involving as many as 60 volunteers during the master plan process. Their extraordinary analytical effort was of such high quality that major American think tanks, like Brookings would likely be proud to put their covers on their work, useful and timely information Reston readers got free from RCA.

Many folks in our community of 60,000 still may not understand the difference between the Reston Citizens Association and Reston Association (RA). RA is a large homeowners association responsible for administrative functions including design and maintenance covenants, and care and maintenance of common areas (e.g., 55 miles of paths) and facilities (e.g., pools). Its annual budget is over $13 million; and, it has a large paid staff of 90 employees plus 345 seasonals. Its work is administrative and more narrowly focused than RCA’s. RCA has no paid employees. The organization consists of a Board of Directors and working committees—e.g., Reston 2020 and Reston Accessibility. RCA was created in 1968, shortly after founder Robert Simon was fired by developer Gulf Reston. Reston citizens, numbering just several hundred, formed RCA with a broad mandate to protect our founding principles from the corporate master. RCA’s heart in the early years was its Planning and Zoning (P & Z) Committee. P & Z reviewed all new Reston development proposals and passed their recommendations to Fairfax County decision-makers. Rarely did the County Board of Supervisors approve projects that RCA’s P & Z opposed.

Over the years, RCA has had its ups and downs, depending largely on the skill, energy and commitment of its volunteer Board. In recent years, leadership has been strong. RCA has advocated effectively for the community, been a source of independent information and a watchdog both of government and the Reston Association (e.g., new RA facilities and land swaps). Master Plan Phase 1 was a major test for Reston. It will shape Reston growth for a generation. RCA’s Reston 2020 Committee passed the test with flying colors, providing superb analysis and the only real community counterweight in a developer-dominated process.

New RCA President Sridhar Ganesan, with a financial and operations management background, is new to community work. But, I am impressed with his grasp of RCA, community dynamics, and commitment to give priority to Phase 2 of the Master Plan process, providing community input on library reform, strong support for accessibility improvement and candidate forums. Vice President John Hanley, passionate activist Tammi Petrine, and Rescue Reston leader Connie Hartke provide needed leadership continuity on the Board. I wish the entire Board all the best. Reston needs a strong, independent RCA.