Del. Ken Plum: Bob Simon Knew and Appreciated Community

by Del. Ken Plum September 24, 2015 at 11:00 am 9 Comments

Del. Ken Plum/File photoI don’t know why I was surprised at Reston founder Bob Simon’s passing. After all, he was 101 years old. Few people reach that age, and fewer still live beyond it. Yet Bob was such a prominent figure in his namesake community that unconsciously those of us who were surprised by his death may have thought he would always be there. His passing was so noteworthy that it received coverage in all the major news outlets.

He will be greatly missed by those who knew him and by those whose lives were touched by him: by the little children who huddled around the pedicab when he was brought to the Founder’s Day Program or to the Bike-to-School program at Lake Anne Elementary; by the children at a day care center named for him; by residents and visitors alike as he ambled around Lake Anne; by everyone who saw him in the annual Holiday Parade at Town Center; and by politicians at all levels of government with whom he shared the podium at numerous public events in his town and who witnessed his popularity and couldn’t help but be a bit envious.

Surprise and sadness at the passing of Bob Simon are quickly replaced by overwhelming joy at having known him. Few times in life do we get to know a visionary: a person who can see beyond the immediate to a better society. That sizable chunk of Virginia countryside in which Bob Simon invested in the 1960s could have easily been turned into a subdivision for quick profit, but for Bob and his vision it represented an opportunity to create a better place for people where they could live, work and play.

Better than anyone I know, Bob Simon knew and appreciated community. His plan for Reston did not start with designing a government structure. Some land use laws had to be changed to accommodate his plan, but the governance of that place he named Reston was left to the community.

While there have been healthy debates about issues over the years, there has been a recognition that local neighborhood citizen organizations and nonprofits formed by the residents could resolve those issues without the need for another layer of government or partisan involvement.

While it is difficult to discern the elements that create the sense of community in Reston, it is undeniable that it is there and that it was nurtured by its founder Bob Simon. The basic principles he outlined in the beginning for his new town give us the best insight into what he envisioned. The most radical notion at the time and place of Reston’s founding that people of all races could live together in harmony has become a societal norm.

Robert E. Simon, Jr., our immediate surprise and sadness at your passing have quickly turned to joy at having known you. Rest in peace, inspirational leader, wise counselor and good friend — you made a wonderful difference for all!

Ken Plum represents Reston in Virginia’s House of Delegates. His opinion does not represent Reston Now.

  • Henry Rearden

    ” there has been a recognition that local neighborhood citizen organizations and nonprofits formed by the residents could resolve those issues without the need for another layer of government”

    That should be taken to heart Ken. We don’t need you or the government telling us how to resolve issues or how to live our lives. May you learn something from the death of this man.

    • Richard

      I take great pleasure in the fact that Ken Plum bothers you so much.

      • Grandpa Jack

        We used to laugh at Grandpa when he’d head off to go fishing. But we wouldn’t be laughing that evening, when he’d come back with some whore he picked up in town.

        • CE

          HA HA HA. Nice.

    • Ming the Merciless

      Paging John Lovaas and all the other people who think a town government would solve all our problems…

      • Chuck Morningwood

        I firmly stand by my position that Reston needs to become its own municipality separate from Fairfax County. Maybe government doesn’t need to be involved in every neighborhood fracas, but we certainly need to take control of our zoning before the BoS turns Reston totally into a Concrete Wasteland.

        • Ming the Merciless

          Meh. Many town governments work hand in glove with developers, and are even easier for developers to capture than a county government. If we can’t stop the RA from encouraging development, the chances that we could get a town government to do so are poor. Sounds to me like we’d get an extra level of government with even more power to tax us, and not get much in return.

  • I have always been fascinated by Bob Simon’s vision of a town, a great place
    to live. I first met him in 1965 when as an employee of Virginia Tech (VPI back
    then) when we came up to explore the idea of a VT campus here. But
    then the war and economic turmoil (and community colleges came into being in
    1966) and the idea of a VT campus here slipped by. Later in 1981 when I
    went to work for GMU Reston was the place my wife and I chose for our family.
    And we have lived here most of the time since then.

    The addition of the Town Center has lifted Reston as a place to live and
    work to an entire new level.

    And Bob Simon, whom I got to know better in the past decade, was always there
    providing guidance to all who would listen and many did.

    I think he achieved his goal but had more ideas and visions of what Reston
    could or would be in the decades ahead.

    Thanks Bob for your vision we love living in Reston, Robert E. Simon’s Town


  • Kristina B

    Great sentiment, Ken. Bob was definitely an inspiration! He held true to his vision for the community, while also giving so much of his personal time to all of us. My family and I will truly miss him at the parade and Relay For Life of Reston this year, as well as the many years to come.


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