Reston Association had been running Q-and-As this week with the five candidates for the 2016 RA Board of Directors elections. Voting begins Monday. Today’s chat is with Eve Thompson, who currently serves as Lake Anne/Tall Oaks Director but is running for re-election to an At-Large seat. Editor’s note: Thompson’s business, Reston Real Estate, is an advertiser on Reston Now.
Reston Now: What makes you want to serve — or continue to serve — on the RA Board?
Eve Thompson: Great question — I would say that the main reason is the desire to serve and the feeling that it’s important. Contributing to the governance of the community is important work.
RN: What is the biggest issue facing RA right now and do you have an idea to improve it?
ET: I think our biggest challenge is to maintain and strengthen what makes Reston “Reston” in the midst of so much development. I think one of the keys to maintaining the things that make Reston unique will be in the development of the Urban Guidelines for application within the “corridor” that runs from above Wiehle Ave and Sunrise Valley to Monroe. That is a major initiative to be accomplished in the next 12 – 18 months.
RN: How can RA members better understand what the board does and how can they be better involved in improving our community?
ET: It’s amazing that with untold volumes of information available to us that it is so hard to keep up with what’s happening. RA tries hard to make everything available in as many formats as possible. We have an outstanding website that has lots of information about the Board goals, programs, new development, etc. We have a weekly e-mail newsletter that covers a whole host of topics. And of course we have RestonNow, providing very current, topical information on the issues that are consuming RA’s time and attention.
What Members can do is to come and hear and speak, either in person or via email to the Board on the topics that concern them. Member input is invaluable.
RN: Some of the criticism of RA recently is wasteful spending, lack of transparency and rising assessments. What can be done to improve or at least improve perceptions of all of these things?
ET: I’ll take transparency first. The claim that the RA Board suffers from a lack of transparency is I believe, an enormous source of frustration for all of the current Board Members. It’s also a charge that’s very difficult to fight. The truth is that with very few exceptions everything that’s going to be discussed is discussed in open meetings. The use of Executive Session is limited to Personal and Contractual matters. It’s like being asked “So when did you stop beating your wife?” It’s a loaded question that presumes guilt — as a current Board Member I’m saying “Not guilty!”
I am, however, sensitive to perceptions of the community — but not sure how to address these perceptions. The information about Board actions and agendas is available beforehand in many formats, so I’m not sure what else we can do to ensure that members are informed. It may be that the answer is it’s not possible, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t keep on trying.
Wasteful Spending. For some members any additional spending equals waste. For me it’s the lack of accomplishment. In my three years we’ve accomplished some things — but not all the things that I felt were important.
For me, what’s important is look and feel. We pay a lot of money in membership assessments, so I do not want to see curbs filled with leaves, litter, broken tree limbs or anything else that speaks to the community being “unkempt.” In the 2016-17 budget, we did pass specific spending to clean the curbs — and to charge back the county and state for some of these expenses. If we can accomplish that I’ll feel good — I know that it won’t be as meaningful to some as others but — we have to pick our battles and this is one that matters to me.
RN: This is an important time for Reston’s growth as several large residential developments are in the works, and most of the residents will be RA members. What can the board do in the next few years to adequately prepare to serve thousands more people? Will having more members stress RA services?
ET: Well, as membership grows so will income — which will help scale RA programs and everything else needed to serve more residents. Community partnerships with RCC, RTC and the developer community will become even more critical to ensuring that all residents have access to a rich spectrum of amenities and services.
The Board needs to cement relationships with those groups and advocate for our member needs. The Land Use Guidelines that we developed in 2013 were designed in part with this goal in mind.
Photo: Eve Thompson/Credit: RA