Voting in the 2017 Reston Association Board of Directors election will run through April 3. We will be posting profiles on each of the candidates. Featured here is Eric Carr, who is facing five other candidates in the race for an At-Large seat. His opponents are Roberto Anguizola (profile), Mike Collins (profile), Charles Dorfeuille (profile), Ven Iyer (profile) and HeidiAnne Werner (profile). The six squared off in a candidate forum last week.
The profiles are in a Q-and-A format. Each candidate had an opportunity to answer the same questions in their own words.
How long have you lived in Reston? What brought you here?
I have lived here for 19 years. I picked Reston on purpose, and bought my first home here, because it felt like a different kind of community than the other places I’d considered in Northern Virginia. I loved the trees, the trails, the sense of togetherness. I also liked that Reston embodied ideals that were missing in other communities: multicultural, worldly, progressive, innovative, and a place for people of all incomes and backgrounds.
It felt like it meant something to be a Restonian, and I thought that was something I wanted my family to experience, especially my kids. I loved that. I wanted them to be from somewhere, not just from a bland, unremarkable suburb of Washington.
What inspired you to run for the board?
Nineteen years later, it feels like a lot of what I mentioned in that first answer is gone or eroding. It used to be that, driving around NoVA, you knew when you got to Reston. It doesn’t really feel like that anymore in many respects.
It is a very good thing that we have the Metro, because it connects us to cultural, educational, and sporting events downtown, helping to further broaden the experiences of our community. However, the Metro has brought a wave of redevelopment that was never anticipated in the Reston Master Plan, and it shows. The redevelopment will bring new neighborhoods into our community, which may or may not be part of the Reston Association, which may or may not connect to our paths and use our facilities and take part in our communal activities, yet they will also be Restonians.
RA was meant to be the connective tissue that makes Reston the single community that it is. If we get redevelopment wrong, however, we’ll start to look like all those other NoVA suburbs. That would utterly destroy Bob Simon’s vision. Redevelopment is in some ways inevitable, but this is a critical time when we can still shape what it looks like and how these new people fit into our community.
What are three of the biggest concerns you have for Reston?
The challenges we now face, and will face over the next 5 years, are much larger and more complex than anything we’ve had to face, and so far the RA is not up to the task. The Board doesn’t hold the RA staff to account, and the RA staff doesn’t seem to know what it’s doing. Tetra, Pony Barn, bocce ball, Lake Newport Fields, indoor tennis, indoor rec center, the pool pass mess — these are just some of the recent disasters we’ve all had to endure. They all have a common theme, though: lack of a strong planning process from the outset and almost zero membership input before a decision is made. Over the past 5-7 years, the number of self-inflicted wounds has increased dramatically.
My three biggest concerns: The Board doesn’t hold the staff accountable. The staff makes decisions without Board or membership input. And neither entity has put together an honest long-term budget and planning process to anticipate changes and preempt problems.
The RA is the glue that binds all Restonians together. If we can’t do these three things, and soon, the RA will fail. It is already losing our members’ confidence. We have to turn this ship around.
What do you hope to accomplish by being on the board?
The Board needs to do its job better. The coziness between Board and staff has led us astray, and has given us a Board and staff that do not respond to the membership. The Board needs strong leadership, needs the courage to ask challenging questions, have difficult conversations, and insist on results. Our Board of Directors represents us, the membership, and it has to insist that RA exists for the benefit of all of us. I think most people would agree that it doesn’t feel that way these past several years.
I want to put that spine into the Board, and I will lead by example. In an organization such as the RA, the Board exists to provide strategic oversight, scrutinize our finances, and ensure a holistic approach to fulfilling the membership’s needs. The Board is our voice. We elect them to speak for us. I want that to become reality once more. I will insist that the membership be involved in capital project planning and that all stakeholders are made aware of proposed changes to our community before decisions are made. I will have those difficult conversations with our staff. I will ask the uncomfortable questions.
How will your personal or professional experience help you in your role with RA?
I have lived here 19 years. I raised a family here. I have become involved in every aspect of what it means to be a Restonian. I have seen our community grow and change. I have the passion and deep personal attachment to Reston and my fellow Restonians.
I have served on corporate boards. I have lead teams large and small, and managed multi-million dollar budgets. I know what it means to serve on an effective board of directors, and I have done so. I have had those difficult conversations, and have reshaped large organizations around common, strategic goals.
For most of my 19 years here, I was content to pay my dues, go to work, raise my family, and enjoy the great amenities that we have here. The past several years, though, I haven’t been able to shake this nagging sense that we’ve derailed, that we’re losing our way. We are being overrun by the change, and this is the critical moment, where we can shape that change to keep the best parts of Reston. I am running because I feel compelled to help, and to apply my perspective, experience, and passion for our community, so that new families will feel about Reston the way I did 19 years ago.
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