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 Mike Collins, who is facing five other candidates in the race for an At-Large seat. His opponents are Roberto Anguizola (profile), Eric Carr (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?
My wife, Sarah, and our two young sons decamped from the West Coast to live closer to family and make Reston our home in 2008. I first learned about Reston while studying City and Regional Planning at UC Berkeley. Textbooks usually focus on Reston’s innovative architecture, layout and amenities, but they miss the genius of Bob Simon’s plan. His whole point was to bring people together to form communities and to create space for engaging nature. That’s what keeps us here.
What inspired you to run for the board?
This is actually my second time seeking a board spot. I represented the North Point District from 2010 to 2013. Although I absolutely loved serving our community this way, I did not seek re-election due to a job opportunity that did not allow for both.
I want to return to the board because I know that the quality of life we enjoy here does not happen by accident. It takes a lot of work. Not only am I willing and able to do it, I actually enjoy it! I chose to run this year in particular because five or more directors will leave the board in the next two years and I believe my prior experience on and off the board will be particularly valuable in grappling with a strained budget and the challenges of development.
What are three of the biggest concerns you have for Reston?
For Reston in general, our primary challenge is integrating new development in ways that do not overwhelm us. RA must have a very strong voice in trying to mitigate their impact on traffic, aesthetics and other quality of life issues. That’s why, as a Director, I strongly encouraged RA to hire land use counsel who can advise the Board and help advocate our community’s interests. I will also support a Design Review Board that takes a firm stance against projects that are out of character with our neighborhoods.
Second is the challenge of integrating new residents into our community. Residents of most new projects near Metro will not automatically become members of RA. That does not mean we can’t offer them that opportunity and some developers have already joined voluntarily. This can help build the sense of community that Bob Simon envisioned and help RA’s budget because new members will pay assessments without adding much cost.
The third challenge also relates to the RA budget. Recent overspending has severely constrained RA’s ability to maintain services and amenities, could preclude new programs and projects, and created upward pressure on assessments. No one wants to pay higher assessments, but I am particularly concerned on the impact on the nearly 5,000 (25 percent) households in Reston with annual incomes under $50,000.
What do you hope to accomplish by being on the board?
I hope to help take Reston Association in a new direction, where people see a greater value for their assessment dollars, have more trust in the board decisions, and see an improved, more cohesive Reston. Specifically, I will focus on:
- Improving Communication — I truly believe directors must conduct direct outreach to their constituents. Personal relationships allow directors to get input beyond three minutes at a board meeting and provide them with the opportunity to explain their positions beyond press releases. I was the first RA Board member to create a newsletter for his constituents. I also attended numerous cluster meetings and convened three town halls. I got yelled at alot, but enjoyed every minute.
- Reforming the RA budget process — Too often, directors simply accept staff’s budget proposals without looking behind the numbers. Worse, the Board does very little to make sure that staff sticks to the budget. Directors must be willing to delve deep into the details to assure accountability. Given RA’s history of the recent Lake House project and the reconstruction of the Dogwood pool, I will not support new projects until RA can ensure delivery on-time and on-budget.
- Improving our pathways — Reston’s paths were mostly designed for recreation, but they could be reoriented so we can walk or bike to places we need to go. This would not necessarily require the addition of entirely new paths. A few tweaks here and there could enhance connectivity and safety.
How will your personal or professional experience help you in your role with RA?
Professionally, I was Congressional staffer for six years, including three as Outreach Director for Congressman Gerry Connolly. I have 10 years experience as a lawyer with experience in litigation, contracts, and homeowners associations. I have served on the board of a chapter of Habitat for Humanity and currently serve on the board of the Fellowship Square Foundation, which provides housing for 460 very low-income seniors in Reston.
Personally, my family and I have been involved in the best of what Reston offers. My sons go to FCPS schools, are involved in its Boy Scout troops, and have spent many fun summers at various RA camps. We set a summer goal — and met it — a few years back of visiting all 15 RA pools. We’ve jumped in Lake Anne at Freezin’ for Reason and sweated out many a July morning as part of the RSTA’s Lake Newport Lightning. We are living the Reston experience, and know Reston families’ concerns and priorities firsthand.
Learn more about me at www.mikelikesreston.com.
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