Voting in the 2020 Reston Association Board of Directors election will run from March 2 through April 3. This is the last candidate profile. Featured here is Paul Berry, who is running against Sarah Selvaraj-Dsouza for an at-large seat with a one-year term.
With the exception of minor formatting edits, the Q&A candidate profiles are published in unedited form. 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’m in the middle stages of my professional career and a relative newcomer and Reston appealed to me as a place to live for all the amenities that let us work, live, and play in a rich, diverse community. I walk to work on a beautiful running trail and frequently elect to run my small business out of any one of the many fun cafes near my home. As a gubernatorial appointee I have the opportunity to travel all over the commonwealth, and I truly believe Reston is the template for smart growth in Virginia.
We enjoy one of the highest qualities of life of any area in the mid-Atlantic, and all that is thanks to RA members’ active participation. From the clusters on up, RA members have formed an incredible community organization that is driven by volunteers, friends, and neighbors that care deeply about shared values. I’m passionate about stewarding RA resources in a way that makes those values a reality.
What inspired you to run for the board?
I’m running for the Board of Directors because I have a desire to serve Reston the same way I am serving Virginia. I’m currently a public servant helping Governor Northam’s executive branch develop policy around Latinx healthcare, small business, and creating a welcoming, diverse commonwealth.
I’m also the son of a public-school teacher and grew up giving back to the community in the school vegetable gardens, in stream clean-ups, and visiting our friends and neighbors in retirement homes. Service is a conversation that should flow through all our neighborhoods, and I want to amplify how RA is able to reach out. If elected to the Board I will continue to pursue better strategies for stewarding our resources and adjusting that plan as clusters and districts express the need for change.
What are three of the biggest concerns you have for Reston?
As the Reston Association enters the 2020’s the Board needs to embrace a long-term plan that spans our new decade. My biggest concern is the rollout of the biennial budget and making effective use of member association dues. This starts with prioritizing member feedback into what that budget does and does not try to accomplish.
My next concern is how we are using our shared spaces. Shared spaces bring us together and create the sense of community that makes Reston special. Whether it’s the Lake Anne farmer’s market, summer camps, or the many public art installations scattered around town, it is critical to ensure that everyone who lives here can access these spaces and interact together.
Reston is the best place to live because of the unique balance of work and play opportunities always within a short distance from home. I want the Board to form a sensible trajectory for increased pedestrian and commuter traffic from the Phase II Silver line expansion. Related, the Board should be concerned with the way we design and renovate the shared spaces and neighborhoods that will undergo changes to traffic patterns from increased visitors to our community spaces, shopping centers, and restaurants.
In short, I am focused on efficiency and member communication, and want the entire Board to be mindful of where growth in expenditures is likely to happen and be clear when it is hesitant to advance projects with an unclear fiscal outcome.
What do you hope to accomplish by being on the board?
I hope to accomplish three things if elected. First, I want to establish a way for clusters to voice concerns and give feedback on board decisions. I see the board as an ongoing opportunity for lines of communication and I want to emphasize accessibility and face-to-face meetings. This is what makes the shared concept of Reston so fantastic – we address issues collectively and in an open setting. Second, I want to develop a 2020 Data Plan for RA. As a tech industry executive, I am constantly asking myself and my team how we can innovate around what we are currently doing. The data RA possesses already provides measures of success and can illuminate where improvements need to be made.
In short, I’m proposing we apply common-sense budgeting and management principles to the overall plan for our community, but at the scale of private industry. The best part is this costs nothing but creative time amongst the board and interested members and it can lead to new ideas and resource savings.
Lastly, I want to bring onto the board a plan for regularly connecting RA with the rest of the county. Mine is an approach that gives RA the proactive ability to contribute to development plans and concepts while they are being discussed, and not after the fact. I’m very supportive of how Supervisor Alcorn has been receptive to community dialogue and it is my intention to match that with time investment from the Board perspective as much as county elected officials are open to doing so.
How will your personal or professional experience help you in your role with RA?
I am offering my experience as a small business owner and over a decade of public and private sector experience working in tech, economic development, and public policy. Budgets and resource stewardship are my fortes – I’ve managed budgets in the millions while running statewide operations in Virginia all the way down to holding fiduciary responsibilities for neighborhood sized non-profits. No solution is one size fits all.
Prior to my current role as Director of Data Intelligence and Virginia Operations Chief I worked in geospatial city planning and city management research. This entailed studying and making recommendations for designing new urban structures and redesigning or repurposing extant buildings, roadways, and local services. I designed solutions for populations ranging from megacities to towns and villages.
I graduated from Brown University, and have two Master’s degrees from the University of Geneva and the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy. My academic work and theses examined how states create legal environments that facilitate business growth in open, fair playing fields for entrepreneurs, workers, and investors. Fiscal impact is not simply dollars and cents and should be measured in the ways it creates challenges and opportunities for the most important resource a community has: its members.
Photo via Reston Association