2020 Reston Association Board Election: Meet Sarah Selvaraj-Dsouza

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 Sarah Selvaraj-Dsouza, who is running against Paul Berry 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 an 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 have been fortunate to call Reston my home for the past 12 years. What brought me here was fate, but what has kept me here is a love and appreciation for Reston and its many wonderful offerings, the nature, the amenities, the attractions, and most of all the people who make our community so vibrant and unique. 

When I came to Reston, I brought with me a business degree, ideas, and dreams. In 2013, I launched a small business that has since grown to three stores in Northern Virginia including one in Lake Anne. The Reston community helped me realize this dream. Ceramic classes and studio offerings at the Reston Community Center were an intricate part of my growth. I spent countless hours with the amazing instructors there, playing with clay. And as a mom, I have thoroughly enjoyed all that Reston has to offer from museums, art galleries, trails, parks, lakes, even a zoo, kids classes, ice-skating, pools, tennis courts, shopping, and so much more. 

Each of our stories on what brought us to Reston and what keeps us here is unique and what makes this area an amazing place to live work and play. I want to hear about your story. Visit me on SARAH4RESTON.com so we can get to know each other and chat, I would love to talk, text, email or simply good ol’fashioned meet for coffee. 

What inspired you to run for the board?

While this is an election, I am not a politician nor do I have aspirations for higher office. I am in this race because I believe the Reston Association must focus on its core purpose of serving dues-paying members and maintaining our amenities. And I believe the RA board must be committed to smart money management, transparency, and accountability. I am committed to championing these principles as your representative.

Facing challenges at my Lake Anne store from our condo association (see restonnow article), I realized that good governance, sustainable process and reasonable controls were paramount for the well being of the membership. I then championed for these principles, and with the help of my neighbors have enabled change. I want to bring the same for Reston Association as I think that RA like any organization, can have better governance, be more responsive to members without compromising service and be financially stable without the constant need to raise assessments. 

In particular, I want to ensure the Board always remembers that RA’s money is not RA’s but our neighbors’. Our board has a fiduciary duty to the members to make sure money is spent wisely, and if they hold true to this principle, Reston will flourish without compromising our core values. 

What are three of the biggest concerns you have for Reston? 

  • Affordability – From affordable housing to affordable RA assessments, affordability is KEY to all of us. We need to ensure our assessments are affordable. Being a mom and a small business owner I know every dollar spent towards an assessment is a dollar not spent on my family or my business. Density and Redevelopment – RA must be an advocate for Restonians on Land Use issues. We need a strong board that can effectively represent us to the county on plans that conflict with our members’ best interests. New development must be part of RA. Many of these developments tout RA’s wonderful offerings like our amenities, lakes, and trails to entice new owners but are not members of RA and do not contribute to the upkeep. 
  • Climate Change – The urgency of climate change cannot be ignored. Reston under the RA Environmental Advisory Committee’s leadership is working towards being a leader on this front. We can and must do more. I invite you to learn about and take the biophilic pledge with me and to visit Reston Today’s informative video. 
  • These are big issues and need lots of conversations and voices to find the right solutions for Reston. I want to start these conversations now. If you would like to join in, visit SARAH4RESTON.com for a list of events in Reston where we will have speakers and community leaders discuss these topics and more with all of us. We sincerely hope you can make it to at least one of these events to join the conversation. 

What do you hope to accomplish by being on the board? 

  • Greater Fiscal Responsibility: I believe smart money management does not mean raising assessments or pay cuts for hard-working RA staff. Smart money management means the efficient and effective use of available resources, including the knowledge and experience of the RA Fiscal Committee. It also means exploring the possibility of public/private partnerships and other non-assessment revenue streams to meet membership needs.
  • Greater Transparency and Communication: The RA Board must be committed to transparency and empowering the membership through meaningful engagement. We can achieve this by disseminating necessary documents and reports sufficiently prior to board/committee meetings to allow member participation and comment. I also support the continued development and maintenance of a USER-friendly website.
  • Action-Oriented Leadership: I will use my skill set as a successful business owner for creative problem-solving, where consensus building, communication, and firm deadlines will be key. I will encourage implementing action items in a timely manner.

How will your personal or professional experience help you in your role with RA? 

I have been incredibly fortunate to achieve the Reston Live, Work, Play dream. I own a store in Lake Anne Plaza and a home adjacent to Reston National Golf Course. Making a small business grow and prosper over the last seven years has required the ability to adapt and innovate. Those skills would benefit the RA board and our community. 

Diversity, innovation, and adaptation have been an integral part of my life. I grew up in India, completed my engineering degree in Singapore, obtained my MBA in Bristol, England, and moved to Reston 12 years ago to start my family. 

I am passionate about our community. I serve as VP for Outreach of the 23 member board of the George Mason University’s School of Music. I am VP for School Services on my daughter’s school PTA board. As a volunteer, I foster dogs for Lost Dog and Cat Rescue Foundation. As a family, we have fostered and successfully placed over 16 dogs in under 7 months. I have 3 rambunctious 5-week old foster pups running around my desk as I write this today. 

Most importantly, as a homeowner, a business owner, and a mom, I know the value RA brings to our community and lives, and I am also keenly aware of the strain we can face when assessments are raised or prices for programs and amenities become more expensive. I will ensure our money is spent wisely, I will champion accountability and transparency, and I will use my experience and passion for our community to implement creative solutions. 

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