Voting in the 2018 Reston Association Board of Directors election will run from March 5 through April 2. This week, we will continue posting profiles on each of the candidates. This is the last of those profiles.

Featured here is Ven Iyer, who is facing six other candidates for two at-large seats for a three-year term. The profiles are in a Q-and-A format. With the exception of minor formatting edits, 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 have enjoyed living in Reston near Lake Anne for nine years. I was born and raised in Mumbai in a middle class family. After completing my bachelors degree in Electronics Engineering, I came to the United States to earn a Masters Degree in Computer Science. After graduation, I proceeded to take a job at IBM, which allowed me to live anywhere in the country and travel across the United States to customers. Eleven years ago, I was living in Florida, and planning to start my own technology company. I was searching for a place to call home, with plenty of open space and outdoor activities. I happened upon Reston, which was featured as one of the top places to live in America. I flew into Dulles to explore the area, and I was captivated by what Reston had to offer. After renting in Ashburn for a couple years, I bought my first home near Lake Anne in May 2009. I also went on to start my technology company. We are a small and minority-owned business, and our customers are Local, State, and Federal Government agencies. Thus, Reston has been instrumental in my personal and professional life.

What inspired you to run for the board? 

I want to stop the wasteful spending on projects Members clearly have expressed they don’t want. For example, the Board pushed for the Hook Road rec-area full-facility rebuild with a mere budget of $122,000. They proposed regulation soccer, baseball, lacrosse fields with lights, bleachers, pavilions; butterfly park, dog park, skateboard park and sculpture garden as “enhancements”, which Members found are invasive on neighbors and nature. This also shows that the Board is disconnected from the expectations of grass roots Members and there is influence from special interest groups. In another example, the Board insists that StoneTurn’s $45,000 business process review of the Tetra fiasco is forensic analysis. Members find that it is a 30-page report of process and policy philosophies devoid of individual culpability, law-breaking and conflicts of interest, also found in an HOA manual available at the Reston library or for $16.95 on amazon. Other examples are the $100k RA website with terrible user experience, glossy magazine with outrageous costs. I want to demand Board transparency. I want to stop the rapidly rising assessment bills – although RA brags that the 2018 assessments are lower, it is because new Members brought additional revenue and not because RA cut costs.

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

The biggest concerns for the Reston community are from wasteful spending and lack of transparency posed by RA, and threat of increased development posed by developers, Fairfax County and others set to benefit from it. Any zoning changes must be accompanied by planned growth and concomitant infrastructure without threat to Reston’s open and green space. Although RA may be viewed as a mere HOA with no enforceable ordinance by those who will benefit by increased growth, we must remind them that we are recognized as a hybrid government in many levels including courts. Also, the most common way people lose power is by thinking that they don’t have any. With about 22,000 households, our Members are our biggest asset in making our voice heard against zoning changes, and RA is in the frontline. We must, however, champion Member participation further in meetings, gatherings, protests and marches and increase our campaigning and lobbying efforts. Although we see hundreds of Members participate, it is a small fraction of the booming roar we can generate, and activist groups need further support. We also need DRB and Covenants to focus resources on deterring increased development over policing obsolete and burdensome design Rules on residents.

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

The RA Board is a highly cohesive group where its desire for consensus and agreement overrides critical thinking and correct judgment. Dissenting opinions are ignored or discouraged by the Board, and Member input is restricted in the interests of reaching a unanimous decision. Meeting minutes for this Board seem to show that there has been only one failed motion versus over a 120 of them passed unanimously. The voting majority and groupthink mode is evident when the Board unanimously voted to use $2.42 million of Members’ reserve money to pay off the Lake House loan. This was a rushed and self-serving decision by the Board in an effort to reduce the 2018 assessments by a mere $8.66, without due diligence, just weeks before its Directors are now running for re-election. They will spend a year’s time and $50,000 of the $122,000 budget to study the Hook Road rec-area but no careful analysis to support a $2.42 million decision? I want to avoid costly mistakes from groupthink, establish effective audits, Member inclusion and better two-way communications to improve transparency. I will remind RA that they operate with their Members’ money and trust, and the Board must always be cognizant of that.

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

I am grateful to this country; it has facilitated everything I’ve achieved, and that makes me want to give back even more. I have actively participated in prevention of St. Johns Wood high-rises, unwarranted Hook Road full-facility rebuild, replacing natural Lake Newport soccer fields with artificial turf, Fairfax County zoning changes that would eliminate our golf course open spaces, paid parking at Reston Town Center, and the Density Cap Increase. I have been involved in community service with Fairfax County organizations. At HART, I drove a van of rescue animals for adoption events, fostered rescue dogs and house checked potential adopters. At FACETS, I assisted parents and children affected by poverty and mentored students towards well-paying careers in technology. I am running for the RA Board, At-Large Seat because I believe my positions on key issues will benefit the entire Reston community. You can learn more at veniyer.com or facebook.com/voteforven. Finally, during my campaign, I have met some terrific Restonians with excellent insight into the issues and solutions, and many who are eager to help. I am certain that I can do my job better with their involvement and hope that the community will participate in making my service successful.

Click here to view video statements or read candidate statements submitted to RA. 

Photo by Reston Association

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Ven Iyer/RAVoting 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 Ven Iyer, who is facing five other candidates in the race for an At-Large seat. His opponents are Roberto Anguizola (profile), Eric Carr (profile), Mike Collins (profile), Charles Dorfeuille (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 enjoyed living in Reston near Lake Anne for eight years.

I was born and raised in Mumbai in a middle-class family. After completing my bachelor’s degree in Electronics Engineering, I came to the United States to earn a master’s degree in Computer Science. After graduation, I proceeded to take a job at IBM, which allowed me to live anywhere in the country and travel across the United States to customers.

Ten years ago, I was living in Florida, and planning to start my own technology company. I was searching for a place to call home, with plenty of open space and outdoor activities. I happened upon Reston, which was featured as one of the top places to live in America. I flew into Dulles to explore the area, and I was captivated by what Reston had to offer.

After renting in Ashburn for a couple years, I bought my first home near Lake Anne in May 2009. I also went on to start my technology company. We are a small and minority-owned business, and our customers are local, state and federal government agencies. Thus, Reston has been instrumental in my personal and professional life.

What inspired you to run for the board?

Our assessments have nearly doubled in the past 15 years. This is neither warranted nor sustainable. I have spoken to retirees who are faced with the difficult decision of moving out of Reston. They lived within their means, their homes are paid off, and now the assessments are a sizable portion of their fixed income. If this does not worry you now, think again. In another 30 years, the Reston that we know now won’t be affordable by those who aren’t wealthy.

The cumulative year-over-year assessment increase percentage is almost twice that of inflation over the past 15 years. Those additional monies fuel RA’s well-documented spending habits of operating outside the scope of its mission statement. I want to stop the rapidly rising assessment bills and stop RA’s bad spending behavior.

I want to stop projects that are invasive on our neighbors and nature. I recently campaigned along with the Preserve Newport Fields coalition of residents, and together we successfully stopped the Lake Newport Soccer Proposal to demolish natural fields. Other proposals like redevelopment of St. Johns Wood apartments and Reston National Golf Course to dense residential properties puts RA in the frontline to protect the Reston way of life.

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

The biggest concerns for the Reston community are from RA’s behavior of wasteful spending, operating outside its mission scope, and simply put, strange conduct.

RA pushed for the purchase of the Tetra Lake House at more than twice its county-assessed value, made estimates on complex repairs instead of getting multiple professional estimates, drafted sloppy rent-back agreements allowing former owners to walk away and did not write an objective referendum. When the community wanted an independent investigation, RA conveniently appointed its own Tetra Review Committee, hardly making it independent, and therefore ineffective. This is evident when an effort by citizen subject-matter experts for a truly independent investigation at a pro-bono price of $1 got derailed, and another bidder’s $45,000 deliverable yielded 30 pages of process and policy philosophies devoid of individual culpability, law-breaking and conflicts of interest.

I wrote to the RA Election Committee in February asking them to collect COI disclosure statements from all candidates so that the community knows who they are voting for, to which they refused. Meanwhile, the Lake Newport Soccer Proposal is a $2.4 million spending proposal by a special interest group with tremendous access to the officers of the corporation. These proceedings are anything but normal.

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

I want to establish effective audits, member inclusion and better two-way communications to improve transparency.

Currently, RA uses it own convenient interpretation of rules, closed executive sessions, bare meeting minutes and restrictive member input in its decision-making process, rendering RA’s edicts to be unilateral and unfair to members. RA decisions in Tetra, the land swap and the soccer proposal demonstrate this pattern.

I also want to dismantle the ineffective Tetra Review Committee and salvage the independent pro bono investigation bid by citizen subject-matter experts. Who else but the citizens of Reston, completely removed from the Tetra deal and directly affected by it, will help give us closure? This time, RA must make certain that its board and legal counsel don’t stonewall and derail this effort.

I will vote to reduce operating expenses and review excess reserve funds. Projects related to safety and maintenance of existing facilities will be given priority, and all capital expenditures will be thoroughly vetted.

I will remind RA of its mission statement and make certain that it does not expand or operate outside those boundaries. I will remind RA that they operate with their members’ money and trust, and the board must always be cognizant of that.

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

I am grateful to this country; it has facilitated everything I’ve achieved, and that makes me want to give back even more.

I have already been involved in community service with Fairfax County organizations. At HART, I drove a van full of rescue animals to and from Fauquier County to Fairfax County for adoption events. At FACETS, I assisted parents and children affected by poverty in Fairfax County and mentored students towards well-paying careers in technology.

I am running for the Reston Association Board of Directors as an At-Large candidate because I believe my positions on key issues will benefit the entire Reston community. You can learn more about my positions on key issues at veniyer.com or facebook.com/voteforven. As the President of a technology company with customers in state, local and federal government, I have experience in bringing the required change while operating within a defined scope and constraints.

Finally, during my campaign, I have met some terrific Restonians with excellent insight into the issues and solutions, and many who are eager to help. I am certain that I can do my job better with their involvement and hope that the community will participate in making my service successful.

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As budget season comes into full swing, Reston Association’s CEO Hank Lynch is exploring several ways to boost revenue beyond funds that come directly from member dues.

After conversations with RA staff, Lynch pitched several ideas — varying from concession stands at pools and tennis courts to a three-season education program for sailing — to RA’s Board of Directors at a meeting Thursday night.

Lynch floated ideas that he said could serve members while generating money for RA’s coffers.

Specifically, Lynch said RA’s competitive advantage lies in its ownership of local lakes, which could be the site of a new waterfront festival and paddle boat tours.

Other ideas that were suggested include but are not limited to:

  • Offering parking spots at RA’s Central Services Facility for rent during the Town of Herndon’s annual festival.
  • Creating a mobile concession truck that would travel to RA events and facilities
  • A floating dock for wedding, graduation and anniversary pictures at the Lake House
  • Electric shuttles to serve outdoor concerts, as well as paid tours

RA’s fiscal committee plans to vet all ideas that would cost more than $5,000, along with RA’s board.

The primary purpose of these ideas is to generate revenue — with the added bonus of providing a service to the community, RA board member Ven Iyer said.

RA’s 2020-2021 budget development process began in late May. The budget will be up fora vote on November 21.

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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(Updated at 2:57 p.m.) Reston Association’s covenants department is once again contemplating ways to streamline its services and address staffing issues.

At a special meeting yesterday (June 13) between its Board of Directors, the Design Review Board and other staff, Anna Donato, RA’s director of covenants administration, suggested temporary fixes, including starting design and review meetings at an earlier time and editing guidelines to allow more DRB projects to be completed without applications.

The suggestions are part of an effort to improve the covenants’ departments services and create more room for staff to complete property inspections, address home resale requests, and other issues not directly within the purview of the DRB.

The DRB is primarily focused on preserving the architectural integrity of Reston Association properties, while covenants typically involve issues related to  use and maintenance, which refers to the physical condition of properties. Covenants staff also provide support to the DRB, which is an independent agency within RA that reviews exterior improvements of properties within RA.

Richard Newlon, the DRB’s chairman, said that diluting the DRB’s role and process by limiting staff support or curtailing the DRB’s function is not sustainable fix for the “systemic problem” and “staffing crisis” that faces the covenants department.

New needs have changed the role of the covenants department over the last decade. The level of detail required for DRB applications has increased significantly and decision letters are much more details — departing from the days when applications were stamped with an “approved” label. Furthermore, redevelopment had generated more applications and RA recently started requiring its own properties to go through the DRB process.

Last year, the DRB processed 2,097 applications — up from 1,904 in 2016 and 1,835 in 2017.

Donato said workload increases justify the need for one full-time inspection, one full-time cluster specialist, and two vehicles to perform services, including property inspections.

Issues facing covenants staff have been a topic of discussion for at least a decade. 

In October 2017, staff contemplated ways to address covenants requests. In 2006, a study commissioned by RA assessed the efficiency, processes and organizational structure of the covenants department. 

That study by BDO Seidman LLP was brought to the attention of Donato several weeks ago. It laid out several problems with the department, including high turnover, no standardized training process for new hires, lack of retention, and significant manual and duplicated efforts.

The report suggested that the department clarify its goals and mission, revise its recruiting process and improve the department’s overall performance levels.

At-large Director Ven Iyer said he was concerned that RA’s covenants policies were driving away residents. In some cases, covenant inspectors flag longstanding issues that previous inspectors have not acknowledged — leaving some members to foot the bill of unanticipated issues.

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Ray Wedell’s resignation from the Reston Association Board of Directors with eight months remaining in his term has left the remaining Board members with a decision to make.

Four RA members have submitted statements of candidacy to fill the remainder of the At-Large term, which lasts until April’s election. Directors are scheduled to hear from the candidates at their Thursday meeting and make a decision on which one should join them.

The four applicants are:

  • John Bowman, a two-time former candidate for the Board. Bowman is a past member of the Reston Citizens Association Board of Directors, a founding member of Reston 20/20 and a current member of RA’s Multimodal Transportation Advisory Committee.
  • Moira Callaghan, vice president of the Reston Citizens Association. Callaghan also served on the FY2017 Budget Task Force for Fairfax County Public Schools.
  • Ven Iyer, who was an At-Large candidate for the Board in the 2017 election. Iyer also was up for vote to join the Board earlier this year following the resignation of Eve Thompson; however, the Board chose to appoint Sridhar Ganesan instead.
  • John Pinkman, a co-founder of Rescue Reston and a member of its Board of Directors.

Each of the candidates’ full applications can be viewed in the Board packet for Thursday’s meeting.

Wedell resigned from the Board on Sept. 1, citing in his statement that his “successes have been outweighed by the frustrations.” He had served on the Board since 2015 and was also on the Board Operations Committee, which is responsible for reviewing and setting board agenda items each month.

The seat will be one of four on the nine-member Board up for vote in next year’s election.

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HeidiAnne Werner/RAVoting in the 2017 Reston Association Board of Directors election will run through April 3. We have posted profiles on each of the candidates. Featured here is HeidiAnne Werner, who is facing five other candidates in the race for an At-Large seat. Her opponents are Roberto Anguizola (profile), Eric Carr (profile), Mike Collins (profile), Charles Dorfeuille (profile) and Ven Iyer (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 in Reston my whole life. I attended RA summer camps, was a camp counselor and even worked at RA in the Parks & Recreation office for a couple of summers. There was no question I wanted to come back to Reston after college. As an adult, I love living in a community that has such wonderful recreation offerings. I love playing tennis, walking my dog on our great path system and relaxing at the pools in the summer. When I was in the market to finally buy property, I knew that Reston was the place I wanted to be.

What inspired you to run for the board?

I love living in Reston, but there are many things that concern me which I would complain about to others. I realized that I had to stop complaining about the things I did not like unless I was willing to get involved in the process. I went to a Board meeting and it was one where they were talking about changing the dues structure. When I did not hear any opposing viewpoints I got scared that we would all quickly see a huge increase in our dues. So I decided I wanted to get involved and offer another viewpoint.

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

  • Financial Management — We keep on seeing dues increase year after year without cuts to ancillary services. Are non-Reston-residents being charged enough to use our services? Or are residents picking up the bill for everyone?
  • Deviation from Original Purpose — Do all of the programs that Reston offers fit into the purpose of our community?
  • Development — There is no question that Reston is changing. What is Reston’s responsibility to making sure we are not overtaken by development? How are we making sure our green space and recreation is being protected?

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

As a board member I cannot promise that I will cut dues, stop development or save our pools. But I can promise that I will work hard with the board, RA staff and residents to make sure that issues are discussed and addressed; to make my case for the issues. I promise I will work to collaborate with everyone and come to the best solution. I know that might not be the most popular viewpoint, but no one board member can drive through their platform. I will do everything I can to continue to make Reston a great place to live and work.

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

My career is association management and I am in the process of studying for my CAE (Certified Association Executive) exam. Through my career, I have practical hands-on experience dealing with boards, association staff and members. Through my CAE study I am learning the theoretical best practices. But my experience is not only through my career. In my personal time, I have served on various committees and boards and, in addition, I serve on my cluster board, which gives me the experience in dealing with homeowner concerns. My experience makes me a well-rounded candidate for this position.

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Charles Dorfeuille/RAVoting 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 Charles Dorfeuille, who is facing five other candidates in the race for an At-Large seat. His opponents are Roberto Anguizola (profile), Eric Carr (profile), Mike Collins (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 in the area for around 15 years, nine of which being in Reston Proper. Even when I didn’t live in Reston I would always find myself here, be it because of the Town Center or Lake Anne. My family moved here from Herndon because of the strong sense of community we saw here.

What inspired you to run for the board?

Through my involvement in the Community Engagement Advisory committee I had seen many inefficiencies in RA policy that I have not seen the board properly work on. I see many ways to improve RA, and also want to see a Reston where more of us are taking full advantage of what RA has to offer!

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

For the short term, I think that redevelopment and rezoning are my biggest concerns. If this is not properly faced, it will have negative effects to our community for decades to come.

For the longer term, though, I see the rapid assessment increases as a very serious issue we must at least try to take on in a serious way.

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

I hope to accomplish three things in my three-year term. The first is to increase the role of cluster presidents by better involving them on issues that concern them. Increasing the role of community leaders will provide much needed public input channel for communities potentially impacted by RA projects, like the Lake Newport soccer fields.

The second goal would be to revive our fight to maintain Reston’s open spaces. With the green space of Reston National still at risk, we need to make clear to all that we as a community value our open space above all else.

Lastly, I would like to see the board work on our unfair assessment system. We now have a system where the new luxury apartments are paying half what normal apartment residents pay in assessment dues. I also believe we should add a new cap that will make the assessment increases both marginal and predictable.

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

I have grown up in this community, and as a result have taken advantage of youth-oriented programs. I know how to make these programs better through trial and error. I was also an original member of the Parks & Recreation Advisory committee and the Community Engagement Advisory committee. Through these postings, I have been able to learn the processes of RA and how things are done. This experience will allow me to hit the ground running if elected to the At-Large seat this April.

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Mike Collins/RAVoting 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.  
  3. 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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Eric Carr/RAVoting 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.

PREVIOUSLY PUBLISHED CANDIDATE PROFILES:

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Roberto Anguizola/RAVoting 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 Roberto Anguizola, who is facing five other candidates in the race for an At-Large seat. His opponents are Eric Carr (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 in Reston since 2008. I moved here from Chicago, Illinois, with my family to take a career position as a government consumer protection attorney. I was in private practice before moving here and this was a wonderful opportunity to serve and do meaningful work.

What inspired you to run for the board?

My children inspired me to run for the board. As the father of three children (2, 10, and 12 years old), I have a keen interest in maintaining and improving Reston’s recreational facilities and natural resources in an environmentally conscious manner. I want RA to continue offering a high quality of life now and for future generations.

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

  1. Aging Infrastructure. Most of our recreational facilities and amenities were built in the early ’70s. If we don’t invest in them and modernize them, our community will stagnate.
  2. Ongoing Development of Reston. The world doesn’t stand still and we are in the middle of re-development that is going to shape Reston’s future for decades. We need to do our best to shape that change is a way that will be positive for the community and seize on the many opportunities that it will bring. As a community, we need to lay the groundwork so that we are prepared to welcome thousands of new Restonians in the coming decade.
  3. Forward Looking Financial Stewardship. We need to balance necessary investment in Reston’s aging facilities and amenities with strong financial stewardship. Maintaining and improving a vibrant community is not free and nobody likes higher assessments. For this reason, we need to have tight budget discipline but also be open to partnerships with nonprofit groups and businesses that want to invest in our community through community use agreements, proffers and donations.

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

I love Reston and all of the amenities, programs and services RA offers. My goal as a board member would be to maintain and improve the high quality of life Reston offers for its community members in a fiscally responsible manner. The upcoming Board should focus on: (1) strategic investments in maintaining and improving Reston’s aging infrastructure; (2) positive and proactive engagement in ongoing re-development so that it can be steered in a direction that will inure to the benefit of the community; (3) long-term and forward-looking financial stewardship. In promoting these strategic objectives, the Board should encourage, incentivize and support RA’s wonderful professional staff without resorting to micro-management.

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

My professional and volunteer experiences have prepared me to serve as an RA board member. I have worked closely with RA as the President of Reston Soccer Association, a nonprofit sports organization. In addition, I volunteer as a coach for my son’s soccer team. In the past, I also served as a Cub Scout leader at HWES.

I have been a trial attorney since 1999 both in private practice (8 years) and in government (9 years). Over the course of my legal career, I have handled a variety of business and corporate governance matters. I am a graduate of Northwestern University (BA ’95 and JD ’99). I also recently completed the Partnership for Public Service’s Excellence in Government Fellows program which is an intense year-long leadership development program for civil servants.

PREVIOUSLY PUBLISHED CANDIDATE PROFILES:

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Reston Association has taken a step forward in reviewing the future of its information technology needs.

The RA Board of Directors unanimously approved the creation of an IT Committee during its meeting on Thursday (March 25).

Tasked with reviewing and monitoring the association’s IT services, the committee will also advise the board of directors and staff on “how to ensure proper oversight and monitoring of the security, risks, processes and projects are in compliance with best practices,” according to the approved item in the board’s packet.

It will also conduct an annual review of RA’s IT landscape, provide advice on possible solutions to issues that arise, and recommend long- and short-term initiatives.

The committee will advise RA’s IT director and the board on best practices and policies, including standards, data privacy, disaster recovery, and data security, according to the board packet.

“This is not etched in concrete,” Board Director Caren Anton said. “It’s very possible that once the committee is formed, they will want to tweak what some of their approaches will be.”

RA’s IT director will serve as a non-voting member of the committee, which will feature seven members, including at least one board director and one RA member. Committee members will serve in their role for three years.

To be considered for the committee, individuals will need to have technical experience in the following fields:

  • Computer and networking technologies
  • Communication technologies
  • Application of computer technologies, preferably in a government or nonprofit environment
  • Application of computer technologies for improvement of business processes and controls
  • Enterprise architecture, cloud, and customer relationship management (CRM)
  • High-level information technology managerial experience
  • Experience with the application of computer technology to organizational financial systems

Anton said committee members could potentially be approved when the board meets in May, so the group could “conceivably have their first meeting in June.”

“In summary, we were not looking for perfection here. That was not our goal,” Anton said. “Our goal was to have a means to proceed with forming this committee, which is something that has been a hot topic and something we very much wanted to do.”

The creation of the IT Committee follows calls from four board members to address RA’s IT challenges and security needs. That includes the website abruptly being taken down due to outdated technology and stability issues, the loss of some financial records, and limited backups.

Directors Ven Iyer and Sarah Selvaraj-D’Souza initially called a special board meeting on Feb. 8 to present an initial draft amendment to establish an IT Committee.

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Reston Association’s Board of Directors has unanimously directed the organization’s staff to provide a comprehensive report on security incidents that caused losses of data, money or website capacity in the last two years.

At a board meeting last Thursday, board member Sarah Selvaraj-Dsouza proposed the motion in an effort to provide its membership with transparent information about possible issues

The move comes as some board members advocate for the immediate and swift creation of an IT committee that would guide RA on its security posture and provide recommendations on how to protect membership data, privacy and financial information.

Board members contend that RA’s security posture and IT platforms are incapable of maintaining industr-wide accepted standards of privacy and data security.

At last week’s meeting, board member Ven Iyer, a professional in the field of IT security, has voiced what he described as grave concerns related to RA’s lack of security.

Speaking as an RA member and not as a board member, Iyer says that RA CEO Hank Lynch’s email ID was breached, resulting in a loss of $187,000.

He also stated that RA’s website failed in the summer of 2020 when a system hosting the RA website, a decryption algorithm, and membership privacy and financial data was compromised. At the time, RA staff stated the abrupt shift was prompted because the website’s platform was “extremely outdated and unsupported.”

He also contended that RA’s communications to members — including recent press releases — mislead members into thinking that the shift to the cloud and a new website has resolved any pending concerns.

“That is simply not true. RA’s press releases falsely mislead members to believe that security incidents have occurred due to outdated technology or will not occur against because RA has shifted to cloud platforms,” he said.

Iyer wants the board to swiftly create the IT committee in order to “immediately respond at a SWAT team pace.”

A special meeting on the issue is planned, following a review of the proposal by RA’s board governance committee.

RA spokesman Mike Leone told Reston Now that because the board has not taken an official position on IT-related issues, the association cannot directly address Iyer’s concerns or questions about specific security issues.

The board is expected to review a report on IT breaches and other related issues on March 18.

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Last year, Reston Association’s website was abruptly taken down because of outdated technology and stability issues.  The loss of some financial records and limited backups was also cited as an issue in previous board meetings.

These challenges, along with other IT security needs, have prompted a call by four board members to create a board IT committee. If approved, the volunteer-run committee would be tasked with reviewing RA’s technology landscape, advising the association on procurement, data security and privacy, as well as other hands-on solutions. Board members Sarah Selvaraj-D’Souza, Bob Petrine, and Tom Mulkerin also worked on the plan.

Board member Ven Iyer, who described himself as an expert in security and IT infrastructure with 19 years of experience, said RA’s IT systems are “unfit”for conducting financial and Personally Identifiable data.

“If you were a bank or you were somebody handling PI data, you would be shut down. And you thoroughly need the help,” Iyer said at a special board meeting earlier this week.

He says RA’s IT issues are so severe that the institution of a board committee is necessary in order to make “RA capable of conducting business.”

But the proposal was met with some skepticism by other board members. Board president Julie Bitzer said the proposal needed a more thorough review before a board vote.

Four board members and RA’s legal counsel will revise the proposal in advance of another board special meeting on Monday, Feb. 15. The move was suggested by board member John Mooney and backed by Bitzer, Mike Collins, Caren Anton, and Aaron Webb.

“You don’t rush something important like this,”Mooney said.

Some board members questioned if it was appropriate to set up a board committee – which has more authority than an advisory or working group – to manage and advise RA on IT issues. Other board committees like RA’s Board Governance Committee and Board Advisory Committee have more authority than working groups or advisory committees. 

Others simply said immediate action was necessary, especially since IT-related spending is a big-ticket spending item.

“The feeling was that you need to have the strength of the board like the fiscal committee does,” said D’Szousa.

Iyer, who said he has pushed for the creation of an IT committee for years, said the urgency of the need should not be underestimated.

Irwin Flashman, an RA member, said that residents would be more than willing to help support RA’s IT efforts and guide decision-making with expert advice.

“Reston is a technology center and many of those who work in the industry live in Reston and would be well qualified and willing, I feel certain, to lend a guiding hand to such an IT Committee and RA,”Flashman said.

‘We urge the board to act diligently and seriously. You hold the security of RA information in your hands. It is a great and serious responsibility.’

Within one day, RA staff quickly created a temporary website in July after the association’s IT team learned that the old website created a “potential security risk” to RA members and the DotNetNuke platform was no longer ‘technically supportable,’ according to past meeting materials.

Planning is underway to launch a new website with enhanced communication features later this year.

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Reston Association’s Board of Directors narrowly approved a $10 increase in next year’s assessment Thursday night. Four members of the nine-member board — Ven Iyer, Sarah Selvaraj-D’Souza, Bob Petrine, and Mike Collins — voted against the proposal due to financial concerns.

The funding gap between current revenues and future expenses was especially apparent in this year’s budget negotiations as RA debated how to fund the renovation of Lake Thoreau.

RA CEO Hank Lynch originally pitched a budget with no assessment increase in order to account for the impact of COVID-19 on members. But RA’s Board directed Lynch to explore other assessment options up to $728 in order to account for future expenses and reduce the likelihood of a major fee increase in 2022.

Additional revenue from member fees will be used for ADA-additions to Temporary Road and accounts for the lease of RA’s headquarters, which will be reflected as an average booked rate for ten years instead of actual costs for 2021. Other funds above $80,000 would be placed in RA’s operating reserve for future use.

Assessment invoices will be mailed to members next month and are due Jan. 1. RA plans to launch a new system for members to pay fees online and “will be the most convenient way for members to pay their assessment during the COVID-19 pandemic,” according to a news release.

The budget also does away with processing fees for online payments and accounts for an. 86 percnet increase in funding for lake treatment at Lake Thoreau and other Reston lakes.

RA’s Central Services Facility will also reduce the number of times it mows Virginia Department of Transportation roads in Reston. Currently, VDOT’s contract with RA pays for three mowing cycles on an annual basis.

Other features of the budget include:

  • No staff merit pay increases
  • Full-time headcount reduced by one position
  • Three current and vacant positions will remain vacant until the end of March
  • Next year’s communications, marketing and public relations budget is reduced by 9.5 percent
  • IT reduces the budget by $195,000 by moving to Cloud and not filling 2020 approved staff positions
  • Election budget increases by 14.6 percent to increase voter turnout

In addition to Lake Thoreau, the pools at Shadowood and Tall Oaks will be closed next year for capital improvements.

Image via Reston Assoication/YouTube

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The Reston Association (RA) still has decisions to make on its 2021 budget, including any potential change to the current $708 member assessment rate.

During a public hearing on Wednesday, a proposed budget by RA CEO Hank Lynch remained consistent with his October proposal by not including an increase from the current $708 rate.

Lynch did stipulate that the assessment is one of the key points the Board of Directors must still decide on. He said that the fiscal committee for RA has recommended an increase to the assessment of up to $20 for the 2021 budget.

Lynch stated that the fiscal committee suggested there is the potential of an increase of up to $100 for the assessment in 2022. But he said he does not believe there will be that significant of an increase for the 2022 assessment rate.

Robert Petrine, treasurer for the board, clarified the discussion on the potential 2022 assessment rate increase of up to $100.

“There are two major components that are not in the current 2021 budget, which if we look forward is number one is if you implement the salary plan, that’s going to have a material impact,” he said.

“And number two; we’re going to be fully paying on the (headquarters) lease. When you put those in and you also factor in the amount of capital projects that are already in the budget and projected for 2022, in order to have everything balanced, you’re looking at a substantially higher assessment.”

Lynch also discussed the decision point for the board of an operational change with the Central Services Facility (CSF) that mows the Reston roadways and median strips.

CSF is paid $45,000 in an annual contract through the Virginia Department of Transportation to mow Reston’s roadways and median strips three times. However, CSF mows those areas 24 times during the year to maintain Reston’s appearance. The additional mowing costs RA an additional $140,000 above the contract.

Beyond the roadways, CSF also brings in a turf maintenance company to mow many of the ball fields, parks and open spaces. This additional maintenance costs the association over $200,000 annually.

Lynch’s proposal for the board’s consideration includes the following measures to reduce CSF’s 2021 operating costs by $200,000 to $210,000:

  • Reduce the number of VDOT highway mows from 24 down to eight.
  • Eliminate contracted mowing services used for RA’s ball fields, parks and open spaces.
  • Utilizing current full-time CSF staff and five seasonal staff to conduct all RA mowing.

During discussions with RA members following Lynch’s presentation and the boards’ comments, a primary focus fell on RA’s communications budget and, in part, the participation of members in RA’s planning.

While Petrine complimented the board’s participation and the members that joined the discussion, he admonished “the general membership for lack of concern and participation.”

Board member Selvaraj-D’Souza stated that this is where Lynch’s “team is failing” in its communication efforts.

The operating expenses for communications for the 2020 budget was $968,114. In Lynch’s proposal, those expenses increased to $979,373 for 2021.

“When we’re spending a million dollars on communications, we need to be proactive and figure out a way to get our membership to show up,” she said.

“And that’s where we need to look at out of the box ideas, how are we reaching out to them, is our messaging actually being effective. And there needs to be some absolute accountability with that.”

Board member Ven Iyer echoed the suggestions of Selvaraj-D’Souza. Iyer suggested efforts be turned toward “grassroots level participation in order to shape the direction where this organization is headed.”

Lynch defended the communications department’s efforts, stating that he believes “there’s a complete misunderstanding of what communications does.”

He added that with roughly 60,000 members, an “enormous amount of work” is required to serve all the needs and wants of the members.

Board member Mike Collins followed the discussion by stating that RA has had difficulty in member participation for at least the 10 years he’s been in Reston. He also did not recommend that members should assume something is wrong with the efforts of the communications department.

However, Collins did discuss his belief that board members take a look at digging more into those details of the budget next year.

Board president Julie Bitzer concluded the discussion by agreeing with the notion that the board needs more information on the communications to reach a more appropriate “comfort level.” She suggested reviewing more details on the communications budget during the board’s next meeting.

The board will next meet virtually on Nov. 19 via Zoom.

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