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The Hurtt Locker: New Year, New Appointments

The Hurtt Locker is a biweekly opinion column. The views expressed are solely the author’s.

The Arlington County Board appointed or reappointed nearly two dozen citizens to 12 Advisory Groups and Commissions at their January 28 meeting.

These Advisory Groups and Commissions, comprised of civic-minded volunteer commissioners, provide guidance to the County Board and County Manager on issues ranging from the status of women to environmental issues to capital facilities needs.

Beyond engagement in your local civic association or other local interest group, these Advisory Groups and Commissions are some of the best ways to provide direct input into the process at the county-level. As unscheduled vacancies arise or commissioners term out, the County Board (or in limited instances, the County Manager) makes appointments from a pool of applicants. Those interested in serving on Advisory Groups and Commissions can apply here.

Astute civic observers will recognize some of the most recent appointees to the various bodies. Former County Board member John Vihstadt was appointed to the Audit Committee. As a County Board member, Vihstadt actually helped establish the Independent Auditor in Arlington and served as Co-Chair while on the County Board. Longtime housing activist Karen Serfis was appointed to the Citizens Advisory Commission on Housing.

But of the 23 appointments the County Board made on January 28, only 6 of them are fresh appointees. The other 17 are reappointments. Those reappointments carry with them significant institutional knowledge about how these bodies function and the progress on many community discussions, but they may lack the energy and enthusiasm a new appointee could bring.

Certainly the pool of potential appointees is limited to those who “opt-in” by completing the extensive application. These would-be volunteer commissioners give up their time to engage at the county-level, often above and beyond the other civic responsibilities they already assume.

Beyond the more than 50 Advisory Groups and Commissions constituted to provide input to the County Board and County Manager, there’s one Board that is somewhat removed from the traditional process and whose vacancies are less frequent and filled in a different way – the Arlington Electoral Board, whose membership is comprised of three appointees made by the Circuit Court.

Potential appointees are put forward by the Arlington County Democratic Committee and the Arlington County Republican Committee. According to the Electoral Board website, “Two Electoral Board members represent the current governor’s political party, while the third member represents the party with the second-highest number of statewide votes in the last gubernatorial election.”

On Saturday February 1, the Circuit Court ceremoniously swore in the board’s newest member — Matthew Weinstein — who will replace outgoing board member David Bell just a couple days before the March 3 Democratic presidential primary. Bell, a longtime member of the Electoral Board, previously served as the Clerk of the Circuit Court and brings significant institutional knowledge to the Electoral Board.

Weinstein, an up-and-comer in the Arlington Democratic ranks, marks a noticeable shift in the kind of appointee put forward by the local political parties. He is younger and more active in local politics than his Electoral Board contemporaries – Chair Charlene Bickford, the other Democratic appointee, and Secretary W. Scott McGeary, the sole Republican appointee. It is also worth noting that Weinstein is married to current Arlington County Democratic Committee Chair Jill Calazzo. Additionally, Weinstein has previously appeared before the County Board and various zoning bodies as a representative of developers.

Though potential Electoral Board appointees are put forth by respective political party committees, the appointees themselves are seen as nonpartisan, or at the very least above the partisan fray. Both Bickford and McGeary retired their partisan “activism” long ago.

Weinstein’s youthful energy and enthusiasm provide an opportunity to reinvigorate the Electoral Board, but he should be cautious of wading into partisan political battles. The role of the Arlington Department of Elections and its leadership on the Electoral Board is to administer free and fair elections that maximize Arlingtonians’ voices at the ballot box.

Matthew Hurtt is a 10-year Arlington resident who is passionate about localism and government transparency and accountability. Hurtt is a member of the Arlington Heights Civic Association and was previously the chairman of the Arlington Falls Church Young Republicans. Hurtt prides himself on his ability to bring people of diverse perspectives together to break down barriers that stand in the way of people realizing their potential. He is originally from outside Nashville.

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The Arlington-Aachen High School exchange is returning this summer and currently accepting applicants.

The sister-city partnership started in 1993 by the Arlington Sister Cities Association, which seeks to promote Arlington’s international profile through a variety of exchanges in education, commerce, culture and the arts. The exchange, scheduled June 17th to July 4th, includes a two-week homestay in Aachen plus three days in Berlin. Knowledge of the German language is not required for the trip.

Former participants have this to say:

_”The Aachen exchange was an eye-opening experience where I was fully immersed in the life of a German student. I loved biking through the countryside to Belgium, having gelato and picnics in the town square, and hanging out with my German host student’s friends. My first time out of the country, the Aachen exchange taught me to keep an open mind, because you never know what could be a life changing experience.” – Kelly M._

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Submit your own Announcement here.

Learn about the new assessment of Arlington’s urban tree canopy and the many ecological and social benefits trees provide. Staff from the Green Infrastructure Center (GIC) will share study results and compare canopy cover for different areas of Arlington.The webinar will include assessments of ecosystem services such as stormwater mitigation, air quality, carbon uptake, and urban heat islands. For background on Arlington trees see the “Tree Benefits: Growing Arlington’s Urban Forest” presentation at http://www.gicinc.org/PDFs/Presentation_TreeBenefits_Arlington.pdf.

Please register in advance to assure your place at the webinar, https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/29543206508863839.

About the Arlington County Civic Federation: The Arlington County Civic Federation (“ACCF”) is a not-for-profit corporation which provides a forum for civic groups to discuss, debate, inform, advocate and provide oversight on important community issues, on a non-partisan basis. Its members include over ninety civic groups representing a broad cross-section of the community. Communications, resolutions and feedback are regularly provided to the Arlington County Government.

The next meeting is on Tuesday, February 21,2023 at 7 pm. This meeting is open to the public and will be hybrid, in-person and virtually through Zoom. Part of the agenda will be a discussion and vote on a resolution “To Restore Public Confidence in Arlington County’s Governance”. For more information on ACCF and this meeting, go to https://www.civfed.org/.

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Submit your own Announcement here.

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