When the history of Allan Gajadhar’s two-and-a-quarter years as president of the Arlington County Civic Federation is written, the focus will be on two acronyms.
COVID and TiGER.
The first is somewhat self-explanatory; Gajadhar become Civic Federation president in early 2020, just as the pandemic was making its arrival, and worked to guide the organization into the uncharted territory of online meetings and attempting to remain relevant in community discourse with the world turned upside down.
TiGER, by contrast, will serve as the major project undertaken by the 106-year-old organization during Gajadhar’s tenure as president. Standing for Task Force in Governance and Election Reform, it marked the Civic Federation’s attempt to encourage changes to Arlington’s 90-year-old – and, to critics, outdated – governance structure.
For his service to the organization, Gajadhar on June 14 was presented with the Sun Gazette Cup, the highest honor in Arlington civic leadership.
Gajadhar – a Cherrydale resident – said he was proud to have led the organization, but said others deserved honors for making it thrive.
“All of this work has been done by the committees and membership, where the true power and effectiveness of our Civic Federation lies,” he said in a note to delegates prior to the organization’s annual meeting.
Gajadhar was called to fill in for Sandy Newton, who resigned as Civic Federation president in early 2020 due to health issues (from which she has since recovered). His first meeting as president coincided with the arrival of COVID, which made the federation’s traditional meeting venue (Virginia Hospital Center) unavailable. Thus began two years of online meetings.
Despite the challenges, “we have continued our civic work, working to promote civil rights and diversity, stormwater mitigation, housing fairness, budgetary discipline and environmental issues based on the priorities of our membership and community,” Gajadhar said. “We have worked for the general welfare of Arlington and its citizens, for an Arlington that works for everyone.”
The TiGER effort, led by Chris Wimbush, earlier this year resulted in a draft proposal featuring a number of major recommended changes to local governance, including an increase in the number of County Board and School Board members and a change in how they are elected.
This month, a decision was made to hold off on a membership vote on the proposal while gathering more feedback from delegates and others in the community. Revisions, if any, will be presented in the fall.
While he is rotating off as president, Gajadhar is rotating in as leader of the TiGER effort, succeeding Wimbush. He also was elected to serve as one of the Civic Federation’s directors for the coming year.
Gajadhar’s activism has included participation on the Arlington Public Schools Budget Advisory Council and, in perhaps the definition of a thankless task, service as a member of and spokesman for the school-system committee that mulled the renaming of Washington-Lee High School. He also served as a member of the schools committee of the Civic Federation.
The Sun Gazette Cup has been presented (under various names) by the Civic Federation since 1938. Until 1982, it was known as the Washington Star Cup and from 1983 to 2004 as the Journal Newspapers Cup.
Traditionally, the accolade is presented at the Civic Federation’s annual spring banquet, but that has been off the table since the onset of the pandemic. In 2020 and 2021 it was presented “virtually” during an online federation meeting.
At the June 14 meeting – held at Virginia Hospital Center – Gajadhar presented the President’s Award to Alistair Watson for his indefatigable work ethic in support of the organization.
“He is willing to jump in an help out” whenever called, Gajadhar said of Watson.
Presented with certificates recognizing exemplary service were Adam Henderson, Mary Glass, Suzanne Sundburg, Wimbush and Nicole Merlene.
“It’s a good, representative list” of the quality people who make the Civic Federation run, said John Ford, who has been elected to succeed Gajadhar as president.