Some consider politics the “art of the possible,” and new McLean Citizens Association president Scott Spitzer applies that definition to civic activism, as well.
MCA serves as the McLean area’s unofficial “town council” and gives residents a forum to address community and countywide issues, including development, transportation, parks, education, taxes and the county’s budget.
Spitzer has set a wide-ranging agenda for MCA, which has about 500 members and representatives of 19 homeowners associations in the broader McLean area.
“I have made my priorities building the membership, ‘building the bench’ and strengthening MCA’s leadership, and increasing MCA’s outreach and communication with other community organizations such as the McLean Community Center and the McLean Community Foundation,” Spitzer said.
While MCA cannot necessarily impose its will on initiatives such as the Virginia Department of Transportation’s 495 NEXT project or planned Dolley Madison Boulevard Corridor improvements, the group can help shape how various proposals, such as stormwater management, affect the community, he said.
Case in point: Fairfax County officials earlier this year initially proposed giving the county’s Park Authority $50,000 for its natural-resource-sustainability program to train volunteers to remove invasive plant species in parks. This was 15 times less than the $752,000 sought by parks officials, who listed the program as a top priority.
MCA met with Supervisor John Foust (D-Dranesville) and made the case that training volunteers to perform that task for free would be far cheaper in the long run than replacing trees killed by invasive plants.
Foust sided with MCA and pressed the matter during the Board of Supervisors’ budget-markup session. The Park Authority got its full request.
Now a solo-practicing lawyer whose clients include U.S. and international entrepreneurs, startups and growth companies focused on new technologies, Spitzer previously worked as general counsel or in senior legal positions with mid-sized public corporations in fields such as financial services, advanced medical technologies and business-process outsourcing.
Unlike at larger businesses, where he likely would have been pigeonholed into narrow legal specialties, mid-range companies let him work across a broader spectrum and often made him part of the management circle, requiring him actively to develop solutions – not just a range of legal options – for challenges facing the businesses.
Spitzer long has been involved in the public sphere, serving as a justice of the peace in Westport, Conn., and as a longtime member and chairman for five years of the community’s land-use board.
He then became a council member and mayor in Basking Ridge, N.J., a 27,000-resident community that he likens to McLean.
Spitzer and his wife moved to McLean nearly four years ago, in part to be closer to their children who live in the area.
When Spitzer joined MCA, former president Robert Jackson put him in charge of the association’s Planning and Zoning Committee. Spitzer later served as the group’s first vice president and in March, two months ahead of schedule, became MCA’s president after Jackson moved to Wake Forest, N.C.
Spitzer has placed some new people in committee leadership and liaison posts and relieved some committee heads of multiple burdens.
“MCA was founded in 1914 and has been a vital force in the community since,” Spitzer said. “To ensure it MCA continues to do so for the next 108 years, it needs continuing infusions of new blood and fresh ideas.”
McLean abounds in well-traveled, highly educated, professionally accomplished people, and MCA should reach out to them and bring their talents to bear in local affairs, he said.
Spitzer has had one-on-one discussions with many of the 40 board members to learn what issues are most important to them and develop collaborative working relationships so that myriad divisions do not stymie MCA’s consensus and progress.
MCA routinely monitors trends around the county and its committee meetings often feature presentations from key county officials. At one recent meeting, MCA members learned about carjacking teams from outside the county whose members look for and steal unlocked vehicles with key fobs inside.
MCA also is staying abreast of development projects in the area, including a current by-right application to redevelop the shopping center anchored by Giant Food, as well as design guidelines for redevelopment of McLean’s Community Business Center and proposed county changes to on-street-parking rules.
“MCA has a well-earned reputation for providing thoughtful review, analysis and suggestions to improve and enhance our community,” Spitzer said.
Glenn Harris, MCA’s Transportation Committee chairman, said Spitzer already has stepped in well to fill the “big shoes” left by Rob Jackson, the group’s longest-serving president.
“He has made it clear that he will work hard to ensure that the MCA continues to have a meaningful impact on the issues of most relevance to the residents of the McLean area,” Harris said. “I am excited to work with Scott on important transportation issues going forward and look forward to his capable and effective leadership of the organization.”
Longtime MCA board member Merrily Pierce said she was impressed with Spitzer’s chairmanship of the Planning and Zoning Committee.
“He respects both process and policy and the important role the MCA has played in helping to shape McLean as a community for over a century,” Pierce said.