By Susan Laume:
Linda Sperling knows first-hand how ordinary citizens can strengthen democracy by serving on one or more of the 85 advisory groups run by Fairfax County government.
Sperling, a candidate for Fairfax County Board of Supervisors from Springfield District, knows this because she has been a member of the Transportation Advisory Commission since 2017.
As a Commission member, Sperling played a role in important projects such as widening of the Fairfax County Parkway. She also took training in the “Smart Cities” program to learn about smoothing traffic flow with electronic sensors, and using green technologies, like smart lighting.
Sperling, a former college professor and current marketing consultant, believes the scope of citizen advisory groups should be expanded even further. “With 1.1 million people in Fairfax County, we need local government ambassadors out in the community. Being able to talk knowledgeably about an issue…to neighbors, friends, and acquaintances is helpful to all.”
In fact, Sperling has already indicated one new advisory group she wants to set up if elected — a citizen commission to improve public transit options for Springfield District residents.
Advisory groups carry diverse titles such as “board”, “commission”, or “authority”, but all tap the specific talents of local residents to address key issues. Interested citizens, nominated by a county supervisor and approved by the Supervisory Board, serve for a designated term that varies by advisory group, typically from one to five years. Advisory positions are typically voluntary.
Advisory groups have been set up over a range of varied and contrasting topics, including the Commission on Aging, and the Youth Basketball Council Advisory Board (one of the largest, with 78 members); the Economic Advisors Commission and the Trails, Sidewalks and Bikeways Committee; and the History Commission and the Planning Commission.
Sperling believes in taking patronage out of advisory group appointments. She points out that her opponent for supervisor, incumbent Pat Herrity, a Republican, has appointed many more Republicans than Democrats to advisory groups, including a number of large donors to his campaigns.
In addition to expanding citizen participation in government through advisory groups, Sperling’s goals in office include answering every inquiry to requests for information and assistance and with faster response time. She says she often hears complaints from constituents about poor performance from Sup. Herrity’s office in this regard.
For more information on Fairfax County advisory groups, go to www.FairfaxCounty.gov/bacs
Susan Laume is a member of the Springfield District Democratic Committee and director of the Virginia Dog Army, an animal advocacy group. She and her dog work as a therapy dog team.