Locals will see a slew of fresh faces on the Foggy Bottom and West End Advisory Neighborhood Commission as just three commissioners run for reelection and more than half of the body’s eight seats remain up for grabs.
Vacancies on the commission have cropped up in recent months – two commissioners have resigned since July and three said they will not run for reelection. This leaves three commissioners hoping to return – one runs uncontested, another faces a new neighborhood challenger and the third launched a write-in campaign after the ballot’s deadline passed.
Commissioner Trupti Patel, who is running for reelection against longtime Foggy Bottom resident John George, said constituents and fellow ANC members asked her to run a second time because they were happy with her service on the commission. She said she hopes to return to the ANC to maintain “stability” on the commission and in her district as a majority of commissioners step down.
“So many of the commissioners for personal, professional and private reasons have decided to not continue on, I thought it was even more important that I run for another term,” Patel said. “I felt that the constituents of 2A03 deserved a little bit of stability in a time where there’s a lot of instability.”
Three out of the eight seats on the ANC still don’t have a candidate, meaning only five seats are expected to be filled during the election, according to the ANC candidate list. At least five of the eight commissioners must be present to hold a quorum, the minimum number of members needed to hold a vote on resolutions, the commission’s bylaws state.
If those seats remain vacant next term, the ANC will still move forward with each vacant district lacking a representative on the commission, Patel said. She said when there’s a vacancy on the ANC, commissioners must jointly decide how to handle certain issues but may not be as effective as the sole commissioner of a district.
“If you don’t have a dedicated ANC commissioner, that discussion will not take place or it may not be highlighted and elevated as quickly as it could have been had they had a dedicated representative,” Patel said.
Patel said she thinks the length of ANC meetings, which can often run for more than three hours, can deter potential candidates from wanting to serve. She said the long meeting can “become exhausting,” and if officials were to cut hours, more candidates may be compelled to launch campaigns.
As commissioners hope to find a new class of candidates to fill this fall’s vacancies, Patel said the ANC could turn in a “new direction” in the following term. She said a majority of new commissioners will bring with them “fresh new ideas” for the ANC.
“This is an opportunity for the ANC to grow and expand in different ways, in different directions that it hadn’t had the opportunity that it’s had in quite a few years,” Patel said. “It shouldn’t make people leery. It should excite people, actually.”
One of the seats set for vacancy next term is 2A08, which represents most residence halls on campus. ANC Chair and senior James Harnett has held that seat for the past two years, but he plans to step down before graduating at the end of the fall semester because his district only includes housing for on-campus students and he couldn’t continue living in the district.
Harnett said student representatives need to step down after graduating and leaving the area, limiting the amount of time they can serve. He said he has communicated with some students planning to launch write-in campaigns to represent on-campus students, but no one has publicly launched a bid for the seat.
“I think it’s a lost opportunity in that we don’t really have the opportunity to allow a young person, a student, to really develop in this role because you can only accomplish so much in a limited time,” he said.
Harnett launched a campaign to represent Ward 2 on the State Board of Education this summer.
Senior Yannik Omictin started a write-in campaign for the ANC in September because he saw the commission’s pending vacancies as an opportunity to serve the neighborhood.
“I know that with the support of folks across the neighborhood, they’re going to be able to be successful, and the ANC is going to be able to continue to push forward on the priorities that are important to us and to voters,” Harnett said.
Commissioner Evelyn Hudson, whose district includes Shenkman Hall, said she is running for reelection as a write-in candidate after missing the D.C. Board of Elections’ deadline because of new COVID-19 guidelines that require scheduled times to turn in paperwork to the city. Hudson said communication and teamwork will be essential for the next group of commissioners to successfully govern in the next term.
“I’m basically a person who likes to see unity, and that’s what we had on our team this year – we had a lot of unity,” she said. “I’m going to miss everyone who did resign or go on to another position because of the fact that this is the second team I’ve worked on in my entire career in education or any other job that I’ve worked on where the people actually work together.”