Local community members elected a new president of the Foggy Bottom Association and charted plans to guide the neighborhood through the year ahead during an annual meeting Tuesday.
The FBA elected John George to serve as president of the neighborhood association for the next three years, succeeding Marina Streznewski, who helped manage the neighborhood group for more than seven years. George said he plans to “engage and involve” a diverse group of locals to unify residents around Foggy Bottom and the West End and rally support for small businesses struggling through the COVID-19 pandemic.
George, who ran unopposed, was ushered in with 27 members voting in favor of his election and two opposed. George was elected along with four other members of the body’s board of directors.
The two opposing votes came from James Harnett, a senior and the chair of the Foggy Bottom and West End Advisory Neighborhood Commission, and Trupti Patel, the ANC’s treasurer who defeated George during the ANC’s general election race.
“I’m looking forward to leading the board and working with the community as we set our course for the next three years,” George said at the meeting.
The FBA functions as a neighborhood association of local residents who meet on a monthly basis to discuss matters and updates facing the community. In addition to the president, at least eight other members serve on the body’s board of directors, a third of which are elected annually.
As the outgoing leader of the community, Streznewski noted how the pandemic has been the single unsolved issue that has exacerbated problems facing the neighborhood like homelessness, small business funding, employment and public health – concerns that need to be addressed by the association’s incoming leadership.
“Right now to be completely honest with you, it’s the COVID pandemic,” she said. “It’s affecting absolutely everything that we do.”
George, a health care IT executive, said the FBA must navigate through continuous remote operation during the COVID-19 pandemic, but he said he hopes to conduct in-person meetings next year “where appropriate.” He said the FBA should also maintain communication with city leaders like Ward 2 D.C. Council member Brooke Pinto and Mayor Muriel Bowser to continue engaging the neighborhood for the next three years.
“We have a wonderfully diverse community here, and you can name the terms around what is diverse to you, but it is clearly a unique spot in the District of Columbia,” George said. “And we are very blessed in many ways for not only our community members but the services and other amenities we have in the area.”
George also presented the results of a neighborhood survey he conducted during his bid for the ANC, which displayed the issues that local residents viewed as most vital to the neighborhood. Surveyed residents value local green space the most, followed by the need to address homelessness, upholding “a positive relationship” with GW and combatting rodent infestation, according to the presentation.
Other priorities in the survey included improving the conditions of the local playground and dog park, maintaining the Arts in Foggy Bottom exhibit, fostering “a vibrant community” for local commerce and addressing the economic effects of the pandemic.
“I thought tonight would be interesting just to share with this community what these survey respondents said,” George said. “They may or may not represent your views, but I think it was a good telling because there was a number of people who indicated what was important to them as it related to living in our area.”
The FBA also elected four community members to serve as at-large members of the association’s board of directors during the meeting. George said one of his priorities is to create a “cohesive” board as the group prepares to appoint officers to serve as vice president, secretary and treasurer.
As the FBA enters the new year, George said the group will look ahead to progressing toward an eventual switch to in-person operation and engaging in the group’s traditional spring neighborhood cleanup efforts in 2021. He said the FBA will continue to meet monthly as the board prepares to guide the association’s community building in the later stages of the pandemic.
“Communication is key, especially now because we are living under different circumstances, and we need to keep engaging,” George said. “I think all of us feel that. So part of it is continuing even in this virtual way.”