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CBC Hails Success of Its New Youth Civic Initiative

(Photo: News-Press)
(Photo: News-Press)

The smashing success of the last year’s initiative by Falls Church’s venerable Citizens for a Better City to recruit high school students for appointment to Falls Church City boards, commissions and volunteer organizations was celebrated at the CBC’s 56th annual meeting Sunday at F.C.’s new Hilton Garden Inn.

The CBC’s new first vice-president Carol Loftur-Thun introduced the contingent of George Mason High School students who attended the fete, explaining how she’d come up with the idea over a year ago.

The CBC has been striving to retain its important role in Falls Church since it moved away from its decades-long practice of vetting and nominating candidates to the City Council and School Board in recent years. “We just found that citizens don’t like voting for slates,” the CBC’s new chair, Revenue Commissioner Tom Clinton told the more than 60 people who attended the reception and annual meeting Sunday.

Now with its youth initiative, according to Loftur-Thun, Falls Church has more student representatives on official boards and commissions “than any other jurisdiction of any size in the entire U.S.,” Loftur-Thun told Sunday’s meeting

The testimonies of those students who attended Sunday’s meeting and were introduced to make remarks confirmed that the exercise has been more than just ceremonial, too. They referred to the learning and engagement that has happened since the students were officially appointed by the City Council last October. Then, 17 students were voted onto City boards and commissions, and civic groups like the Village Preservation and Improvement Society, and the City’s local Democratic and Republican committees.

Sophomore Christian Autor, appointed to the Tree Commission, drew a laugh when he said he didn’t know people could spend so much time talking about trees. But as a “Tree City USA” for decades, trees have always meant a great deal to Falls Church.

The idea was first initiated by former School Board member Ron Peppe when he proposed that the School Board recruit a Mason High senior to participate as a non-voting member. Maeve Curtin was appointed last year, and made a very favorable impression. So has Zack Witzel, this year’s student appointee. The School Board’s John Lawrence now spearheads that effort.

Now, the CBC is launching its next round of recruitments, and with room for more students to get involved. Loftur-Thun said that student applications for appointments will be open as of next Monday, April 27, and will run through May 15. That will give the CBC leadership a chance to review applications and conduct interviews before forward its recommendations to the City Council in the fall.

Applications can be pulled off the Internet from www.youthrepsinitiative.org or can be obtained in hard copy at Mason High School.

The CBC initial team, which stepped forward after Loftur-Thun won support for the idea from the CBC’s executive committee, included Jerry Barrett, Lindy Hockenberry, Craig Cheney, Paul Handly and Peppe, and its Youth Reps Review Committee also includes Barry Buschow and Mike Connelly and Mary Ellen Gannon.

Perhaps the highlight of the program’s first year occurred in January, when all the students came together for an intense two hour briefing and question and answer session with City elected and City Hall staff leaders. Mayor David Tarter, Vice Mayor David Snyder, and Council members Marybeth Connelly and Nader Baroukh joined City Manager Wyatt Shields to lead the discussion.

In other business Sunday night, the CBC members present unanimously approved the recommendations of the nominating committee to appoint Clinton as the new president, Loftur-Thun as first vice president, Dick McCall as second vice president, Nancy Brandon as treasurer, Julie Krachman as secretary, and 13 at-large members of the executive board.

City Councilman Phil Duncan was singled out for special recognition.

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