Commentary, Local Commentary

A Penny for Your Thoughts

Volunteers are not paid – not because they are worthless, but because they are priceless!  Fairfax County has 10 elected members of the Board of Supervisors and a large, experienced, and pro-active staff to provide services to the million-plus residents who call Fairfax County home.  Some of those residents also are volunteers, appointed by the Board to serve on various boards, authorities, and commissions (BACs), and provide policy recommendations for consideration by the Board.  Terms of the BACs vary from one year to four years, and most BACs meet monthly, either in-person or virtually.  Most BACs have no special requirements, other than a desire and commitment to volunteer service.

The Mason District “team” has added some new members recently, and I’d like to introduce them to our readers. Daren Shumate is the new Mason District Planning Commissioner, succeeding Julie Strandlie, who had served for eight years.  Daren is a long-time resident in the Parklawn area, an engineer and small business owner, who chaired the Lincolnia Plan Task Force, and previously served on the Small Business Commission and Building Code Board of Appeals.  His four-year term commenced on January 1, 2023.  

Sabrina Rose-Smith will represent Mason District on the Commission for Women, succeeding Jane Materna.  Sabrina is a financial services attorney, mother of two young sons, and an outdoor enthusiast.  Her Commission term is three years.  Julianne Mueller, an architect with expertise in historical preservation, will begin service on the History Commission this month.  The History Commission is charged with promoting the public interest on all matters bearing on the history of Fairfax County.  It is especially important that more recent history be captured by collecting oral histories from longtime residents who still reside here.  Likewise, the History Commission may need to devise a process to collect and highlight the contributions of our diverse community during recent decades.  

Julian de Phillips is a Mason District native who grew up in Sleepy Hollow Woods and now is raising his young family in the Pinecrest area.  Julian will serve on the Advisory Social Services Board (ASSB), which advises the Board about social welfare programs and community needs.  ASSB terms are four years, and members are limited to two full consecutive terms per Virginia Code Sec. 63.2-305.  

Suzanne Holland recently retired from the Fairfax County Park Authority, where she was a guiding presence at Hidden Oaks Nature Center in Annandale.  Her long service as a county employee provides just the right perspective for appointment to the A. Heath Onthank Award Selection Committee.  The committee is one of the oldest in the county, created in 1965 to grant recognition for outstanding service to merit employees.  It is named for Col. A. Heath Onthank, the first chairman of the county’s Civil Service Commission.  Terms are one year, and meetings are held annually to select recipients of the award, which includes a small honorarium for each awardee.

Service on BACs rotates, and it is not unusual for vacancies to arise throughout the year.  If you are a Mason District resident, and would like to be considered for appointment to a volunteer position on a BAC, please contact me at  If you live in another magisterial district, contact your local Supervisor.  Current vacancies in Mason District include the Airports Advisory Committee (three-year term), Small Business Commission (three-year term), Affordable Housing Advisory Council (two-year term), and Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court Citizen Advisory Council (two-year term).

 Penny Gross is the Mason District Supervisor, in the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. She may be emailed at