By RCA President Colin Mills

Last night, I attended one of my favorite meetings.  I got together with RCA Vice President John
Hanley, RA President Ken Knueven and CEO Cate Fulkerson, and ARCH President
Jerry Volloy.  We had a couple drinks and
talked about the hot issues in Reston, what we’re each working on, and how we
can help each other out.  We laughed a
lot and teased each other a fair bit, but we left feeling like we understood
each other and the community a little better.
This is the Gang of 5. 
We’ve been gathering, in various configurations and at various times,
for the last two years.  Meeting with the
Gang has been one of the highlights of my RCA presidency, and I believe it’s
been a great benefit to our organizations and to Reston as a whole.
Our meetings are very informal.  There’s no agenda, no one takes minutes, and
Robert’s Rules of Order definitely don’t apply. 
It’s a chance for us to let our hair down, say what’s on our minds,
smooth out any bumps in the road, and find ways to better serve our
One of my goals when I became RCA president three years ago
was to strengthen our relationship with other Reston organizations.  We’re all serving the community and we share many
of the same broad objectives; why shouldn’t we work together more?  If we don’t, we risk duplicating efforts or,
worse, fighting where we could collaborate. 
We may not agree on everything, but I suspected we might agree on a lot
if we sat down and talked things out.
This wasn’t the first effort to bring Reston organizations
together.  About 10 years ago, the
leaders of many Reston groups formed the Coalition of Reston Organizational
Leadership (COROL), to share information about what everyone was working on.  But that effort faded quickly, and since
then, our organizations had largely been stuck in their silos.  Too often, we didn’t talk to each other, we
didn’t really trust each other, and we spent too much time guarding our own turf
instead of looking for ways to help each other.
The “Gang of 5” concept was John Hanley’s idea.  John is a great raconteur, and he believes
that big things can happen in casual meetings. 
So he proposed a get-together with Jerry, Ken, and then-RA VP Andy
Sigle.  Happily, they were all on board.  We met at the now-closed Greenberry’s Coffee
shop, and spoke about our organizations, our projects, and our goals for the
community.  The relationship bloomed from
What have the Gang of 5 meetings accomplished for
Reston?  Quite a lot, actually.  We’ve discovered that we’re on the same page
about a lot of community issues, and that Reston would benefit from a
collaborative effort, a unified citizen voice rather than a Greek chorus of
organizations with different messages. 
So we’ve sought out opportunities to join forces and present a united
front to the community.
In addition to presenting a unified message to the
community, joining forces also allows us to take advantage of each organization’s
unique strengths.  There are things RCA
and ARCH can do that RA can’t, and vice versa. 
But by coordinating our plan and backing each other up, we’re able to do
the most good for our citizens.
This approach really paid off during the Master Plan Task
Force discussions.  RCA, RA and ARCH all
had representatives on the Task Force, but like the other citizen
representatives, we all had our own separate messages, which paled in
comparison to the much more unified efforts of the developer reps.  In our Gang of 5 discussions, we recognized
that we shared many of the same goals regarding Reston’s planning and land use,
so we decided to work together.
This resulted in a couple of joint
to the County outlining our goals and concerns, and a joint
at which we told Restonians how the planning process was going, and
let them know what still needed to be done. 
The forum drew an overflow crowd of hundreds, and many more watched it
at home on YouTube.  That turnout showed
the County that the people of Reston were paying attention, and that our
message was resonating in the community. 
Did we get everything we wanted in the final plan?  No. 
But we did get a lot of our points incorporated, and that wouldn’t have
happened without a strong, united campaign by all three organizations on behalf
of our constituents.  And that campaign
couldn’t have happened without the trust, working relationship, and open
discussions that the Gang of 5 made possible.
The Master Plan campaign has been our biggest effort to
date, but our collaboration has worked in other ways as well.  For instance, we’ve been brainstorming about
ways to better inform and engage the community on issues concerning Reston’s
future.  And RA and RCA are also working
on reviving Reston’s Sister City relationship with Nyeri, Kenya.
None of this couldn’t have happened if John hadn’t proposed
the Gang of 5, or if Jerry, Ken, Cate, and Andy hadn’t been open to pursuing
closer ties.  I’m very optimistic that
the collaboration will outlive our terms with our respective
organizations.  We’ve done a lot of good
for Reston in the last couple years, and I believe all of us see the value in
continuing that work.
What does the future hold for the Gang of 5?  Ideally, I’d like to see it expand to include
other Reston organizations.  There are a
lot of groups out there that do good work, and I think the kind of
collaboration that RCA, RA, and ARCH have done would only be better if more
groups were involved. 

As for me, I’m assured that even after I leave RCA, I will
remain an honorary Gangster and will still be welcome at the meetings.  I look forward to seeing my friends again,
and I’m delighted that we’ve taken a big step toward better representing the
people of Reston.