Tina Trapnell, the former Mason District supervisor who served before Penny Gross was first elected in 1995, has some advice for the next supervisor: “Listen to the community and respect your constituents.”
Trapnell hopes this election season won’t be as negative as past campaigns. “Elections should be about issues, not personal attacks on opponents,” Trapnell says. “You can’t afford to anger your constituents or be condescending.”
Under the current leadership of Mason District, Trapnell finds a “disconnect between the board and citizens” and “a perceived lack of transparency.”
“We have a vertical school surrounded by concrete on one of the busiest thoroughfares in the area because the community was told that’s the only alternative to housing kids in trailers,” Trapnell says. She believes Mason Supervisor Penny Gross should have had more discussions with the public about developing a school at the Willston Center or using the Woodrow Wilson Library for additional classroom space.
“Fairfax County residents are educated and savvy and are aware of the issues,” Trapnell says. “You cannot be condescending. That’s counterproductive.”
Better planning needed
Trapnell believes the biggest issues in Mason District are overcrowded schools, congested roads, and the need for social services. The area has declined in recent years, she says, due to “a lack of focus on its unique set of needs and the aging infrastructure.”
“Rather than addressing existing concerns and needs, we are told we need 9,000 additional apartments to spur economic development,” Trapnell says, referring to plans under way or being considered. “If we can’t take care of current needs, how can we possibly provide the necessary services for an additional 15,000 residents?”
According to Trapnell, the Seven Corners/Bailey’s Crossroads area already has two of the most congested roads in Northern Virginia (Route 7 and Route 50), along with a lack of recreational facilities, overburdened police and fire stations, and an aging water and sewer infrastructure.
“What’s going to attract people to Bailey’s Crossroads and Seven Corners? They are not destinations, they are not employment centers, and they are not near Metro,” she says.“Fix what’s broken before adding thousands of new residents to the equation.” With the county facing a shortfall of $179 million over the next two years, “where’s the money going to come from?”
Everybody wants revitalization,” Trapnell says, but the community wants true mixed-used development, with amenities like a movie theater and “destination restaurants,” not just an overabundance of apartments.
Trapnell believes “the community was only involved peripherally” in the Seven Corners Task Force and that the developers had the most influence – pushing for large amounts of new housing that would be profitable for them.
The community representatives on the task force were not that knowledgeable about land use issues, she says. And the residents of the apartments in Seven Corners, who are most likely to be affected by redevelopment, weren’t included.
Community school proposed
Trapnell, along with other local residents, likes the idea of a community school at the Willston property, which would combine an elementary school with community services, such as job skills training, English language classes, and a teen center.
A community school would take advantage of the athletic field at the Willston Center, the only green space in that area, and could incorporate the programs currently housed at the center, she says. Also, a community school could be built for far less than the $125 million East County Office Building favored by Gross for the Willston site.
Trapnell sees the community school concept as similar to the “newcomer school” proposal she promoted 25 years ago to target services to newly arrived residents. The immigrant population “has to become part of the mainstream,” she says. “And I feel it’s very important that they learn to speak the language.”
One of the issues Trapnell supported when she ran against Gross in 1999 was requiring signs at Korean-owned businesses in Annandale to be in English, as well as Korean. For that – and for focusing on code enforcement – she was accused of being anti-immigrant during the campaign.
A life of civic activism
Trapnell had been a civic activist (president of the Lake Barcroft Association and chair of the Mason District Council) before she started working as an aide to then-Mason Supervisor Tom Davis. When Davis successfully ran for the board chair position in 1991, Trapnell ran for his old seat and served one term on the BoS. Davis later served in the U.S. Congress, 1995-2008.
Trapnell didn’t run for re-election, citing her responsibilities caring for her aging parents. She ran for supervisor one more time, in 1999, but failed to unseat Gross. On Feb. 15, Gross announced her candidacy for a sixth term as Mason supervisor. No other candidates have officially come forward yet.
One of Trapnell’s main accomplishments working for Davis and as supervisor was transforming the Sleepy Hollow Senior Center, where she had previously served as director, to the Lincolnia Senior Center, the county’s first senior center developed as a public-private partnership.
Among other achievements, Trapnell worked with Ruth Turner, who represented Mason District on the school board, to introduce the International Baccalaureate program to JEB Stuart High School, launched the farmers market at Mason District Park, saved the historic Clark House, dedicated a section of Columbia Pike to former Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, and helped establish the first community policing and bike patrol unit in the county.
She also cited the creation of the Culmore Resource Center, a public/private partnership that offered classes, a health clinic, and teen center, and noted that a major issue during that period was the development of the Crossroads Center in Bailey’s Crossroads.
Trapnell worked on opening a job resource center for day labors housed in a trailer at the Culmore 7-Eleven, but that initiative was killed following community opposition.
Trapnell was born in China – her father was stationed there as a Marine – and grew up in Arlington, attending Bishop O’Connell High School and Georgetown University. When her children were young, she worked part-time in the men’s department at the Seven Corners Lord & Taylor, in the building now occupied by Sears.
While Trapnell had long been active in Republican politics, she now considers herself an independent and even voted for Obama. She says she hasn’t changed her views, but is no longer in sync with the direction of the current Republican party.
Since her last campaign for supervisor, Trapnell has kept up a busy schedule of volunteer activities, although she’s gotten less active in recent years. She’s served on the boards of the Northern Virginia Community College Foundation, the Phillips School, Congressional Schools, and the Bailey’s Crossroads Rotary Club; chaired the advisory council for the Bailey’s Crossroads Community Shelter; and served as a senior warden at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church.
Now 70, Trapnell says she is “too old” to run for supervisor again. “I’ve been there and done that,” she says. “I enjoyed the time I worked as supervisor and feel I accomplished some things. Now it’s time for the younger generation to step forward.”