Democracy at work

Resident Advisory Council gives voice to Ashby Ponds community members

Kelly A. Shue
December 18, 2019

Representing the interests of the more than 1,600 people living at Ashby Ponds, an Erickson Living-managed community in Ashburn, Va., the Resident Advisory Council (RAC) serves as the community's voice in discussions with management and staff.

"The RAC is an important bridge between community members and management," says RAC chair Richard Nolan. "We serve strictly in an advisory role, sharing information and feedback from residents through the RAC to management and from the management team through the RAC to residents."

Composed of seven elected resident members, the RAC listens to their neighbors' concerns and suggestions, evaluates programs and activities, and provides information and advice to both residents and management.  

"I believe service to your community is important," says Richard Rager. "This is our home, and it's important to not only have a voice but to help others share their own voices."  

Information is key

To meet the needs of the large community, the RAC holds open sessions on the first and third Wednesdays of each month. These open meetings are live-streamed to residents on the in-house cable station. Following each open meeting, RAC members meet in closed session with Ashby Ponds Executive Director Will Nance and Associate Executive Director Tom Channon, thus providing continued communication.

To ensure that all community members, regardless of their schedules, remain up to date on campus happenings, minutes from the open meetings are filed in the library, the administrative office, and the Great Oak Reading Room. Such minutes are also emailed directly to residents who request to be on a mailing list. In addition to the open meetings, RAC members also meet in closed work sessions on the first and third Wednesdays. 

"Our management executives are top-notch, says RAC Vice Chair Charles Duggan. They do more than simply listen; they act on the information they receive."

Representing varied interests

The current Ashby Ponds RAC is composed of a diverse group of community members. 

"Our diversity is our strength," says Richard Nolan. "We are a wonderful cross-section of people and experiences at Ashby Ponds."

Moving to Ashby Ponds in August 2014, he considers himself a "seasoned" resident. He is joined on the RAC by Dave Smith, who ran for a RAC position this past September after only living at Ashby Ponds for a few months. 

"I've served on community boards of directors for more than 30 years," says Dave. "I'm drawn to helping in ways that support the interests and concerns of my neighbors. It's also been a great way to meet new people."

RAC member Sally Brown is also new to an elected RAC position, but prior to her election to the council, she served as chair of the RAC's dining services committee.

"With my medical background, I've always been drawn to collaborative service," she says. 

No stone left unturned

One of the many ways the Ashby Ponds RAC serves in an advisory capacity is working in concert with the RAC's six standing committees. These committees correspond to the varied administrative departments at Ashby Ponds: resident health and wellness; finance; general services; dining services; elections; and communications.

Each elected RAC member serves as a liaison for one of the standing committees as well as with other resident committees representing the interests of the community. Currently, more than 300 Ashby Ponds community members serve on one or more of the community's many special interest committees.

"These committees are a vital mix of residents with expertise in various fields and those who are eager to learn and help," says Charles. 

Sharing their knowledge

To share best practices, the Ashby Ponds RAC takes part in the annual Erickson Living South Region RAC/RC Meeting. Last fall, members traveled to Oak Crest, an Erickson Living-managed community in Parkville, Md., for the meeting. Other Erickson Living-managed communities in attendance included Greenspring in Springfield, Va.; Charlestown in Catonsville, Md.; and Riderwood in Silver Spring, Md. 

"These meetings are always enlightening," says Richard Nolan. "We are the only community still growing and expanding. Meeting with members from [other Erickson Living-managed] communities provides a wealth of information and a glimpse into the future."

Looking forward

Through strong leadership and a solid commitment to open communication, the Ashby Ponds RAC is a prime example of democracy at work.

"Our goal is to build upon the successes of last year and to strengthen the connections between all community members," says Benji Algase, who also serves on the RAC.

To learn more about joining a strong, engaging community like Ashby Ponds, request a free brochure today.