The sudden resignation of longtime D.C. Office of Advisory Neighborhood Commission Executive Director Gottlieb Simon in October has commissioners pondering the qualities they want in a permanent successor.
Advisory neighborhood commissions (ANC) are non-partisan bodies of locally-elected representatives. Their administrative affairs are handled by the executive director. Nearly 300 commissioners represent about 2,000 residents throughout the city in single-member districts. They advise District government agencies, the D.C. Council and federal officials on policies affecting their districts ranging from zoning to liquor licenses. Commissioners receive no compensation and serve two-year terms. District voters elect commissioners on even-numbered election years.
D.C. Council member Robert White (D-At Large) has taken charge of leading the search for the new executive director. He held a hearing on the matter on Nov. 30 as the chairman of the Committee on Government Operations and Facilities.
In October, the D.C. Council approved Schannette Grant, who worked as the chief of staff to then-D.C. Council member Jack Evans, as the interim executive director. No timetable has been made public on when the permanent successor to Simon will be hired.
The change in the leadership at the ANC central office takes place as the redistricting of commissioner single-member districts starts in January. Additionally, the successor to Simon will have to learn about the job and the dozens of rules and regulations of the agency and deal with the personalities of hundreds of commissioners throughout the city, Tyrell M. Holcomb, the chairman of commission 7F in Ward 7, explained to The Informer.
Gordon Fletcher, a candidate for the 2022 Democratic nomination for the Ward 5 council seat, serves as the commissioner for 5A08 and said “we need someone who understands the work of advisory neighborhood commissions.”
“They need to understand what commissioners do day to day,” he said. “It would help if this person has experience as a commissioner. More important, we need someone who is not new to the District of Columbia, has about seven or eight years of experience living in or being around the city and knows what is happening here.”
Barbara J. Clark, who serves as the commissioner for 8A02 in Ward 8, Clark said she wants the next executive director to be impartial in dealing with the various commissions.
“I want someone who will be fair,” she said. “We need someone who will be interested in the problems of commissions. All commissions are not alike. The executive director should be the one who can tell commissioners what needs to get done and how it should be done.”
Additionally, Clark said the ANC office should be reorganized so it will have a zoning and a legal expert on staff to assist commissioners.
Holcomb has laid out his criteria for the new executive director.
“One, that person should have the full support of the D.C. Council, including D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson, and be allowed to do their job,” he said. “Plus, the new executive director must understand the dynamics of each commission. Serving as a commissioner in Ward 7 is different from serving as a commissioner in Ward 2.”
Finally, Holcomb said the new executive director “must understand the role that the commission plays in the city.”