Natali Fani-Gonzalez, the first Latina named to the Montgomery County Planning Board, has been reappointed to serve a second term.
In her first four years on the board, Fani-Gonzalez has helped craft long-range development plans for the Westbard, Bethesda, Lyttonsville and White Flint areas, sometimes balancing as many as six meetings a week with a full-time job. Despite the long hours and steep learning curve, she said she’s found the position rewarding.
“You do it because you really care,” she said Friday.
The Montgomery County Council on Thursday unanimously voted to appoint her to a second four-year term on the board of five.
“She’s demonstrated extensive expertise and great skill at working with the many different demographic groups that make up our county,” council member George Leventhal said before the vote. “Natali has just shone.”
Two other people initially applied for the board position but withdrew from consideration, one of them because of concerns about the time commitment.
Fani-Gonzalez said she didn’t have much background in growth issues before she was first appointed to the $30,000-per-year position, and she readily admitted as much in her interview with council members. Behind-the-scenes, there was some disagreement about whether to appoint her over a candidate who seemed more well-versed in land use issues.
But she told council members she was committed to learning, working hard and listening to community members.
The past four years have given her the opportunity to grow as a leader and a planning official, and her trajectory hasn’t gone unnoticed by others; she won Montgomery Women’s Rising Star Award in 2015 and last year was named one of Washingtonian’s 40 Under 40 change-makers.
She said in her second term, which will begin in mid-June, she looks forward to tackling a general master plan for the entire county and hopes to focus on the interplay between transit systems and development. She’ll also continue advocating for more affordable housing and refreshing the county’s aging playgrounds.
When not serving on the board, Fani-Gonzalez works as a principal at The Matea Group, a public engagement firm that she founded in 2008. She lives in Wheaton with her husband and two children, ages 5 and 6.
Bethany Rodgers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.