Suzan Pitman | Bethesda Magazine

Suzan Pitman

Rock,-Pitman

Age: 47

Political party or slate, if any: Rockville Forward

Current occupation and employer (if retired, list your last job): Operations director, American College of Dentists

Previous work experience (up to two previous jobs before current or last one): executive assistant; educator

Political experience (public offices held and when, as well as other unsuccessful campaigns for office): None

Campaign contact information (website, email, Facebook, Twitter, other):

1. Why are you the most qualified to hold this position?

As the president of the East Rockville Civic Association, I demonstrated my commitment to working with diverse stakeholders to bring pragmatic, practical solutions to long-standing problems. Working with Lincoln Park, we led a grassroots effort to finally put zoning and land use codes into place that will allow for the revitalization of Stonestreet.

I’ve continued this effort by connecting small business owners on North Stonestreet with the city to proactively assist those businesses should their landlord decide to redevelop. I have the practical knowledge and skills and the will to get things done, from initial meeting to resolution.

2. What are the top two issues in this campaign? What specific ideas do you have to address them?

With around 8,000 housing units somewhere in the development process, it’s time to take a pause and assess the impact of this growth on our green spaces, tree canopy, schools, services, and infrastructure. We also need to make sure we’re adding a diverse mix of housing options that provides a continuum for all age groups and income levels so that our city retains its diversity. The 2016 housing study commissioned by the city forecasts 10,000 new households in the next 25 years – we’re on track to meet that demand. We need to get density right, not just add density.

RedGate and the King Farm Farmstead are two once-in-a-generation opportunities that we cannot afford to get wrong. Rockville has not done a good enough job in preserving its history, making it harder to establish a sense of place. The Farmstead should be preserved, interpreted, and opened for public use. Uses that pull the thread from 19th-century farm to 21st-century Rockville are most appropriate. RedGate has the opportunity to welcome all Rockville residents, and hopefully veterans, as a natural sanctuary.

3. What has been your biggest accomplishment in office? If you have not held office, what is your biggest accomplishment that has prepared you to hold office? 

Decades of community leadership have prepared me for office. As VP of the League of Women Voters of Comal County, I led the consensus recommendation process for reviewing the death penalty in Texas, and managing water during a drought.

As president of the East Rockville Civic Association, I provided leadership on the Stonestreet Plan, had a Planned Investment Project for a splashpad in Maryvale Park approved, and helped found our village. I served on the board of Peerless Rockville, and am a member of the Pedestrian Advocacy Committee. Community leadership experience has prepared me to serve on the City Council.

4. Have the current mayor and/or council taken any actions with which you disagreed? If so, what is the most significant one and what would you have done instead? 

When councilmembers disagree for the sake of disagreeing and take sole credit for accomplishments that took the whole council to achieve, our city cannot move forward.

As the operations director of a nonprofit and a community leader, I know firsthand that leading from behind and setting the conditions for the success of your organization are far more important than who gets credit for the outcome. I will discourage the regular use of executive session and increase transparency to foster a better public process that encourages civility and collaboration.

5. What went wrong with RedGate Golf Course? How should the property be used next?

We failed to recognize quickly enough that RedGate needed more than a contractor, and that market trends and too much competition were hurting the facility.

I participated in the community leader recreation and parks panel that helped inform the consultant’s recommendations, and once their report has been presented, we must have a communitywide conversation about what should happen next. Part of that conversation should be sharing the space with the Veterans Administration, and creating a park for both active and passive uses.

Whatever is decided, it should be planned for environmental sustainability, and retained for future generations of Rockville residents.

6. How would you describe the city’s progress in revitalizing Rockville Town Center? Would you do anything else or instead?

Holding a community meeting and working with the Urban Land Institute are good first steps. As a community, we need to decide if we will continue with the neighborhood services model, which was the original intent of the development, or will we pivot.

If we decide to stay with the original model, working with Federal Realty to enhance the services already offered is essential. If we decide to go with more restaurants and entertainment, it’s important that we work with REDI to make sure we can compete with Pike & Rose and Rio. Fixing the parking problem is not optional.

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