Duke Banks, Arlington County Civic Federation

Duke Banks, president of the Arlington County Civic Federation, speaks during a meeting with the Arlington County Board on Jan. 2, 2018.

[Updated to include comments from Arlington County Board Chairman Christian Dorsey.]

Two years often seem to fly by in a hurry, but maybe not so much if you’re president of the Arlington County Civic Federation. It’s a post, past leaders have acknowledged, that sometimes proves a slog.

For Duke Banks, who is wrapping up twin one-year stints as the organization’s president, it’s been a productive 24 months – but now it’s time to turn things over.

“My new priority is as a grandfather,” Banks said in valedictory remarks at the June Civic Federation meeting.

Banks, a federation delegate from Waverly Hills, opted against a lengthy number of thank-you mentions – “the list is just too long; I’m playing it safe,” he said – but did predict that his successor, Sandy Newton, “will do a super job.”

“We are in fact in good hands,” Banks said.

Perhaps the biggest success of Banks’s tenure was one of the least sexy: Modernizing the federation’s corporate structure more than a century after its founding by six neighborhood associations in what then was known as Alexandria County.

He also has pushed, with mixed success, to diversify the ranks of membership and implement new communications techniques. And over the past two years, there have been a dozen new member organizations, most recently the Lee Highway Alliance, that have joined.

Banks also has pressed for a more hands-on relationship with the county government, with the Civic Federation taking stances on a variety of matters – and not being afraid to stand up against county officials and initiatives.

The dialogue has been a mutually beneficial one, he said.

“Even if we are on opposite sides of an issue, there’s better understanding, a willingness to speak [to each other] more maybe than we have had in the past,” Banks said.

That’s a view generally shared by County Board Chairman Christian Dorsey, who said he was glad that the Civic Federation desired to “constructively engage with this board on matters big and small.”

“We certainly look forward to working collaborative and productively,” said Dorsey, who praised Banks’s “unique diplomatic skills” during his two years leading the Civic Federation.

A stable financial picture means that organization’s dues will remain at $50 in the coming year. (There are no individual memberships in the federation; only homeowners’ associations and countywide organizations can be members.)

The very last act of his tenure was the type of thing that makes Civic Federation meetings equal parts entertaining and, on occasion, confounding – the discussion, sometimes a little too much, of items the from the outside might look like minutiae.

In this case, it was a proposal to amend the organization’s bylaws by ending the requirement that member organizations certify each year that they have at least the minimum 20 members required to remain active in the federation.

Sarah Shortall, the organization’s treasurer, said the requirement for annual certification proves daunting – and that the Oct. 31 deadline was seldom met.

Shortall said there were other ways of determining whether organizations meet the minimum threshold, making the reporting requirement superfluous.

“It is a pain in the butt,” Shortall said, perhaps slightly undiplomatically, of the requirement. “We don’t want to do it any more.”

After some discussion, the measure was sent to the organization’s bylaws committee and board of directors. When it comes back for final consideration in September, it will be Newton’s issue to wrangle, as Banks will be fully ensconced in grandpa duties.

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