Longtime RCC Executive Director Announces Retirement

Longtime RCC Executive Director Announces Retirement

Leila Gordon, executive director of Reston Community Center

Leila Gordon, executive director of Reston Community Center

Leila Gordon, the longtime executive director of the Reston Community Center will retire at the end of 2024. The Connection spoke with Gordon about her nearly 17-year tenure at the center, which opened its doors in 1979 at its Hunters Woods location. Since then, RCC has grown tremendously at Hunters Woods and its second facility, Lake Anne (1999).

According to Gordon, as she moves toward retirement in the next 11 months, RCC's ecosystem will remain the same regarding what people expect and how it operates, building a community for all to enjoy. 

First and foremost, Gordon wants to ensure the community, board, and staff have a smooth and enjoyable transition. “I want the processes we undertake to help create confidence among those constituencies,” Gordon said. She plans to address program delivery, off-site collaboration, and facility rentals over the next months, as they are critical to the center's relevance and sustainability.

Second, Gordon will work to ensure that RCC submits its application for re-accreditation from the Commission for Accreditation of Park and Recreation Agencies (CAPRA) in the 2024 fourth annual report. RCC earned accreditation in 2020 and must undergo a comprehensive, 5-year review in May 2025.

"I want to ensure that all of the documentation, policies, procedures, and strategic planning efforts required to undertake as an accredited agency are in good order and ready for staff to compile and present," Gordon said.

"CAPRA is like the Good Housekeeping seal of approval," Gordon said. The designation assures policymakers, department employees, and the general public that an accredited park and recreation organization can provide programs, facilities, and services with integrity. According to Gordon, being successfully accredited also assures the community that their tax dollars are not being squandered or spent on items that do not meet their expectations.

Third, Gordon stressed the importance of understanding RCC programming and facility expansion expectations. She spoke passionately and advocated that they look into new space or facility alternatives to supplement what their current facility footprints can offer. 

“We have waitlists against our visual arts and our fitness and well-being programs that we don't have the capacity to address. We already have an existing demand, and if we doubled the RCC Lake Anne footprint, we would be fulfilling that demand,” Gordon said. "We do not have sufficient time on the calendar or capacity to support the existing demand for performing arts experiences."

With the Reston Arts Center proposition fulfilled and the offer accepted, Gordon added that Fairfax County, Supervisor Alcorn, and Boston Properties will collaborate over the coming years to see “if the vision for an arts venue can come true.”

Looking back on her tenure, Gordon considered that the best thing RCC accomplished was the culmination of efforts to commemorate Bob Simon's 100th birthday in 2014. For example, filmmaker Rebekah Wingert-Jabi, who grew up in Reston, collaborated with her Storycatcher team to produce the award-winning legacy documentary "Another Way of Living: The Story of Reston," which RCC helped fund.

It established an intimate "foundational blueprint" for how the community’s businesses, organizations, and individuals, including Bob Simon, tell Reston's five-decade-long story.

Requested to describe an RCC event that inadvertently deviated from its intended course but triumphed at an even higher level, Gordon said that this year’s snowy weather on Martin Luther King Day delayed the arrival of Rev. William J. Barber featured speaker at the Reston Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Birthday Celebration’s Keynote Address and Community Lunch. Not only did the audience wait in their seats for 20 minutes for his arrival, according to Gordon, but last-minute changes required adaptability because there was no time for a sound check. However, the unexpected elements heightened anticipation and connected the sold-out audience and the speaker.

Gordon gave her thoughts on RCC's partnerships. She emphasized the importance of confidence, self-awareness, and integrity in developing them, leading to collaboration and shared values. Such is the bedrock of Reston’s success.

When asked for a single word to describe her legacy, Gordon responded, "Love." 

"I love Reston; I love my job; and I love what the community has meant to the people who live here. I love what has been given to me — a program that has been incredibly satisfying, rewarding, and emotional. I love the people I work for, what we get to do together, and how strong this community's foundation is."