Annandale civic association elects dog as president

Article about the dog appeared in the Hillbrook/TallOaks Civic Association newsletter.
Article about the dog appeared in the Hillbrook/TallOaks Civic Association newsletter.

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Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, February 18, 2011; 8:26 PM

For more than 20 years, candidates running for office in the Hillbrook-Tall Oaks Civic Association in Annandale have stood, waved and received polite applause at the annual meeting in June. Everyone votes, eats ice cream, chats with neighbors and goes home.

This past election, to make the meeting move faster, only the names and qualifications of the candidates were announced. Running for president, Ms. Beatha Lee was described as a relatively new resident, interested in neighborhood activities and the outdoors, and who had experience in Maine overseeing an estate of 26 acres.

Though unfamiliar with Lee's name, the crowd of about 50 raised their hands, assuming that the candidate was a civic-minded newcomer. These days, it's hard to get anyone to volunteer to devote the time needed to serve as an officer. The slate that Lee headed was unanimously elected. Everyone ate ice cream, watched a karate demonstration and went home.

Only weeks later did many discover that their new president was, in fact, a dog.

Ms. Beatha Lee is a shaggy, dirty-white Wheaten terrier.

The news broke in the association's newsletter with Lee's promise to "govern with an even paw." The dog's photo appeared under the heading, "Dog Rules, Humans Apathetic (Pathetic)."

A veritable storm erupted in the bucolic 1950s neighborhood of about 250 families who live in split levels or colonials with about 90 dogs.

"She had a name," said Robin Klein Browder, who grew up in the neighborhood and moved back after she got married. "It wasn't Spot or Rover. It was a first and last name, so everyone thought she was human. I'm not thrilled, I'm embarrassed."

"At first, people would say to me, 'This is crazy!' " said Helen Winter, a director emeritus of the board who is in her 80s and is a major force behind the neighborhood watch, the welcoming committee and the annual block party. "And I'd say, 'It is crazy. Isn't that fun?' It's one of those things that breaks the monotony."

Dave Frederickson, who read the dog's name and qualifications to the crowd at the annual meeting, said, "Many people, like myself, were amused. But some were extremely upset. I've spent a lot of time on the phone explaining things."

The duly elected president is actually the pet of the former president, Mark Crawford, who inherited Beatha (pronounced Bee-Ah-tah) in 2008 from his mother and stepfather in Maine.

Crawford had served three consecutive terms as president and, according to association bylaws, could not run for the office again. For weeks leading up to the election, he begged, pleaded and cajoled neighbors to run for the often-thankless volunteer post. No one bit. Newer, younger families told him that they were too busy juggling work, long commutes and kids. And longtime residents, many burned out after losing a bruising zoning battle against a Montessori school in their neighborhood, said they'd already done their time.


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