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McLean Community Center’s new director hopes to create ‘warm, inclusive environment for all’

McLean Community Center Executive Director Betsy May-Salazar (courtesy Fairfax County Office of Public Affairs)

To Betsy May-Salazar, the McLean Community Center (MCC) is a place for making connections.

Funded by a special resident tax district, the facility at 1234 Ingleside Avenue serves a variety of functions, from organizing community events like the annual McLean Day festival to offering educational classes and providing meeting space.

The overarching goal of all those activities is to bring people together, says May-Salazar, MCC’s newest executive director.

“A community center is a place for members of the community to connect, and our vision is to generate inspiration and creativity and connection to McLean and its communities,” she said in a recent interview. “Our goal again is to be a warm, inclusive environment for all, a place for McLean residents who want to learn, play, relax, connect.”

As a longtime McLean resident, May-Salazar’s experience with MCC extends much further back than her a few weeks as executive director, a position she officially assumed on Jan. 3.

In addition to regularly attending performances at the Alden Theater and other cultural events, she says her children were dedicated participants in the center’s summer camps and after-school programs at the Old Firehouse Center when they were young. She has also been involved in PTAs and other groups that meet at MCC.

May-Salazar told FFXnow she’s eager to pair her perspective as a patron of the center with her professional background working at D.C.’s National Building Museum. As the museum’s senior vice president and chief operating officer, she helped manage finances and operations, while also developing programs, such as a summer block party.

“We also positioned ourselves there as a town square, where people could gather and important conversations and dialogue take place,” May-Salazar said. “I think all of this experience is applicable when looking at the community center’s role to provide opportunities for the community to engage with one another.”

After a “whirlwind” of introductions to staff and board members, May-Salazar is set to meet with the full MCC governing board for the first time on Wednesday (Jan. 25). Her initial goal is to review the strategic plan that has been in development since fall 2021 and will be finalized “in the coming months.”

In terms of specific program or event ideas, she says she’s “not walking in the door with preconceived priorities” — a deviation in approach from her predecessor Daniel Singh, whose arrival in the spring of 2021 was accompanied by a full slate of newly announced programs.

May-Salazar noted that she’s joining “at a fortuitous time” after much of the work on the strategic plan has been completed. The document is intended to guide MCC”s priorities and programming for the next five years, a time period that will include the center’s 50th anniversary in 2025.

“I want to learn from the staff and from the board and from the community members about what’s working well and what opportunities we have moving forward,” she said.

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