senior features editor
Hidden deep within 225 acres of forestland, an entire Wootton class lives in a small town, bonding over their shared love for trees. That is, if by an entire Wootton class, one means 550 individuals, and by small town, one means the town of Washington Grove.
It sounds like a bucolic scene from a Shakespearean play or a John Steinbeck novel, yet Washington Grove is indeed a community located between Gaithersburg and Rockville along the Maryland Area Regional Commuter rail system’s Brunswick Line. With its early-20th-century homes and its lone eating establishment, Hershey’s, “the Grove” is the pride of hundreds of residents, including Mayor John Compton.
Formerly living in the quaint northern Maine town of Mount Desert, Compton currently embraces being a part of a rustic community that is on the National Register of Historic Places. Passing through the town of Washington Grove certainly evokes a nostalgic sentiment, as every other street is a woodland walkway and its multitude of trees huddle around, and even through, the houses lining the narrow paths. “One of our big issues now is that some of our large canopy of oak trees is dying due to high winds, storms and age. Our town will look completely different if all these trees are gone,” Compton said.
After serving as mayor for eight years from 2000 to 2008, Compton was ready to leave the position after gaining an unexpected amount of experience stalling an external development plan that threatened to damage local infrastructure. However, in 2017, upon the encouragement of his wife and other town supporters, he ran for the seat once again versus the incumbent placeholder and won. “Our election history has been pretty interesting,” Compton said. “In 2017, there were more than two times the amount of voters than in 2016, and in 2018, the town dog got the second-most votes.”
The outdoor elements of the environment act as the tying centerpiece of Washington Grove, exhibiting themselves through a swim-and-dive lake, a verdant recreational park and of course, the trees. At times, deer are a welcome sight as well to the residents, but they are ultimately responsible for desecrating the plants to which the town’s human inhabitants are so attached. “The deer have caused a great deal of harm on the forest, but we can’t control the population if we wanted to because PETA is against killing the deer,” Compton said.
The future looks bright as the leader of Washington Grove is an avid and erudite problem solver. “I graduated from MIT and I started my own successful biotech company around the same time I became mayor,” Compton said. Since Washington Grove is too small to have its own local law enforcement, the role of policing falls upon Montgomery County Police and even Compton at times. According to him, the town is a place where close-knit neighbors look out for each other and the parents can feel safe letting their children walk around at night. “If I have to intervene in something, it’s usually just to tell someone to move a clunker car off of a property or an illegally parked truck off of our roads. We’re advantaged to have a commonly bonded, united community,” Compton said.