Claire Harshbarger noticed something about Bethesda after moving here from Pittsburgh five years ago. “The sidewalks here are super well maintained and have beautiful landscaping,” she said. On the other hand, she observed, “Pittsburgh has so many bike lanes, Bethesda needs that, too.”
Harshbarger was attentive to these details because she has spent a lot of hours walking and biking in and around Bethesda, from the dark days of COVID to her current daily walking commute to First National Bank on Wisconsin Avenue, where she is Assistant Vice President, Commercial Banking.
Harshbarger said she purposely moved to Bethesda so she can walk to work. “That was a big priority for me when I first joined the company,” she said.
Enjoying Local Flavors
An avid reader, Harshbarger loves walking to the library. She also enjoys indulging in a gelato or a bubble tea in Woodmont Triangle, and learning how to salsa dance at a local studio.
What’s her favorite thing about Bethesda? “There are so many restaurant choices, whether you’re looking for a place to watch a football game from, or craving Mexican food — and they’re all walkable.”
As she works to be a proponent for ease of access to Bethesda, Harshbarger feels her own employer has set a great example.
She said First National Bank — which has been in the Mid-Atlantic area for over 10 years and in the DMV for the past five — has done a good job of adapting its operations to be commuter friendly, making staggered work hours available for the 30–35 people coming into the Bethesda office in order to avoid traffic.
“We also take Metro whenever possible to client meetings,” she said, adding that FNB has signed a contract with WMATA to have FNB-branded ATMs in Metrorail stations.
Dedicated to the Community
Harshbarger said what she finds special about First National Bank as an employee and a commercial banker is, the company treats her as a person, not a number. And it really cares about developing relationships with business owners in the community.
“Giving back and being actively involved in making our community better is really important to us,” she said. “We’re always looking for nonprofits to support, for places where our team can volunteer, and for ways to make sure our community thrives and grows alongside us.”
That philosophy made Harshbarger a natural fit for the BTS Advisory Committee. She was appointed by the Bethesda Urban Partnership board of directors last fall to represent the “Bethesda Employer with Fewer than 50 Employees” category, and her first term ends in September 2026.
“I just really love so many things about living in this community,” she said. “I felt it was my responsibility as a community member and as someone who works in Bethesda to make sure it remains accessible to everybody via public transportation, well-kept sidewalks and increased bike lanes.”
Harshbarger noted that “there’s going to be a huge boom” of residents with the new condos and apartment buildings going up in Bethesda. “So, it’s important to give people different options to ease congestion and help everyone get around,” she said.
Toward that end, she said she has been very happy to see the growth of bike lanes over the past couple years. She also encourages employers to find ways to help employees with their commute.
“Offering Metro passes or a reimbursement program for other commute alternatives will really go a long way in helping the company as a whole,” she said. “By helping employees start and end their day on a positive note, you’ll have happy employees who aren’t stressed when they get to the office from a horrible commute, and they’re not leaving the office dreading how they’re going to get home,” she added.
About the BTS Advisory Committee
BTS is led by an 11-member advisory committee appointed by the Bethesda Urban Partnership's (BUP) board of directors. Drawn from the business and residential communities in and around Bethesda, the advisory committee evaluates progress toward attaining commuting goals outlined in local plans, reviews traffic patterns and control measures, and submits comments and recommendations on BTS’s biennial report and on Bethesda employers’ Transportation Demand Management Plans and Annual Reports.
Visit the BTS website for a schedule of advisory committee meetings and activities.