The desire to connect large amounts of renewables to the electric power distribution system, coupled with the emergence of a diverse set of actionable resources, necessitate the development of control strategies that can coordinate heterogeneous devices for a common goal. Many approaches for controlling such components in distribution systems are framed as centralized control/optimization problems, where a single decision-maker collects all relevant information, computes a decision, and disseminates control signals to actuators. While these methods can, theoretically, achieve very high levels of performance, they suffer from two critical pitfalls: 1) lack of suitable models, and 2) large communications requirements. These burdens hinder the ability of such strategies to be implemented in the field. In this talk, I will present initial efforts towards developing model-free and communications-light control strategies that address important objectives such as loss minimization and voltage regulation in distribution systems. The methods I will present aim to achieve high levels of performance associated with centrally-based approaches, while maintaining decentralized decision-making. In addition, I will outline a future research agenda to facilitate further development of model-free and communications-light control strategies in high PV penetration scenarios.