As a member of the Henrico Business Council cabinet, I've had the privilege of lunching in recent months with members of the board of supervisors.
What I've learned has been less about county programs and issues, and more about the lifestyles of Henrico's elected leaders -- including a number of misconceptions that the public has about them.
Members of the BOS may be the closest things we have to celebrities in this county, but it's astounding how little the public knows about their jobs and what they entail.
For instance, while lunching with Dick Glover of the Brookland District, I happened to get a peek at his weekly calendar.
Back in the summertime, it featured ballgames, a meeting with the planning department, an open house at a business, and ceremonial events such as ribbon-cuttings -- in addition to the upcoming BOS meeting.
"People think I go to two meetings a month," Glover said with an amused smile.
At the Business Council's advocacy dinner Nov. 30, I asked Mr. Glover to pull out his calendar again. This time the list was even longer.
"I've counted up 41 events between Thanksgiving and Dec. 25 that I'm invited to," he said, adding that it often seems taken for granted that he will attend. "At a lot of these," Glover commented, "my absence is noted more than my presence."
Pat O'Bannon, who represents the Tuckahoe District on the BOS, agreed with Glover that constituents often have no idea how much time supervisors must put into the job.
Even the lunch with the Business Council required preparation and planning, said O'Bannon, who had solicited information and statistics from her staff so that she could accurately report on county issues and initiatives to cabinet members.
O'Bannon also noted that constituents often call her with questions or concerns that have nothing to do with county government, and that her job may require steering them to federal or state agencies that can help.
No doubt Dianne Pettitt, a member of the Chesterfield County School Board, can relate to O'Bannon's experience.
Some years ago, soon after Chesterfield shifted from appointing school board members to electing them, I had a conversation with Pettitt about the changes that had come with her new visibility.
As an appointee to the school board, Pettitt had labored in relative obscurity. But as chair of the first elected school board in 1995, Pettitt began getting phone calls at home every time a constituent encountered a problem -- school-related or not.
"People would call me up and complain about potholes," Pettitt recalls, "or wonder [after a snowstorm] when their street would be plowed!"
More recently, Pettitt said, she has gotten calls from constituents complaining about the cell phone towers located in her neighborhood.
But the call that really took the cake, she said, was from a woman in North Carolina -- hundreds of miles from her district. The caller was upset that her nephew had not been admitted into one of the Chesterfield County's specialty centers.
When Pettitt asked how the caller had obtained her phone number, the North Carolina woman admitted that the student's mother lived in Pettitt's district. But she had not had the gumption to complain to Pettitt herself. So -- she had put her out-of-state sister up to it.
Like O'Bannon and Glover, Pettitt reports that the phone calls are only one part of the job. She also has a long list of obligations to attend committee meetings and constituent gatherings, on top of regular school board meetings.
"It's a merry-go-round!" said Pettitt with a laugh.
Local elected officials also tell stories of having a dinner out interrupted by constituents wanting to bend their ear, or of complainers who intrude even on their worship. One board member told me of a colleague who has learned to arrive late at church every Sunday, to avoid being waylaid by a talkative congregation member.
So the next time you hear someone complaining about an elected official being overpaid or having a cushy job, consider what price you would require if your life were not your own.
Sure, elected officials get prestige, and a few perks to go along with their salaries. But as Dick Glover points out, most people don't go into public service for the money or the perks. The compensation that he gets for the demands on his time and the lack of privacy, Glover told me recently, is simply job satisfaction.
"It's the most interesting, satisfying thing that I've ever done," he said.
I, for one, am glad for the good people who are willing not only to take on the responsibility of public office, but also to put up with the constant intrusions on their private time.
They don't call them public servants for nothing.
The Sandston Rotary Club recently donated $1,000 to the Sandston YMCA for its Bright Beginnings program, which helps provide children in need with school supplies for the new school year. > Read more.
To help celebrate twenty years of service to advocating for abused and neglected children in Henrico County, Henrico Court Appointed Special Advocates, Inc. (CASA) will host an evening with bestselling author K.L. Randis on Tuesday, Aug. 26, from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at Belmont Recreation Center in Lakeside.
Randis is best known for her bestselling novel, Spilled Milk, which tells her painful – but ultimately triumphant – personal story of abuse and of child abuse prevention. The book is her first novel.
The Ambassador of the Philippines to the United States Jose L. Cuisia, Jr. attended the Ninth Annual Filipino Festival at Our Lady of Lourdes Church earlier this month. Cuisia (pictured above with festival performers) was welcomed by County Manager John Vithoulkas and Brookland District Supervisor Dick Glover (below) at the church, which is located in Lakeside.
While enjoying some of the cultural performances at the festival, the ambassador and his wife had a private lunch with Vithoulkas, Glover, Eldon Burton (an outreach representative from U.S. Senator Mark R. Warner’s Office) and Father James Begley, the pastor of OLL. > Read more.
For our Top 10 calendar events this weekend, click here! > Read more.
Short Pump brewery offers more than just beer
I am still (happily) thinking about my entire experience at Rock Bottom Restaurant and Brewery last week. Knowing nothing about this new brewery out of Denver, I was leery of brew-pub in the heart of Short Pump Town Center – this is not what I’d usually think of as a perfect fit, and yet, it was.
The restaurant and craft brewery opened in early June and features 10 beers made by female brewmaster Becky Hammond (pictured). This is the restaurant’s second location in Virginia; the first is in Arlington. Behind glass walls, customers watched the beer brewing in massive steel barrels. For our up-and-coming beer region, it makes sense that Short Pump would jump on board.
As I walked up to the back of the mall near the comedy club, I was taken aback by what I saw: at the top of the stairs was an overflowing restaurant with outdoor seating, large umbrellas and dangling outdoor lights. > Read more.
The Cultural Arts Center at Glen Allen is now registering participants for its fall 2014 schedule of classes.
The center will offer more than 100 classes for children and adults, covering topicssuch as culinary arts, fiber arts, visual and performance arts and more. Instruction is structured to appeal to a wide range of abilities, from beginners to experts of all ages. Class sizes are kept small to ensure maximum benefit for participants with generally no more than 15 students. > Read more.
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