Henrico County VA
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Hectic Schedules of Elected Officials Often Unappreciated

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.
Community

Henricus Historical Park to host Publick Day Sept. 20

Henricus Historical Park will commemorate its anniversary during Publick Day, a signature annual event that celebrates the establishment of the second successful English settlement in the New World. In September 1611, Sir Thomas Dale, along with soldiers, tradesmen and farmers, ventured from Jamestown to create the Citie of Henricus. Leaders of Henricus developed the first English hospital, chartered the first college in North America, established tobacco as the first cash crop in Virginia, and created a place where Pocahontas lived and met John Rolfe.

Publick Day will take place Saturday, Sept. 20, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is free and parking is $5 per vehicle. > Read more.

Commonwealth Parenting, CMoR-Short Pump to present 6-part parenting forum series

As part of its 30th anniversary year and partnership with the Children's Museum of Richmond, Commonwealth Parenting will present a six-part RVA Parents Forum Series to address some of the toughest issues confronting parents.

Parenting experts and family educators will tackle topics ranging from bullying to alcohol, sex to divorce, and technology and stress. Parents will learn how to identify potential problems.

"We're excited about bringing this much-needed forum series to parents in central Virginia. Through our valuable partnership with Commonwealth Parenting, we can have a deeper impact in the community through parent and caregiver education," said Karen Coltrane, president and CEO of the Children's Museum of Richmond. > Read more.

Celebrating 106 years

Former Sandston resident Mildred Taylor celebrated her 106th birthday Aug. 9. Taylor, who now lives in Powhatan, is still a member of Sandston Baptist Church. She was visited the day after her birthday by several members of the church, who played for her a recording of the entire church membership singing happy birthday to her during worship. > Read more.

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Entertainment

Weekend Top 10


Check out these three B’s in Henrico this weekend: books, bluegrass and “Born Yesterday.” Other activities to participate in – and feel good about – are the 15th annual James River Regional Cleanup and the 5th annual Richmond Out of the Darkness Community Walk. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.

When the cliche stands tall

Inspirational football movie tries too hard for its own good
When the Game Stands Tall is based on a true story – an unbelievable true story that takes the word “inspiring” about as far as it can go.

It’s a film about Bob Ladouceur, coach of the De La Salle High Spartans, a California high school football team with 12 consecutive undefeated seasons (a staggering 151 games won in a row).

Along the way, Ladouceur (played by Jim Caviezel) faced the kind of hardship most football coaches (thankfully) can only imagine – suffering a near-fatal heart attack, the death of a star player, and rebuilding the team after that 151-game streak came to a humiliating end. > Read more.

Weekend Top 10


Enjoy political comedy at its finest with The Capitol Steps at The Cultural Arts Center at Glen Allen. Methodist and Baptist churches unite for the fourth annual Mission Footprint 5K, taking place at Trinity UMC. Or in honor of Grandparent’s Day on Sunday, treat them to A Grand Family Affair or maybe a movie – the 1978 film “Superman” is at the Henrico Theatre. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.

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The Henrico Volunteer Rescue Squad will hold an Open House in conjunction with Henrico Police, Henrico Fire and Med Flight from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at 5301 Huntsman Rd.… Full text

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