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Prince William / Manassas Tourism Agency Launches New Website

MANASSAS, Va. – Prince William County hopes to lure more visitors to the region with a new website at its convention and visitor’s bureau, Discover Prince William and Manassas.

The site, discoverPWM.com, is billed as a one-stop destination for visiting the county and the historic city at its core, Manassas.

More in a press release:

The website boasts several brand new features including an online booking engine that allows visitors to make lodging arrangements directly through the website and avoid any additional fees. Other new features include an events calendar where people can sign up for event alerts and specific pages dedicated to group tours, reunions, weddings, sporting events and the press.

Through the website, visitors can download a copy of the newly released 2013-2014 Visitor Guide and also sign up for monthly e-newsletters that highlight events, unique travel itineraries and information about the area.

For the first time, all tourism partners in Prince William and Manassas will also be able to continuously contribute to the website content, ensuring visitors get the most up-to-date information on events, hotel accommodations and attractions.

Tourism is a booming industry.  In 2011, visitors to Prince William generated $487 million in revenue, up almost 10 percent from 2010. In Manassas and Manassas Park, visitors generated about $61 million, up 11 percent from 2010.

Tourists are also turning to the Internet more and more to book vacations, which is why it was essential to have a fresh, new and informative website, Maher said. According to a report published by Destination Marketing Association International, 83 percent of leisure travelers use the internet to plan their travel. 

Discover Prince William and Manassas was instrumental in planning and organizing the reenactment of the First Battle of Manassas for the Civil War’s 150th Anniversary in 2011. The agency said it will continue to maintain a separate site for all things Civil War through the end of its 150th commemoration in 2015.

Discover Prince William & Manassas will maintain its second website, ManassasBullRun.com, which is solely dedicated to the area’s rich Civil War history. The tourism agency will also continue to enhance and add new features to DiscoverPWM.com including videos and rotating stories.


Shaved Heads Raise Money for Child Cancer Cure

[Photo: OWL Volunteer Fire Department]

WOODBRIDGE, Va. – Firefighters from across the region came together on Friday for a good cause, and to get a haircut.

The 8th Annual St. Baldrick’s Event to fund research for cures to childhood cancer was held in Wooodbridge. Nearly 70 people had their head shaved during the event and more than $30,000 was raised for charity.

More in a press release from OWL Volunteer Fire Department:

The St. Baldrick’s Foundation provides grants to research institutions to find new cures for childhood cancer, and find treatments to ensure a better quality of life for patients and survivors. The Foundation funds research projects conducted by established pediatric cancer experts, as well as younger professionals who will be the experts of tomorrow. Funds also enable hundreds of local institutions to participate in national pediatric cancer clinical trials, offering the best available care for every child.

 Entertainment for the evening was provided by the ever popular local band, “Type A”.  This is in addition to the already jam-packed night that also included a silent auction and a catered dinner. 

 “Everyone from the shavees to the donors and sponsors are part of the OWL VFD effort to make a difference for children with cancer. We are proud to partner with the St. Baldrick’s Foundation and our community,” explained Tony Carroll, OWL’s event coordinator.

Still want to donate to the organization? St. Baldricks will accept donations on their website through June 30.

Picture 1 of 13

[Photo: Dumfries-Triangle Volunteer Fire Department]

Letter: Woodbridge Man Returns Missing Wallet

You must be doing something right in Woodbridge!

Last week, after several days frantically searching for my perpetually-misplaced wallet, I received a call from a wonderfully honest Woodbridge man whose selfless action brought me joy and, finally, a good night’s sleep.

Corey Smith was doing work near Cox Farms in Fairfax County when he came across my wallet, soaked through from the recent snow but intact. I had no idea I had dropped it there while taking my dogs for a walk. He called me immediately, and as he couldn’t wait for my arrival, we arranged for him to take it to the Cox Farms office, where I picked it up later.

As Corey had assured me on the phone, nothing was missing. A lesser man might have availed himself of some cash, or not have returned the wallet at all. In fact, about a decade ago, I lost a wallet and it was dropped into a local mailbox — after the money and credit cards were removed. Corey Smith, someone raised you right. Many thanks.

Barbara Tourtelot
Delaplane, Va.

Retiring Prince William Library Director: ‘I’m Past My Due Date’

Features Editor

PRINCE WILLIAM COUNTY, Va. – Dick Murphy, the Library System Director for Prince William County, has decided to retire at the end of June, drawing his 27-year career of working in the library system to a close. After starting in the county Library System in 1985, he worked hard to expand and advance it.

The Woodbridge resident fell into his career working in libraries shortly after graduating with an English degree from Georgetown University.

“I got that job because I needed a job, and my mom was working at the library and she said, ‘Until you can get another job, they’re hiring at the library. Why don’t you do it until you find something you like better,’ and I’ve never found anything I liked better,” Murphy said.

Deciding to make library work his lifelong career, he returned to obtain his Masters in Library Science from the University of Maryland. While Murphy was sure about the important role of libraries, he recalled that not everyone in his inner circle felt the same way at first.

“Libraries are going to be around for a long time. When I got into the profession, my friends and family said, ‘Why are you doing that? Libraries won’t be around for very long,’ and this is 1969. But they’re still around and they’re still popular after all these years,” Murphy said.

According to Murphy, a lot has changed since the time he started working in the library system.

“It’s changed…mostly because of technology. When I started working in libraries, there were no computers and no copying machines – they didn’t exist for the public back then. And of course, everything was in card catalogues…. People tend to think about libraries as books and obviously that’s a lot of what we do, but we’re really not specifically about books – we’re about content and getting people hooked up with things to read and that content can come in a lot of different ways,” Murphy said.

And some people weren’t always a fan of the transition and technological advances that the library made – a shared challenge.

“In general, people tend to make the switch, and it may take a little while, because people are used to what they’re used to. Our challenge is to try and help them make the transition. So we’ve done a lot of work in the last year or so, helping people learn how to use their electronic book device and working through all of the challenges of that.”


In addition to the changes to technology in the library, the communities in Prince William County have greatly expanded over the years, and the library system has grown to accommodate them. When Murphy started, the library system consisted of two full service libraries and two neighborhood libraries. That number has grown into four full-service libraries and two neighborhood libraries.

“There’s been a huge amount of growth since when I got here in 1985, with new buildings and trying to setup a network of new buildings and that’s what we needed to do, to make it work for the population,” Murphy said.

One final development that Murphy is proud to be a part of are the design plans for two more libraries in Montclair and Gainesville, which are scheduled to be completed in the next few years.

“We’ll have the designs finished for them by the time that I leave, by June, and I feel very fortunate to have been able to stay until the plans have been finished and to turn over the reigns to complete the construction. I’m very excited about it,” Murphy said, going on to say that this is the first new construction of libraries in the county since 1994.

A large source of pride for Murphy in his role as Library Director are the wide array of programs that the library offers to the community – something Murphy feels that many may not be aware of.

“The biggest thing we do every year is the Summer Quest reading program; 18,000 kids participate in that every summer and in the Teen Summer Reading program, another 3,000 to 4,000 teens get involved with that,” Murphy said. In addition to the summer reading programs, the libraries offer story hour for children, book clubs, computer literacy classes and other recreational activities.

For Murphy, his retirement is bittersweet.

“I leave with mixed emotions because I love it; I love the people who work here in the library, I love working with people in the county government, I have a very supportive Library Board. But it’s time – I’m past my due date and I’ve been hanging on to do the designs for the two new libraries. I’m healthy, but I’ve got lots of plans to travel. It’s going to be nice to be able to do things with family, while I’m healthy to do it, so it’s pretty mixed emotions and it’s just time to turn over the reigns to somebody else,” Murphy said.

Manland Gym Has Personality, Coordinated Dressers

Mom on the Run


I’m at the gym, sitting on the bench at the cable machine, doing the seated row. (The cable machine probably has a different name, but my weight lifting education is not advanced enough to include proper equipment terminology.) I like the seated row, it’s not painful and I can do what seems like a decent weight, plus I can look around while I exercise. Looking around is a good thing, because there’s always something to see in the free weights room, a.k.a. Manland.

021113-freedom-mom-tagSo I’m rowing away, Matchy-Matchy next to me on the same cable machine, doing something different. I have no idea what Matchy-Matchy’s real name is (kind of like all the equipment in here!), but I secretly call him that because he is very precise in his dressing, always coordinating his workout clothes. His shirt, shorts, socks, and shoes always go together, usually with one unifying color, as if he dressed from a catalog. He’s very particular, and it amuses me.

Matchy-Matchy is sweating over his workout. He’s only recently come back to the gym; he had minor surgery and couldn’t exercise for six weeks. I never knew him particularly well, we would do the standard gym “’Sup?” head bob and occasionally, “Are you using this?” We never had a real conversation.

But then he disappeared for six weeks! I was so relieved when he came back. I had worried over his absence, and his first day back I dashed over: “Where have you been?”

Matchy-Matchy was pleased to have been missed and glad to be back at the gym, but he was dreading working out after six weeks off. “It’s going to take a lot of work to get back to where I was,” he said, shaking his head. I told him I thought he still looked great, but I knew what he meant. Manland is populated by bulgy, buff guys who constantly compare themselves with each other, and Matchy-Matchy definitely had lost some bulk.

“It’ll come back quickly, I’m sure,” I reassured him, as if I have any idea what I’m talking about, and he had smiled and nodded.

Now here he is next to me. I’m doing my seated rows, and he’s got a handle on the cable to my right and is pulling on it, pull-release, pull-release, doing a bicep exercise. We’re both working away companionably when Carlos walks by. He’s headed for the water fountain right behind Matchy-Matchy, and he sees me and waves cheerfully.

“Hi!” I greet him, smiling. Carlos is a nice guy. Friendly and funny, he’s always been welcoming and helpful, which I especially appreciated on those first intimidating days in Manland. And as I look at him, standing behind Matchy-Matchy, I realize: “Hey, you guys dressed the same today!”

Carlos and Matchy-Matchy stop what they’re doing and look each other up and down: each is wearing a sleeveless orange shirt, black shorts, black socks, and black sneakers. Even the oranges are the same; they’re almost identical outfits! “We texted each other,” Matchy-Matchy says to me, smiling.

“Yeah,” says Carlos, then, “You should take a picture.” He leans in and finishes slyly, gesturing first to Matchy-Matchy and then to himself: “Before, and after!” He pauses just a beat, then roars with laughter. It takes me a minute before I get it, then, Oh! Carlos means he’s all defined and muscle-y, and Matchy-Matchy is wimpy and skinny!

 My mouth drops open in surprise and I look at Matchy-Matchy. His mouth has dropped open too, staring at Carlos. Then the guys look at each other and Carlos starts to laugh, big deep roaring “hahaha!”s, head thrown back with delight at his own joke.

“OK, OK,” says Matchy-Matchy, grinning. “Very funny.” He picks up his cable again. “Now go away,” he growls, and he starts again, pull-release, pull-release, ferociously.

Carlos and I look at each other. I’m laughing so hard, I think my face is going to split. Before and after picture! Brilliant line! And for the millionth time I reflect on the strange and hilarious place that is Manland. Ha!

Baylor’s Soft Serve Opens, Replaces Familiar Ice Cream Stand

Baylor’s Original Soft Serve owner Penni Graves-Rodriguez said she reopened a familiar Dumfries ice cream stand under a new name to bring the community back together. [Uriah Kiser / Potomac Local News]

DUMFRIES, Va. – Virginia’s first town has a new sweet spot, and it opened in a familiar roadside location.

Baylor’s Original Soft Serve opened for the first time Sunday on Main Street in the heart of Dumfries’ growing business district, joining a newly built McDonalds restaurant in nearby Triangle Plaza.

It replaces JoJo’s Original Soft Serve which closed last fall after owner Joseph Ruhren became embroiled in a legal battle that has him charged with forcible sodomy and sexual battery of a minor. Ruhren will stand trail on those charges in September, according to court records. But the owner of Baylor’s, Penni Graves-Rodriguez, wanted to do something to bring the community back together.

“I’m excited about bringing the community back to the gathering place. I was a customer of JoJo’s back in the day as well, and the kids would want to run around eating ice cream and play with their dogs, and it was just a fantastic spot,” said Graves-Rodriguez.

The renamed ice cream stand takes its name from Graves-Rodriguez’s father. His middle name was Baylor, and he died in June 2011.

As for the ice cream, Baylor’s opened for the season on Sunday to long lines with customers ready to try out the newest restaurant in town. Graves-Rodriguez said her ice cream is still the same as it was when it was JoJo’s, and the same faces will continue to greet customers from behind the counter.

“I’m looking for a few things that we can make better, but going with the flow and getting handle on business while get the hang of things before we change anything,” said Graves-Rodriguez.

The small ice cream stand is valued at $139,000, according to Prince William County property records, and spent only a short time on the market following the closure of JoJo’s last year.

Manassas Student Pens Plan to Recycle Gas to Heat Campus, Wins Award

Submitted News 

MANASSAS, Va. – Syed M. Sarwar of Manassas recently won a competition sponsored by the District of Columbia Council of Engineering and Architectural Societies. Sarwar was recognized during an awards banquet Feb. 23 in Silver Spring, Md., where he also received the $500 first-place prize.

Sarwar expressed his excitement about winning the award. “I felt very good when I heard the good news from my engineering professor that my hard work paid off,” he said.

Called the Competition for Outstanding Young Engineer and Architect Research Papers, the contest evaluated research papers written by undergraduate and graduate students. The rigorous criteria required entries to be formatted according to standard guidelines for publication in a professional journal and to include an abstract, discussion, method of study, results and significance of the project.

Sarwar’s submission, “Utilization of Landfill Biogas to Decrease Campus CO2 Emissions through Construction of CHHP System,” won in the undergraduate category. The paper illustrates how a hydrogen energy system constructed on a college campus can make use of local resources such as municipal landfills. The hydrogen energy system described in the paper would use landfill gas to fuel itself and to supply thermal and electrical energy needs for the campus and surrounding community. In return, the system would reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

As a student at the Manassas Campus of Northern Virginia Community College, Sarwar learned about the contest from engineering instructor Monica Mallini.

“I wanted to give my students an opportunity to learn how to write a professional paper, something most students do not experience until graduate school. Syed wrote the paper as a freshman in the honors option section of my ‘Introduction to Engineering’ class,” Mallini said. “At the awards reception, the education committee chairman said we made history because Syed was the first community college student to enter and win this contest. I am extremely pleased with Syed’s success and encouraged to find more opportunities like this for our students.”

Sarwar graduated from Stonewall Jackson High School in 2011 and enrolled at NOVA that fall. After NOVA, he plans to transfer to George Washington University to continue his education in mechanical engineering specializing in the automotive industry.

“I am very motivated and passionate about becoming a mechanical engineer and working at Mercedes-Benz, my dream company,” Sarwar said.

Rhetoric Aside, Retail Politics Will Decide Supervisors Elections


Contributing Editor

Those we elect to serve us in Prince William have been taking quite a beating on the local blogs lately. Either they not collecting enough taxes, they want to collect too much, they are spending it on stuff we don’t need, or they are not spending enough on things we do need.

If one believed the blogs, none of our sitting Board of Supervisors have a chance in hell of getting re-elected in 2015. Purcell Road reminded me this is not the case. More on that later.

I suspect that a few hundred folks who truly play “insider baseball” actually read all of the principle blogs in Prince William County, get excited by the content, and leave passionate comments on one side or the other of whatever the topic might be. There are probably a few hundred more that stop by occasionally to see what’s going on.

The rest of he folks in Prince William probably aren’t aware that these blogs, including mine, even exist.

Blogs have influenced public policy. We take credit for ending discretionary funds, derailing attempts to defund funding for local arts groups, perhaps contributed to the call for a more transparent budget process, and definitely changed the nature of the dialog in front of the live stream camera that covers the Dias.

This is all well and good; however, at the end of the day it’s retail politics that will drive who gets another turn in a Supervisor’s chair. For the uninitiated, retail politics is a type of political campaigning in which the candidate focuses on local events, meeting individual voters, walking around neighborhoods knocking on doors, old-fashioned shaking hands and kissing babies. It is best typified as “bringing home the bacon”, or delivering a Magisterial District its share, preferably more, of the revenue collected via taxes and fees.

That’s the conundrum facing local government. Residents pay for retail politics. The trick is to collect enough money to continue to give it back to us as things we like while not reaching that tipping point of collecting “too much”.

Convincing those of us who pay the bills that government is collecting the right amount is as much stagecraft as it is math. Government must get the public to “suspend disbelief” that perhaps not even a penny more or less is being collected.

There is another flavor of “bacon” to bring home: public policy favorable to the Magisterial District one represents.

Supervisor Marty Nohe brought home the bacon when he ensured that the Coles District beloved Purcell Road was not turned into a four lane highway that connected Va. 234 to Prince William Parkway. Those of us who live in Mid-County, the semi-rural residential region bisected by Purcell Road, are grateful.

Good job, Marty!

This reminded me where votes really come from. In the case of Nohe, they come from a lot of one-on-one help to his constituents that we never hear about. I heard about them when I collected signatures for his last campaign door to door. There were plenty of stories. They come from public policy victories such as Purcell Road.

I once visited a senior community in the Potomac District and remember members of their board of directors telling me that Maureen Caddigan, the Magesterial Supervisor for the District, is “their gal.” She takes care of this community of hundreds of folks, and they take care of her, they said.

I attended a town hall hosted by Supervisor Pete Candland at a senior community in the Gainesville District. What I witnessed was a couple of hundred folks treated to a flag ceremony, the National Anthem, a local choir, government officials there to respond to resident’s questions and issues, and Candland at his best.

I could draw examples from all of the Magisterial Districts; however, I think you get the point. Any one of these constituencies could easily derail the dreams of any challenger hoping to replace an incumbent on our Board of County Supervisors.

At the end of the day, its retail politics, its taking care of constituents who show up and vote, its the hundreds of kindnesses, the public policy decisions favorable to a community, an HOA, or a neighborhood that determines who stays in office… and who doesn’t.

I’m not complaining. Marty brought home the bacon when he stopped Prince William County Government from tinkering with Purcell Road. I may have to buy another Roadster just to enjoy driving the length of it with the top down (at legal speeds, of course).

Youth Football Teams Race to Sell Charity Raffle Tickets for Ford Sedan

News from Content Partner Boys and Girls Clubs

DALE CITY, Va. – Two of the area’s most respected youth football organizations are teaming up with the Prince William County/Manassas Boys & Girls Clubs to raise $50,000 in partnership with Steve’s Auto Repair in Woodbridge.

Northern Virginia Youth Athletic Association (NVYAA), American Youth Football lead by President Tony Keiling, and Prince William Pop Warner Football led by President Terry Hubbard are in a head to head contest to sell the most car raffle tickets for a 2001 Crown Victoria for the Boys & Girls Club. “We support the community and we support the Boys & Girls Club” says Tony Keiling of NVYAA “None of us are able to impact the community by ourselves, that why we support one another.”

Both organizations football programs are run out of different Clubs. NVYAA-AYF operates their program from the Hylton Boys & Girls Club in Dale City and Prince William Pop Warner is based out of the Manassas Boys & Girls Clubs. “We have 5,000 car raffle tickets to sell by March 29. We are confident that these two great programs will help us reach our $50,000 goal” says Regional Director Glenn Vickers. “What makes both programs special is their commitment to education and good citizenship. This friendly rivalry between each league is a great example of good sportsmanship and fair play.” says Vickers.

Tickets for the raffle are being sold at all three Boys & Girls Clubs in Dumfries, Dale City, Manassas, and Steve’s Auto Repair and with members of both NVYAA and Pop Warner. Terry Hubbard stated “The response from our Pop Warner Family has been great, may the best league win”

The raffle will be pulled on Friday, March 29, at 6 p.m. at the Hylton Boys & Girls Club 5070 Dale Boulevard in Dale City.

For more information both either youth football leagues and partners please visit

NVYAA  nvyaa.com

Northern Virginia Pop Warner  vapopwarner.org

Steve’s Auto Repair  stevesautorepairva.com

Letter: Madera Farm Threatens Rural Way of Life in Western Prince William

The definition of agriculture is and has been for thousands of years, the cultivation of animals, plants, fungi, and other life forms for food, fiber, and other products used to sustain human life. The word “agriculture” is the English adaptation of Latin agricultura, from ager, “a field” and cultura, “cultivation” in the strict sense of “tillage of the soil”. Thus, a literal reading of the word yields “tillage of fields.”

Prince William County is now preparing (with the Special Use Permit -SUP #PLN2012-00334) to make a decision that will set a precedent to change the definition of “agriculture” in this county, and our Comprehensive Plan and Zoning regulations, to include a recycling and landscaping supply business as an agriculture use. Approval of this SUP will forge the change to the definition and character of the rural area of Prince William County. If Madera Farm was truly a “farm,” there would be no need for an SUP.

This SUP will be the first of many SUP’s submitted for heavy industrial uses that will come from the purchase of “cheap” or less expensive agricultural land in the rural area of the county, and converted to industrial uses. These industrial sites will change the face of the rural area, and will increase the traffic on our narrow, already heavily used, country roads with many more tractor trailers and dump trucks.

Instead of encouraging land-use opportunities that would benefit farmers and landowners and supporting the production of agricultural crops on the existing farm land, the approval of an industrial landscaping supply business and other industrial uses through Special Use Permits, the Planning Commissioners and the Board of County Supervisors, would be allowing our rural area to become exactly what was purported would never happen while they were in office.

Everyone was “on board” to keep the Rural Crescent rural, as was approved by the Comprehensive Plan. And yet now, it seems “political winds” have changed. Is the preservation of the rural area not so important now?

“Political will” has created the Rural Crescent… now, it seems that “political will” is about to destroy what is left of the farm land in the rural area of the county and replace it with industrial sites. Approval of industrial operations, such as the Madera Farm SUP, in the rural area will set the stage for further erosion of the preservation of the rural area. There are approximately 80,000 acres in the rural area of Prince William County, all of which are affected by this pending action.

The BOCS recently handled a controversial issue regarding the widening of Purcell Road in the Coles District at their meeting March 5, 2013, in a manner that was both beneficial and satisfactory to the citizens who live in that area. This issue was resolved through community action, led by residents who objected to a road that would open neighborhoods to significant cut-through traffic without addressing local traffic problems.

Citizens should look for a similar outcome in Nokesville at Madera Farm, which can happen only if residents speak out to protect the character of the County’s Rural Crescent. Share your views at the Public Hearing and Planning Commission vote for the Madera Farm Special Use Permit #PLN2012-00334 on Wednesday, March 20, 7 p.m. at McCoart Government Center, Board Chambers.

-Melinda Masters, Brentsville District

Hospital Hosting Seminar on Benefits of Brain Food

Health News 

Mary Washington Healthcare (MWHC) will host a free seminar and cooking demo, Brain Food: Recipes for a Healthy Lifestyle, Tuesday, March 26 to share the latest about insomnia, headaches, and dementia—and how good food choices and a doctor’s care can ease common neurological ailments.

Brain Food, to be held 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., will feature Dr. Maha Alattar, MD, MWHC neurologist and sleep medicine specialist, explaining risk factors for neurological ills and how diet is essential to a healthy brain.

“What we eat has an extraordinary impact on our brain and nervous system,” Dr. Alattar says. “If we don’t nourish our minds properly, we can invite conditions such as insomnia, migraines, or seizures. We can even waste opportunities to ward off dementia such as Alzheimer’s Disease.”

“Wholesome food triggers important chemicals in the brain known as neurotransmitters. They give us optimal brain power so we can maximize attention, memory and emotional well-being. Neurotransmitters are important in recovery from stroke or traumatic brain injury,” Dr. Alattar says.

What: Brain Food: Recipes for a Healthy Lifestyle

Who: Dr. Maha Alattar, MD, Neurologist

When: Tuesday, March 26, 5:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.

5:30 p.m. Cooking demo by expert chef. Chat with registered dietitian about making the most of every bite. Sample brain-healthy foods. Easy-to-follow recipe cards, other giveaways.

6:30 p.m. Keynote by Maha Alattar, MD, neurologist, about how diet is central to a healthy nervous system.

Cost: FREE

Where: Fick Conference Center, Mary Washington Hospital campus, 1301 Sam Perry Blvd., 2nd Floor (Carl Silver Center/Moss Free Clinic Bldg.)

Register: spirit.mwhc.com or 540-741-1404. Registration recommended.

Submit questions for Dr. Alattar when registering.

As the greater Fredericksburg region’s only Spirit of Women® hospital system, Mary Washington Healthcare is hosting Brain Food: Recipes for a Healthy Lifestyle as part of a network of more than 100 Spirit member hospitals across the U.S.


Great Wraps Coming to Potomac Mills

WOODBRIDGE, Va. – A fast-food chain more than 10-years-old will soon open in Woodbridge.

Great Wraps, a quick serve restaurant specializing in wrapped sandwiches, salads, and curly fries, will soon open in Potomac Mills mall’s food court. It’ll join several other decidedly more upscale restaurants like Cheesecake Factory and Bahama Breeze that have opened their doors in outparcel locations in the mall’s front parking area.

The Georgia-based Great Wraps chain has grown to have 20 locations in the U.S. In Virginia, the sandwich chain has locations on the campus of Virginia Commonweath University in Richmond, in Harrisonburg, and at Tysons Corner Center mall.

The new Woodbridge location will be Great Wrap’s fourth location in the state.

Old Town Manassas Shoppers will Get to Choose Treats in Easter Basket

Old Town Manassas (Mary Davidson/PotomacLocal.com)

Submitted News

MANASSAS , Va. – Usually when Easter rolls around, the kids are the ones who get to have all the fun. But from Tuesday, March 26 through Saturday, March 30, with each purchase made at a participating Old Town Manassas shop or gallery, you’ll get to select an egg from the Easter basket.

All of the eggs contain sweet Easter treats. Many of them hide a gift from an Old Town merchant.

Three of the eggs contain the winning tickets for an oversized, plush Easter bunny. The bunnies will be hopping around Old Town from shop to shop all week, so you might catch a glimpse of one while you’re shopping.

Look for the bunny pendant in participating shop windows, or go to visitmanassas.org for a complete list of Old Town merchants.

Questions on Metro to Woodbridge Can’t Be Answered Without Study

Delegate, 2nd District 

On Tuesday, March 5, Congressman Gerry Connolly and Jim Moran introduced legislation to study the extension of Metrorail from Franconia-Springfield to eastern Prince William County. The extension would include an addition to the Blue Line along Interstate 95 through Woodbridge to Potomac Mills, and the Yellow Line down the U.s. 1 corridor in Prince William County.

I am proud to support their efforts to authorize a project development analysis on the extension.

This study would allow us to analyze the long term economic impact, value for taxpayers, questions over costs, and other information to make well informed decisions on the extension. It is a practical common sense endeavor. The Metrorail extension may not be a solution, and funding road construction is always the first priority. However, we can’t firmly answered the questions without a study.

Recently, I also sat down with the Virginia Secretary of Transportation Sean Connaughton to outline potential mass transit projects, lane additions, and widening of major traffic veins in the area. We have voted for and addressed the funding gaps at the state level.

It is now time to work at all levels of government to prioritize projects and investments that benefit Virginia citizens. With funding from the transportation bill, we will concentrate on widening of U.s. 1 and I-95, needed repairs and safety improvements on secondary roads, using technology to improve traffic flow at peak hours, and exploring alternative transportation resources. With growth in the region expected to continue I am ready join and be a leader in that conversation.

Transportation congestion and safety are issues that we can no longer avoid in the Second District and Northern Virginia. That is why it is necessary to study each alternative and invest in our infrastructure. Virginians are tired of politics as usual and are looking for efficient, cost effective, and cooperative ways to alleviate these issues.


Ask Mega Mike: On and Off Points for the 95 Express Lanes?

In his Potomac Local News debut, Virginia Megaprojects Mike “Mega Mike” Salmon takes your questions on all things Megaprojects – from the 95 Express Lanes Project to Metro rail to Dulles Airport – he’ll help you understand what’s happening to improve your commute, and to tell you what you need to know before you go.

Send your questions to the Virginia Megaprojects Mega Man and find out what’s new with your commute! Be sure to include your full name and town.

Dear Megaprojects Mega Mike,

I heard they’re building new on and off ramps for the 95 Express Lanes. Where will I be able to get on and off of the lanes?

Crissy Smith 
Woodbridge, Va. 

Dear Crissy, 
That’s easy, take a look at this updated 95 Express Lanes map that shows all of the access points that will be built along the highway facility’s span, from Va. 610 in Garrisonville to Edsall Road in Alexandria.

Mike Salmon
Virginia Megaprojects 



Slugging Conversation Creates Comedic Connection

Slug Tales 


If you ask me, it is amazing the connections that you can make while slugging.

In the day and age where social networking generally takes place exclusively on websites like Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn, it seems building relationships in person is somewhat of a rarity. Within the community of those who spend day in and day out commuting from the suburbs of Northern Virginia to Washington, D.C., however, many connections are made while standing right there in the slug line.

Learn more about PRTCThere have been many times I’ve run into friends, both old and new, just slugging back and forth. Though most people typically will wait in silence for a ride, many conversations are started there, even amongst total strangers.

Usually, these conversations are limited to comments about the length of the line, or the weather, or how happy they might be that it’s Friday. But sometimes, those conversations lead to deeper connections. Perhaps you have a friend or colleague in common, or you happen to live in the same neighborhood. It’s a small world, as they say.

Many times, I’ve run into people who recognize my photo from my dad’s desk at the car dealership (he just so happens to be the best salesman at Karen Radley Volkswagen). Other times, both slugs and drivers have mentioned that they’re in the market for a new vehicle, and I’ve been able to help by passing his card along to get in contact with him. I might be biased when it comes to singing his praises, but the way I look at it, it’s always nice to have a good reference when you’re shopping around.

Just last week, I got into a car headed to Horner Road one evening, and the other passenger started a friendly conversation. She asked the gentleman driver and me about our day, and she joked with the driver about singing to us on the way home. Normally, talking while slugging is against the rules, but the driver seemed okay with it and continued to chat.

Somehow, the passenger ended up mentioning her part-time gig doing Christian-based comedy, and I perked up upon hearing this. It just so happened that a few days prior, a good friend of mine had posted on Facebook that he was in need of a Christian-based comedian for an event at his church! I couldn’t believe my luck, as I shared this with the lady in the backseat. She gave me her information, which I immediately sent his way.

A minute or two later, he sent a text back saying that he had emailed her the night before, inquiring about her services! Unbelievable, I thought – it must be a sign!

Not to mention, this was a friend I had just recently reunited with after several years, only days earlier. My friend was shocked at the coincidence, not to mention thrilled that I had gotten the chance to meet her. After that evening, they were able to have a conversation about the possibility of her performing at his church’s function later this month.

Although I normally enjoy a quiet nap during the commute home, a good conversation is sometimes a welcome change, especially when it leads to a surprisingly valuable discussion. And even if it doesn’t, it can be nice to meet new people, or even to catch up with folks you know or have met before. Turns out, it really is a small world after all.


Photographer Goes on Snow Road Patrol

Mary Davidson

Mary Davidson

So the boss calls me up at 8 a.m. and asks “Where are my snow pictures, I need snow pictures?!”

I couldn’t resist taking my new all wheel drive Subaru out in the snow for the first time. The main roads have been kept clear for the most part. I stopped and talked with a couple of drivers of snow plow vehicles. They said they have been out since 10 p.m. Tuesday treating the roads.

I kept driving on Garrisonville Road in Stafford until I crossed over to Fauquier County. They do have more snow on the ground and on the roads than what was spotted in Stafford.

In my opinion, it’s not safe to drive on without all-wheel or four-wheel drive car.

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Snowfall impacts areas in Stafford County, rural and suburban. [Photo: Mary Davidson / Potomac Local News]


Slide show: Runners Fill Streets at Inaugural Frigid 5K

[Photo: Mary Davidson / Potomac Local News]

OCCOQUAN, Va. – On a cold February morning, the first Frigid 5K Run was held in Occoquan.

Area residents and runners filled the streets in the tiny village on Feb. 23 for the inaugural run to benefit the Optimist Club of the Occoquan, Woodbridge, and Neabsco  districts in Prince William County.

The race was promoted by the Neabsco Action Alliance and was billed as a way to bring community together.

“NAA wants to be part of anything that’s good for our community. You know I work with everyone,” stated NAA President Connie Moser in an email.

Occoquan Mayor Earnie Porta and a host of sponsors also helped to promote the event.

The results of the races are below:

Frigid February 5K 2013 Results



Miguel Sanchez-Ruano

Mike Enrico

William Burke


Elizabeth McGrath

Liesl Nopp

Kjersti Smedley

20 & Under

Kaitlyn Peltzer

Victoria Jaeger


Robert Currer

Jeremy Fleming


Heather Steele

Kristin Hanley


Patrick Day

Neil Hogie


Jim Halley

Jeff Currer

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[Photo: Mary Davidson / Potomac Local News]

Blurred Vision not Caused by Stroke, but a Very Bumpy Run

Mom on the Run


It’s morning. Early. Not quite 6 a.m. I’m out, walking my dogs in the dark. There’s a faint pink tracing of sunrise on the horizon, but the streetlights are on, and all the cars going by are in full headlight mode.

This morning, my dog Janie has chosen the swimming pool route. It’s her favorite walk, the path she selects most often. There must be something particularly attractive about this walk.

021113-freedom-mom-tagWe’ve left our neighborhood, followed the winding sidewalk, passed the pool, and have just crossed the major intersection. At this time of day the traffic isn’t heavy, but it is steady. We all wait while I watch the lights and the cars, Janie sitting at the very edge of the sidewalk, so eager to move on.

Today, a car has kindly stayed back, waiting for us. The driver leans forward and motions me and my two dogs across. “Let’s go, girls!” I call, and my dogs and I take a quick jog through the dark intersection. “Thank you!” I call, lifting a tethered hand in return greeting, as I run across the street. My two dogs are galloping before me, excited by the brief run, eager to continue our walk.

But when we get across … I stop, as I always do, to rein the dogs in and collect the leashes … and when I look up, oh! Oh my gosh! What’s going on?

My eyes – I can’t see! It’s not right, it’s … wrong, terribly wrong. I look left, right, up, down, trying to make sense of what I’m seeing. Or not seeing. My vision is blurry, and not blurry, it’s changing as I move my head, I can’t focus! It’s scary, and I’m getting upset, my heart and brain are racing, trying to figure out what’s happening. I force myself to calm down. I close my eyes, get a grip, try to reset.

But when I open my eyes, there’s no difference, I can’t see! I turn and face the light, maybe I’m having difficulties with depth perception, looking into the dark? But no, it’s the same there, too, in focus and out of focus, sliding and moving. Oh my gosh, am I having a stroke? Could it be? Something else? I realize I am holding my breath, trying to make everything stand still.

Calm down, Lianne, the rational part of my brain commands. Stop. Think. What did you do? What just happened? OK, we just crossed the street. We ran. But it was a really short jog. A little bumpy, with the dogs and leashes and my walking boots, and trying to wave, but nothing at all strenuous.

Oh! Bumpy! I have a desperate thought, and I reach up with my left hand, dragging an already confused dog closer to me. I reach up, check my glasses … good heavens. The left lens is gone. It must have fallen out, on our short bumpy run. I feel the other side: the right lens is there. They’re progressive, many different prescriptions in one lens, and … that explains it. My eyes. Oh, my gosh.

OK, my lens is missing. I breathe. A long exhale. I’m all right. I fumble on the end of my lanyard, where I have a tiny little flashlight (thank you, Walgreens!), usually used for picking up dog poop. I grip both leashes in my left hand – “Come here, girls,” – and squeeze the flashlight in my right. I scan it back and forth, back and forth across the black pathway. No lens.

I move toward the road, wait for a car to pass, step out, aim the flashlight … and there, on the street, my lens. I look up and around for cars, pull the dogs with me, bend over, pick up the lens, hold it up for inspection. In this pre-dawn darkness I can’t tell its condition.

But the lens is whole, anyway, and it’s in my hand, and after we get back onto the sidewalk I slide it into my pocket and take my glasses off my face, hook them over the collar of my sweatshirt. The dogs pull, looking back at me, questioningly. Janie whines softly. They want to go. But I stand for a minute and breathe. Just breathe.

I peer down the path, into the dark. Now I can’t see at all. But at least I can’t see consistently, right side and left side and up and down. Oh, my gosh. I let out a nervous little laugh. I didn’t have a stroke! Oh, my gosh. And we continue on our walk, a little wobbly, half-blind, but oh so relieved.

Roads are Last Century’s Answer, Telework is this Century’s Answer

Opinion: Al Alborn 

Contributing Editor

I’ve been thinking a lot about the commute north these days.

I was one of the many drivers that made that commute for years. Between 1988 and 2002, I dutifully woke up every morning with 105.9 tuned in on the radio, poured myself a cup of coffee from a pot set on a timer, watched TV traffic reports to see if I needed to take a different route, and then entered the darkness to drive through Clifton to get to Tysons Corner and other points around the beltway.

As the years passed, I had to adjust my alarm clock to get up a bit earlier to beat the crowd. I remember the dread of being stuck for hours with no way out while a traffic accident was cleared. I also remember two near-death experiences where my life flashed before my life (literally) as I thought I wouldn’t make it to work (the first accident) on I-95 or home (the second accident) on I-66.

Now that I spend more time simply thinking, I question why so many people who don’t really need to commute, well, commute. I suggest that while we have the policy and commonwealth incentives in place to allow people to work at home, at a telework center, at Starbucks or wherever while encouraging companies to let them do so, we lack the strategy to translate this policy into a meaningful reduction of people competing for ever scarcer transportation resources (road, rail, bus, slug lines, van pools, etc.)

One of my favorite books is the classic Only the Paranoid Survive by Andy Grove. It’s a “cult classic” among management consultants and on my shelf of ready references when advising business and Government on how to manage change. In Grove’s book, he discusses inflection points and the importance of recognize when any enterprise faces one.


Every now and then, any enterprise needs to reassess the world within which it operates and question exactly what its business mission is. It has to look out for inflection points, those changes to the fundamentals in the world within which an enterprise operates. Enterprises that recognize those inflection points increase their chances of thriving in “what’s next”. Those who miss inflection points are usually doomed to failure.

Recognizing an inflection point when I see one allowed me to stop commuting in 2002. Pointing them out as public policy considerations is now an amusement.

So, what’s the question?

The traditional question was, “how do we move people around efficiently to get them too and from work?” In the industrial age where people reported to typewriters, factories, or shops this was a pretty good question.

We’re not in the industrial age any more.

Transportation planning and technology need to converge so building roads to move people around and reducing competition for those roads become part of one solution set. Conceptually, these alternatives are variables in the same model.

I suggest that the question has changed to, “how do we move information around more efficiently to get it to the people who need it?”

Roads are last century’s answer. Telework is this century’s answer.

For a large percentage of our population, those folks who do something with information, there is really no reason to actually drive somewhere to add value to that information. With today’s technology, you may do your job anywhere.

Government “gets” this. At the federal level, the Telework Enhancement act of 2010 mandated that every federal agency implement a telework strategy and make it available to eligible employees. In Virginia, tax credits are in place to encourage businesses to allow employees to telework.

Commuters have figured out that they waste two hours of their day, ten hours of their week, around 500 hours a year risking their lives and sanity commuting to work. I am one of many who survived two near-death experiences while commuting. Every life you take off the road for even a day is a life that’s a bit safer.

People who do business with the Federal Government recognize the increased facility costs of housing people who perform contracts, lost time driving around Northern Virginia to attend meetings, and opportunity cost driving somewhere instead of developing new business.

Our transportation planners, whether they by PWC, NVTA, COG , Virginia’s Secretary of Transportation, local overnments, or whatever consider technology, changes in the nature of work and the simple fact that strategies to take people off our already stressed transportation infrastructure be part of the solution.

Government and quasi-government bodies at all levels assess Northern Virginia’s infrastructure to ensure we have the necessary broadband, technology, services, and policy in place to let people work at home or at a local telework center (particularly important for classified work) and integrate the results into its transportation strategy. We also need to continue developing the right federal, state and local policies to encourage and support both businesses and individuals who wish to work anywhere but a centralized office somewhere.

The right question for transportation planners is, “how do we move information around more efficiently to get it to the people who need it?” Perhaps we need a new group of “Information Planners” to develop strategies for moving information around. In any case, models developed to predict traffic flows and transportation requirements are incomplete if they don’t consider the impact of applying technology to reduce the load on the system.

Letting people work at home under existing policy with available technology is a pretty simple idea. Sometimes, the simple solutions are the best answer to the question. In this case, my question is, “why not?”

Let’s not miss this rather obvious inflection point. The stakes are just too high and the rewards too great. I’m not sure we can afford to do otherwise.

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