Girls from Around the Region Gather for 5K Run at Bull Run Park

For Potomac Local News 

Saturday dawned gray and misty, but that did not deter over 10,000 girls and their families from participating in the bi-annual Girls on The Run 5K at Bull Run Park in Centreville. Families listened to DJ Alvin play tunes while getting green and pink hair color from the Hair Cuttery or face tattoos from smiling volunteers.

Five counties in Northern Virginia were represented at the Girls on the Run Race and girls from Weems Elementary School in Manassas cheered loudly as they saw each other gathering for race day.

“The best part of the race is running with my daddy,” said Samatha Faulk, a 4th Grader at Weems. Rod Faulk smiled proudly as his daughter prepared to run the race.

DJ Alvin paused the music to thank the many buddy runners, volunteers, sponsors and parents who make the event special each season and then without further ado, thousands of people crossed the starting line.

“I love Girls on the Run,” said Jeslyn Andino a 4th Grader at Weems Elementary. “We learn how to eat and run well!”

In a Rush, Even After Work Events Require Commuter Planning

Slug Tales 


A long commute can pose quite a challenge when it comes to having a social life.

Not that it’s altogether impossible to balance social activities, but as a commuter, it requires a bit of extra planning.

Some days I really miss having the option of getting in my car, driving to work, parking right in front of my office without any extra cost, coming and going as I please… life was much simpler back then.


Now, leaving early when I have any sort of an appointment means having to carefully plan where I will park and how I will get back to my car at the local commuter lot. Missing the bus I need to catch or the Metro train I need to get to the bus stop can completely throw everything off.

Working late or attending any sort of event after hours is even more complicated. Since I almost always slug to my office, driving home whenever I’m ready just isn’t an option. Leaving D.C. after 6 p.m. when the restrictions are lifted in the HOV lanes means that I’m not able to slug back home. Unless I’ve planned in advance to park at the nearest Metro station in Springfield, my only option would be to take the bus home. And while reliable, the later it gets, the less frequently the buses run – the last PRTC OmniRide bus leaves the Pentagon at 8 p.m.

As a last resort, there is a Metro Direct bus that travels between the Horner and Telegraph Road Commuter lots and the Franconia-Springfield Metro Station until around 11 p.m. That was the bus I’d planned to take back to my car one night a couple of weeks ago, when I had to stay after hours for a special event. I told my boss I’d have to leave no later than 9 p.m., figuring that would be more than enough time to catch the 10:40 p.m. bus.

I hurried along from the event back to the nearest Metro station, figuring it was better to arrive early and have to wait than to risk missing a transfer on the way. Then I realized I still needed to stop by my office again – shoot! That might put me a bit behind schedule, so I’d have to be quick.

Getting off of the Metro by my office, I ran up through the doors that remain open after hours, and into an elevator. I grabbed my things from my office, and rushed back down to the Metro, checking my iPhone for the next train’s arrival time. Realizing I had only a couple of minutes, I bolted down the escalator, only to catch the doors closing and the training chugging away.

I was sweating. I was tired. My bags were heavy… and the next train wouldn’t arrive for another 20 minutes. What now?! I quickly checked the Metro website to see what time the next train would arrive in Springfield, in order to catch the very last Metro Direct bus.

10:43 p.m. Three minutes after the bus was scheduled to depart.

Calling my fiancé in a panic, he told me not to worry. He was at work, but after a quick phone call, he had arranged a ride to pick me up from Springfield. Whew!

Last weekend, I attended a fundraiser in Georgetown that my colleague had helped organize, and met a few people who suggested I join them for a wing night or happy hour sometime. Of course, they live in or close to D.C., so when I explained that I’d have to plan for it, they didn’t seem to understand.

“Can’t you just take a cab home?” they asked. “How far do you live?”

When I told them how much a cab ride would cost from D.C. to Woodbridge, they couldn’t believe it.

“You need to move closer,” they informed me.

I sighed. Sometimes I think it would be nice to live closer to my job, where meeting up with friends in D.C. after work wasn’t such a hassle, but we made that sacrifice to have a little more space in an area that we could afford. It may not always be the most convenient commute, but I’m happy with what we’ve got.

So when things pop up after work, whether it’s a late night at the office or a going away party for a coworker, I just have to plan accordingly!

Bobby Flay’s Burgers & Fries Shake Up Woodbridge

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Chef Bobby Flay hands out one of his signature burgers from his kitchen. [Mary Davidson / Potomac Local News]


WOODBRIDGE, Va. — A long line circled the Potomac Mills parking lot Tuesday, waiting in anticipation for the opening of Bobby Flay’s 15th Bobby’s Burger Palace in Woodbridge.

The casual dining restaurant, which seats 70, is an expression of Flay’s childhood love for burgers, and his take on American classics.

“It’s been a long journey and I’ve spent a lot of time at my high-end restaurants, but I’ve always been a burger guy. Cheeseburgers are just my go-to food craving, so I always thought it would be cool to open my own burger place. I can still taste what it tastes like and I feel in some ways it shaped my technique for the burger after that,” Flay said.

Before opening the first of the chain in 2008, Flay thought long and hard about how his burgers and cuisine at Bobby’s Burger Palace would stand out from the crowd.

“There’s a lot of places that serve good burgers in this country and so I was trying to figure out how I was going to separate myself from the rest of the pack. And I think the thing that I decided was that I was going to be true to who I am,” Flay said.

The inspiration to create a menu of burgers inspired by all American ingredients came from his experiences on his Food Network show, Food Nation, where he had the opportunity to travel the country and experience the regionally unique flavors and ingredients.

“When I look at a map of America, I look at it differently. When most people look at a map they see states, towns and cities. But when I look, I see ingredients from all the different places,” said Flay.

According to Flay, there are three crucial components in the burger game; the burger, the fries and the milkshakes.

“I think of the burger as the quintessential sandwich,” said Flay.

The burgers served at BBP are certified Angus beef, and all are made on a flat iron griddle versus a grill in order to preserve the flavor, according to Flay.

And while he refuses to skimp on quality for his burgers, Flay stressed his restaurant’s affordability.

“When I started opening these restaurants, and still today, I hear people say, ‘Oh Bobby Flay has a burger place – the burgers must be $20 dollars,’ but that’s not what I’m trying to do here. I’m trying to cook a burger that everyone wants to eat,” Flay said.

A definitely unique feature of Flay’s burgers is the option to “crunchify” a burger, which means to add a thin layer of potato chips to the burger, at no additional charge.

“Whenever I’d eat a burger there’d be French fries or potato chips on the plate, next to my burger, and the cheese would melt down onto the potato chips on the side I would eat those first,” Flay said.

While Flay had control in creating the menu, as a true foodie he has a hard time settling on his favorite burger.

“It depends on the day. The other day I had a Bobby Bleu Burger. That was my favorite two days ago – today, it might be something different. I always get my burgers crunchified,” he said.

 The restaurant does offer turkey burgers and chicken in place of a burger patty, and Flay defended the lack of a veggie burger on his menu.

“Vegetarians are very unhappy with me, because they want me to have a veggie burger but I’ve yet to find a veggie burger that I’ve thought was great. I’ve had some that were okay, but I just have not been able to find something that meets the standards of everything else on the menu,” said Flay, who suggested having one of their salads or grilled cheese instead.

The other two components are the fries and milkshakes. The fries, which are offered as original or sweet potato, are hand cut on the premises and made from scratch using a two-day labor-intensive process. And if you’re in the mood to dip your fries or douse your burger in sauce, then consider their three signature sauces; a chipotle ketchup, jalapeno hot sauce or burger sauce.

After a year of happy sampling, Flay perfected his milkshake recipes, which come with a whopping 11 oz in each glass.

“They’re the right thickness and have a tremendous amount of flavor. The calorie count’s about 20 – but I was the one that was counting,” chuckled Flay.

Flay’s “Palace” offers 10 different milkshake flavors, as well as malted milk powder as an add-on. One of the milkshakes that has garnered the most attention from customers has been the pistachio shake.

“I’ll let you in on a secret – the pistachio shake is a cult favorite. If you like pistachio at all, I urge you to taste it,” Flay said. If you’re trying to lay off the sweets, then consider their signature margarita, which is also served at Flay’s Mesa Grill.

No matter what you order, Flay wants to make sure that your experience is as great as the food.

“I want them to really have a good time. I think the thing that I love about this place is that we’re always having a good time. I want this to be the go-to place that they come for their burger craving and that’s a hard thing to do because people often have a place in their minds when they think of their favorite burger,” Flay said.

Antietam Elementary Hosting First Mustang Stampede

LAKE RIDGE, Va. — The Antietam Elementary PTA is hosting the first annual Mustang Stampede Friday May 31, 2013.

The health fair will be held from 5 – 8 p.m. Come out and visit with participating vendors. Food will be sold during the event.

The Stampede (1 mile fun run) will begin at 6:15 p.m. by the school flag pole. The PTA has offered a running club to its students for the past three years to encourage the love of running and promote a healthy lifestyle.

This year it was decided to end the club with the health fair and stampede. Other elementary schools in Prince William County were invited to participate.

All proceeds from the event will go to fund activities, events and equipment to enrich the educational environment of our students.

Novant Health Top Fundraiser in Prince William County March for Babies

More than 250 walkers made up the Novant Health team.

Submitted News 

On Sunday, April 28, Novant Health participated in the 75th anniversary of the March for Babies. The team of more than 250 walkers raised more than $22,000 for the March of Dimes, making Novant Health the top fundraising organization in Prince William County.

Walkers included staff, physicians, volunteers, family members and residents of Novant Health Caton Merchant House assisted living facility, who participated in their own walk on the grounds of the Old Town Manassas facility on Friday, April 26.

The team hosted a ‘spirit station’ along the four-mile route, offering walkers healthy snacks and water as well as festive beads to celebrate the occasion.

Senior Director of Clinical Operations and Integration at Novant Health, Heather Huneycutt, RN, was chair of the event.

Sentara Offers Xoft System for Breast Cancer Patients

Submitted Health News

Sentara Northern Virginia Medical Center today announced that the Xoft® Axxent® Electronic Brachytherapy System® is now available to treat patients with early stage breast cancer. Dr. Negar Golesorkhi and Dr. David Weintritt, breast surgeons at the National Breast Center, and Dr. Susan Boylan, Radiation Oncologist, Radiation Oncology Associates, treated the first patient at Sentara Northern Virginia Medical Center on May 16, 2013.

The Xoft system, when utilized for Intraoperative Radiation Therapy (IORT), delivers a single, prescribed, targeted dose of isotope-free radiation directly to the tumor cavity during surgery, thereby minimizing radiation to healthy tissue and organs and eliminating the need for a shielded treatment environment. Typical radiation therapy methods for breast cancer include whole breast radiation, which involves daily treatments for five to seven weeks, and partial breast irradiation where 10 treatments are delivered over a period of five days.

“At Sentara Northern Virginia Medical Center we are committed to providing the most advanced treatment options, like the Xoft system, in order to provide the best possible care to our patients,” said Megan Perry, President of Sentara Northern Medical Center. “The Xoft system will first be offered to patients with early stage breast cancer who are eligible for IORT and will later be used for the treatment of endometrial and skin cancers.”

“Eligible patients with early stage breast cancer will benefit from the custom approach of the Xoft system that allows a full course of radiation treatment to be delivered in just one dose during the lumpectomy procedure,” said David Weintritt, MD, FACS. “The availability of the Xoft system is an advancement in the era of personalized medicine, and a demonstration of our commitment to providing a patient-centered approach to treating breast cancer.”

“Our team is very excited to add electronic brachytherapy to our slate of life-saving treatment methods. The ability to utilize isotope-free, electronic treatment that effectively targets the cancer site while minimizing radiation exposure to healthy tissues is something we are proud to make available to our patients.” said Dr. Negar Golesorkhi, MD.

Sentara Northern Virginia Medical Center will also participate in a post-market clinical study of the Xoft system for IORT. The study, “A Safety and Efficacy Study of Intra-Operative Radiation Therapy (IORT) Using the Xoft Axxent eBx System at the Time of Breast Conservation Surgery for Early-Stage Breast Cancer,” is a prospective, multi-center, historical control trial. Researchers plan to enroll up to 1,000 patients at as many as 50 study sites across the U.S. and Europe. This post-market study aims to demonstrate the long-term efficacy of IORT with Xoft compared to external beam irradiation and assess cosmetic outcomes and quality of life. “We are pleased to be able to offer this innovative technology to patients who meet the clinical criteria for this breast cancer treatment; we are certain that it will make patient treatment and recovery less distressing during what can be an anxious time,” according to Dr. Susan Boylan, MD.

The Sentara Northern Virginia Auxiliary has made a $250,000 pledge to support the Xoft system at Sentara Northern Virginia Medical Center.

“We are very excited to support such an important project,” says Joyce Pieritz, President of the Auxiliary. “Our members are dedicated to supporting new technologies and services because we know that our entire community will benefit.”

Terminally Ill Boy from Lynchburg Gets Magical New York City Trip

Whirlwind isn’t the word for the weekend that police from Bergen County – particularly a Westwood patrolman and county sheriff’s officer — showed Nathan Norman, a 6-year-old cancer survivor from Virginia who won the world’s hearts with a simple Christmas wish.

Try: hanging at the Yankee Stadium batting cage with Mariano Rivera and Robinson Cano, crossing the goal line at MetLife Stadium, taking a harbor boat cruise to the Statue of Liberty and riding an NYPD mount – in full police gear, including the visored helmet.

And that’s just for starters.

The seeds for Nathan’s Big Apple visit were planted last December, when the terminally ill youngster told his parents that his one Christmas wish was to receive holiday cards from New York’s first responders.


Cicada Season Nearing Peak

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[Photo: Mary Davidson / Potomac Local News]

If you haven’t yet heard them or seen them, there is no doubt – the cicadas are here.

This particular brood of cicada comes around every 17 years, and this year they can be found in Virginia counties from Prince William to Pittsylvania on the North Carolina border. Some other broods can pop up every 13 years.

These large, beady-eyed bugs don’t sting, but their mass emergence from the ground can overwhelm their predators – mostly birds, the Virginia Cooperative Extension states. The bugs start appearing in May with their numbers peaking in June. By July they’re mostly gone, the Cooperative Extension states.

Creepy, the bugs live below ground for years, and when it’s time to appear, they work together and use mud to build a “cicada hut” in which to emerge from. Once out, the bugs shed their skins – often seen left behind on tree trunks or limbs – and live for about four weeks.

The bugs aren’t known to cause much damage as they feed, and the male cicadas actually sing by “vibrating membranes on the sides of the first abdominal segment,” according to the Cooperative Extension. Females don’t sing, and after mating they lay their eggs – up to 400 per bug – inside of tree branches.

When the new bugs, called nymphs, hatch 10 weeks later, they fall to the ground where they burrow to feed.

Tell us where you’ve seen cicadas in our area, and share your photos on our Facebook page

Dumfries Serves as Bike to Work Day Pit Stop

DUMFRIES, Va. -- Brian Gudmundson rode his bike to work on Friday from his home in Frederickburg to his office in Quantico. [Uriah Kiser / Potomac Local News]

DUMFRIES, Va. — Brian Gudmundson rode his bike to work on Friday from his home in Frederickburg to his office in Quantico. [Uriah Kiser / Potomac Local News]

DUMFRIES, Va. — Brian Gudmundson rode his bike to work on Friday.

It was Bike to Work Day in the Washington area, and he rode his all the way from Frederickburg to his office at Quantico. Along the way, he rode into a rest stop at the Dumfries Community Center next to Town Hall where water, snacks, and goodies like free “Bike to Work” t-shirts and water bottles were waiting for him.

It took Gudmundson about an hour and a half to reach Dumfries before heading to the office. He took U.S. 1, which is built for cars, not bikes.

“It was a good ride, but contending with all of the other cars along the road can be a little unnerving,” said Gudmundson.

A total of six people came to the Bike to Work Day pit stop in Dumfries where they were welcomed by Councilman Charles Brewer and Dumfries Business Association President Daniel Cosner. Cosner had his bicycle chained up to a fence post Friday while Gudmundson visited, while Brewer pointed his preferred mode of transportation – his pickup parked nearby.

The pit stop in Dumfries was organized by Community Services Coordinator Cydny Neville.

There were seven Bike to Work Day pit stops in Prince William County (including the stop in Dumfries) and one in Manassas, in Old Town’s Virginia Railway Express station. More than 10,000 commuters were expected to take part in the special annual event.


Restaurants Give 750 Food Samples at Taste of Lake Ridge

LAKE RIDGE, Va. — The community came together in Lake Ridge to make this year’s Taste of Lake Ridge a successful event.

Held last week at the Tall Oaks Community Center at the intersection of Hedges Run and Cotton Mill drives, the afternoon festival welcomed residents who were able to sample foods from 10 area restaurants.

Tim’s Rivershore

Pizza Bolis

Hard Times Café

Oscar’s BBQ

Confections Cupcakes

Rita’s Ice

Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory

The All American Steakhouse

Jo on the Go

Glory Days Grill

“An estimated 750 plus samples were distributed from each restaurant. Wegman’s provided sodas and water to wash down the fabulous food. Everyone that came out had nothing but great things to say about the event and how good the food tasted,” said organizer Victoria Blevins with Lake Ridge Parks and Recreation Association.

There will be another Taste of Lake Ridge event next year at the Tall Oaks center on May 15. Restaurants that would like to participate should contact the Lake Ridge Association via email:

Flay to Open ‘Bobby’s Burger Palace’ on Tuesday


WOODBRIDGE, Va. — Food Network TV star Bobby Flay will be in Woodbridge on Tuesday to open his latest eatery, Bobby’s Burger Palace, at Potomac Mills mall.

Handlers said Flay will be on hand at noon to greet customers and “flip burgers.”

This will be the 15th Bobbys Burger Palace that has opened in the U.S. The restaurant offers 10 signature burgers, from the Philadelphia Burger, the Buffalo Burger, the Dallas Burger, and the Santa Fe Burger, with, yes, you guessed it, jalapeno peppers.

Inspired by the recipes and food that he’s tried all across the United States, Bobby brings a menu of burgers and other lunch and dinner staples that are meant to serve as an upgrade to a normal meal out, while maintaining the casual setting and vibe, according to a press release.

Owner Builds TelNet after Key Decision to Never Serve Another Boss

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Mike Howard, President of TelNet. [Photo: Mary Davidson / Potomac Local News]

Sponsor Profile: Mike Howard of TelNet



Growing up in a military family with his father in the Air Force, Howard, also known as “Mike the Phone Guy,” had decided on the career path of architecture, a far cry from his telecommunications role today.

“When I was in high school, I was studying to become an architect. My goal was to become an architect. And I went, because as every 17-year-old, we always know best, and after going I knew that’s not what I wanted to do,” Howard said.

Realizing that a life of blueprints and building design were not for him, Howard veered to a pursuit close to his family roots, joining the Air Force at 17, where he had his first exposure to telecommunications.

“The second day after joining, I realized I made a big mistake. I realized it was going to be a long four years,” Howard said.

After spending four years in the Air Force before being honorably discharged, Howard moved to Florida where his parents had entered retirement. Spending a little over a year working and going back to school, Howard was offered a position at the National Security Agency in Maryland, bringing him back up to the Washington area. Working for the NSA for eight years proved to be a positive experience for Howard, but he decided he wanted to give it a shot at working for a mom and pop telecommunications business.

Signing on to work at a small telecommunications firm in Maryland, where he established his technical background, Howard worked hard to transform the company and to help it grow.

“I helped the owner build his company from me being employee number 4 to 42 employees. We were the third largest dealer for telecommunications product at the time,” Howard commented.

“During the latter part of my five- years with that company, I had the urge to do sales. I liked the technical process, but there was something about the sales process; the meeting with customers, solving problems and all of that,” Howard said, which led to his first sales job at Lucent in 1996. “I had a pretty high quota to hit, but I was there for four years and did very well,” Howard said.

Gaining his sales experience, Howard felt it was time to take the reins, and approached his former employer, who agreed to open another office in Virginia that Howard could run, which was located in Fairfax.

“In the first year, we did close to a million dollars in business. I was able to bring in 10 employees,” Howard said of his initial success in the firm’s new office.

Running into some snags with the new branch, Howard moved to Falcon Communications in Manassas where he served as VP of Sales, until he was laid off in the Internet bust of the last decade – a moment that changed the course of his life forever.

“I went into work with my son, who was 3-years-old, and I was let go that Saturday. That weekend, I told my wife I was never going to work for another person – I was going to do this my way. I was going to serve customers, I was going to help them in the best way I can and provide what I believe is the best service I can offer,” Howard said. This was a scary time for their family, as his wife was also unemployed and they had just given birth to their second child.

“That weekend I came up with our logo, and the name – real simple – TelNet, an abbreviation for telephone and network, and come Monday morning I got a business license and I started officially moving forward,” Howard said.

“We grew quickly. The first year we did about $100,000, we scraped by – it was terrible, but we made it through that – and then we went to $400,000 and $800,000 and $1.2 million,” Howard said, going on to say that the 2008 crash put the company in a place of hardship and loss, but Howard helped redirect the company to survive the crash and come out on top.

“Today we are in a growth mode – I’ve been blessed to have great employees and better than that even, I have great customers,” Howard said of his thousands of customer’s he’s served in the company’s 12 years.

Howard’s focus for his telecommunications company, TelNet, has always been to know their customer and differentiate themselves from the competition.

“We are a technology company for businesses. We provide telecommunications products – hardware and software for a business,” said Howard.

“What’s different about our company versus some of our competitors is that we don’t just represent a product or a specific manufacturer. Coming from the service end of the business, so often I’d witness how people would buy things because they were sold. We have multiple manufacturers that we represent so we can truly approach our customers and educate them on all of the options that there are,” Howard said.

And TelNet has done this, not only working to win the Northern Virginia state cabling contract for seven years, but also winning the Inc. 5000 Award.

While his path has been long and in many places, very difficult, Howard reflects positively on the choices he’s made and all that he’s accomplished in his career and with TelNet. “I am truly grateful for all of the opportunities I’ve been given,” Howard stated.

Mom Runs Through Mud, Barbed Wire, Over Walls & Hits Deep Water in one Day

Mom on the Run


I am standing almost at the top of the man-made hill, and I am shivering. I’m already soaked through, and the chilly wind is blowing.

At least I’m among friends. Brand-new friends. And my husband, who has been such a good sport about this all along, from the day I had the idea, to yesterday when I had second thoughts, to every step of the way – literally – today. “Just put one foot in front of the other,” he keeps saying.


We are at the Warrior Dash, a mud run obstacle course. It’s a 5k run – already a challenge for me, I can wear out an elliptical machine but I do not run – broken up by 12 obstacles. “It’s going to be so much fun!” enthused my friend Carrie back in January. It did sound like fun, right? In May, lovely warm May. Climbing up things, running through mud. And, “Oh, you can do a 5k,” Carrie had pooh-poohed. “It’ll be easy.”

Plus it was a fundraiser! For St. Jude Children’s Hospital. Absolutely, I was in. I talked my sisters into it, and my husband and my son, and my sister talked her husband into it, and yay! A big group event! How exciting!

First my son backed out. He had to work. Then my brother-in-law canceled; his hip hurts. My youngest sister decided that crawling over obstacles and getting muddy didn’t sound like so much fun after all. And my other sister, well, her husband was already out, and they were having guests that night.

052013-warrior-hatSo on the evening before the Dash, my husband and I debated. It was far away. The weathermen were calling for storms. It was chilly. The waiver read, “I expressly acknowledge and agree that the activities of the Event involve the risk of serious injury and/or death.” In the end, this close to canceling, my husband convinced me to decide in the morning. And in the morning, I realized that I did not want to admit to having backed out. So we packed towels and a change of clothes, dug up our crummiest sneakers, plugged the site into the GPS, and off we went.

As we hiked from the parking lot to the race start, we passed waves of people who had already finished. Some were slathered in chunky yellow mud. Some were just dirty. And all were happy, laughing, joking around. Look, it’s fun!, I jabbed my skeptical husband with my elbow. We stood in line for the restrooms. We registered, and pinned numbered racer bibs to our shirts. We wondered about the people who had duct-taped their shoes onto their feet, wrapping the tape around their ankles. And we followed the arrows and made it to the chute just as a group started. Everyone took off running, and before I could dread or worry about it, I was running too.

We ran and ran and ran through the woods. Over tree limbs, around fallen logs, up and down steep hills. The first hint of things to come was a bottleneck at a small stream, as people tried to jump over or move to the far left where we could almost, just barely step over the water. In low-lying areas there were corners where hundreds of runners before us had pounded the ground into a thick black muck. It didn’t take long before – wham! – I hit the ground. “Oof!”, I tried to get up, quickly, aware of people thundering around me. My husband turned back, “Are you OK?” “Yes!” I was up and at ‘em again.

And there! Around a corner, the first obstacle! “Keep your butt down,” my husband cautioned, as we threw ourselves onto all fours and crawled under rows of barbed wire – little red flags dancing in the wind, announcing: “REAL barbed wire!” We scrambled through the other side, and ha! No problem! I can do this! I grinned at my husband and, having had a little rest, took off running again. Woohoo!

Sadly, the barbed wire crawl turned out to be the easiest obstacle. After that, 20-foot walls with rope lattices to climb up … and a straight drop down. Walking the plank, 2×4 boards with little toe-holds, high in the air, with – gasp! such a shock – a cold shower at the peak, before slowly, carefully making our way back down. A huge tilted wooden wall, with ropes and infrequent foot- and hand-holds to aid the climb. But I did them! I didn’t think about it, I just plunged in, putting one foot in front of the other.

And it’s been fun. I’m cold, yes, soaked from that walk-the-plank shower, but I’m doing this! I’m almost 47, and I’m here hanging even with 20-somethings. Yes! I’m feeling confident, victorious, strong.

Until I get to the top of this hill. It’s a homemade water slide, with a big muddy pool at the bottom. I’m waiting my turn with my husband, and a Mohawked, shirtless guy painted green like the Incredible Hulk, and his girlfriend in a Spider-Man tank top, and two women in tie-dyed shirts. The Hulk is laughing and joking with his buddies, all casual and confident. Like me, the tie-dyed shirt women are looking around and down nervously. The slide part is no big deal, but that water at the end … we’re watching other people hit it hard, very hard.

“It’s really deep,” I comment. Everyone nods. “I think I’m going to go feet-first,” says one tie-dye lady. “Maybe we can go together,” the other suggests, “Look at them,” nodding at a pair who link arms and go down side-by-side. But, “Oooh, maybe not,” as the girl on the left slides backwards, behind her friend, and the girl in the front bends over from her friend’s weight, and they go into the water fast and angled and all jumbled up, arms and legs flying. No matter how they start off, I notice, every single slider ends up completely submerged.

“I don’t want to get all wet again,” I mutter to my husband. “I just got a little dried out from the plank shower!” Arms crossed, he grins down at me, enjoying the spectacle.

But then, before I’m ready, it’s my turn. I’m at the front, and like this whole day, I don’t think, I don’t plan, I don’t prepare, I just sit down, scooch forward, and fly away.

Keeping Abreast of Local Government Issues Easier Than Before


Contributing Editor

I have one simple rule in life that has worked to great effectiveness: You only get what you ask for. This doesn’t mean that you always get what you ask for.

That being said, you never get that for which you don’t ask.

Government at all levels is driven by those people who ask for things. Not many people ask for things; therefore, government decisions are driven by the few who ask.

If you want to understand the decisions government makes, just look at the folks who are asking for things. Because not many people have time to actually participate in the process (that “earning a living” or “taking care of a family” thing) most of us are not really aware of who is asking for what.

When the trucks show up to turn that lovely road in front of your house into a four lane divided highway, the house on the corner suddenly is replaced by a 7-Eleven, or that woods behind your house suddenly becomes a warehouse, it many come as a surprise to many who weren’t paying attention.

The first category of folks asking for things are those who profit from the decisions made by government. There are entire business practices devoted to asking for things. The business of packaging proposals for the government’s consideration, preparing publicity and the story for the public, and navigating the administrative procedures to get something approved is big business. For them, business is good.

If you want to get a quick list of people who make a profit asking the government for things, just follow the money. In the case of State and local Government, just look up who is donating their money to politicians by using the Virginia Public Access Project website.

Only a fool would think that there is no relationship between the “big money” businesses donate to political candidates and the decisions they expect those political candidates to make on their behalf.

The second category is people who want to stop government projects in their tracks – those projects usually asked for by lobbyists. The halters are generally private citizens with jobs, families and obligations that take up most of their waking hours. In today’s economic climate, you can add worrying about keeping your job or finding another one to that list. Watching who is asking government for what really isn’t a priority to this second category.

Also, this category is generally at a disadvantage as they don’t make their living asking the government for things, are usually unfamiliar with the processes involved in approving something, and perhaps have never even attended or watched a government meeting in action because they are busy with that earning a living or doing that whole taking care of a family thing.

All they have to offer is their vote.

When the two categories are matched up it’s not a fair fight; however, surprisingly the private citizens win occasionally.

When it comes to elections, money increases the odds of winning. On the other hand, you can influence voters but you can’t actually buy votes. The trick is to measure that second category’s resolve to determine if it influences enough votes to create a tipping point regarding the public’s perception regarding any particular candidate.

The math is very imprecise.

Most residents live in a very fragile world blissfully unaware of the decisions that government is making for them because they are busy with their lives. It often takes something like the rumor of a country road upon which they live being paved over into a four-lane divided highway, an asphalt plant being built next door, or a parkway planned to go through their farm to get their attention.

Sometimes, they find out too late.

Social media has changed all that. Thanks to Facebook, Twitter, blogs, real-time on line news outlets, and email issues that were once the province of a few may now quickly go viral. What might have been two or three citizens speaking up can quickly become hundreds or thousands of angry residents asking for something.

They are often asking to stop something.

You do not have to accept a Government driven by a few folks who literally make their living and their fortunes profiting from the decisions it makes. While this column is really discussing Government at all levels, Prince William County is blessed with a number of blogs that offer a variety of points of view to give you different perspectives on compelling public issues.

Washington Post – Tom Jackman, the State of Nova. Even handed reporting on a variety of issues. It is every local politician’s fear that Jackman will pick up on something in a local blog and turn it into national news, as he has done several times in the past. covers the spectrum of political thought in Prince William County. PWCnews is particularly interesting because it presents interviews with local political personalities, community activists, and “movers and shakers”.

The Sheriff of Nottingham of Prince William County. Often “over the top” and very personal reporting on Price William County issues. That being said, the quality of its analysis continues to improve.

The Prince William Conservation Alliance. The Prince William Conservation Alliance is an environmental advocacy group; however, I have noticed that they make a lot of business arguments to influence public policy. Charlie Grimes is my favorite blogger on this website. I don’t always agree with Charlie, but he makes me think. Occasionally, he changes my mind.

Moonhowlings. An unapologetic left of center blog that usually does some really good reporting on a wide variety of issues. It “makes me think”.

Black Velvet Bruce Lee. If you want to know what the most Conservative elements of the Republican Party is thinking, this is where you go.

The Derecho. Often “over the top” bordering on “outrageous”; however, this blog’s apparent insider knowledge of how things work provides an interesting dimension to any issue it choses to investigate.

Virginia Virtucon. Solid conservative reporting with a point of view.

OurschoolsPWC. Critical review of what’s going on with the local school system. They get half of Prince William County’s annual revenue, so I’m interested in where it is going.

Prince William County Government. I go here to see what local government wants me to think.

PWC Education Reform Blog – A citizen driven blog operated by a group of parents striving to improve the quality of instruction our children receive in Prince William County Schools.

Most people tend to gravitate to news that reinforces their point of view. I like to follow blogs and news outlets with which I perhaps disagree to understand what the other side is saying. I hope you get out of your comfort zone, browse a few local blogs, go ahead and “slap your head” when one of them offends you (they do that because it generates reader interest), and add whatever they have to say to your thought processes.

I suggest you take all of them with a grain of salt, and do your own fact checking.

If you find something that you want to either confirm or gather more information on, do what I do. Contact your Prince William County Supervisor and ask him or her what’s going on. Send an email, schedule lunch or an office visit, or pick up the phone and call. Fun fact! Every request from a citizen is a legal Freedom of Information Act request, and must be answered. Which gets back to the purpose of this column — you get the government for which you ask, so ask!

I hope you add my column to your list, as I’ll be here every Sunday.

Auto Repair Shop Stays in Business by Educating Employees on Cost of Doing Business 

Let’s face it – going to an auto repair shop is a lot like going to the dentist.  You know you have to go once in a while, but there is always somewhere else you would rather be spending your time, and your money.

For auto repair shop owners, starting one can be difficult – many close within the first three to five years in business.  And, auto repair shops are one of the more regulated businesses in the U.S. today.

Sudley Car Care Center in Manassas is an exception to this rule.  The company, owned by Craig Ginther, and his wife Sandy, has been in operation for 23 years.  Today, the company has a roster of about 4,000 customers and has received several community awards for customer service and technical expertise.

Ginther recently offered to share about the success of his business, and what advice he would give to those starting out today.

Have a clear vision of the type of business you want to start.  This includes the culture, values, and target market.

Prior to starting Sudley Car Care, Ginther was employed at a local gas station, working his way up from mechanic to state inspector.  He then moved on to work at several dealerships in the area.  When Ginther decided to start his own business, he was determined to take the best practices from his previous employers and apply them to Sudley Car Care.  He also had a very clear vision of the type of company he wanted to own.

“Customer satisfaction was key,” said Ginther .  “I didn’t just want to do car repairs, I wanted to develop long term relationships and friendships with my customers.”

Because Ginther knew what type of culture he wanted for the business, he also knew what types of people he wanted to hire.

“I’ve always focused on hiring people who are very customer service oriented and have strong family values,” said Ginther.  “I want someone who strives for excellence and takes great pride in their work.”

Ginther also knew what types of automobiles he wanted to service.

“We have always focused on cars and light trucks only,” he said.  “We service about 50% domestic and 50% foreign manufactures.  However, on the foreign side we stick primarily to Asian manufacturers.”

This is because many of the high performance European manufacturers require specialized computer diagnostics and highly specialized training.  Having this type of focus kept Ginther from investing in expensive software and tools without a guarantee that he could get enough business from this niche market to make it profitable.  It also helped with sales and marketing – he knew exactly who to target with his marketing efforts.  This enabled him to get maximum value from his marketing dollars.

Have experience in the industry before you go out on your own, be realistic about the financial requirements, and never stop focusing on expenses.

Those years spent working at the auto garage and dealerships gave Ginther a priceless education on how to run his own business.  Most importantly, he didn’t just focus on what he needed to do for his own job.  He broadened his education to learn as much as possible about financing, marketing, business operations, cash flow, inventory management, and customer satisfaction.  As a result, when he launched his own business, he had realistic expectations of what he could expect in terms of growth, operational demands, and cash flow.

“What you often see in this industry is someone who is an excellent mechanic deciding to start his own auto repair shop,” said Ginther.  “While he has great mechanical skills, he has very little experience in business finance, operations, and marketing.  He also underestimates the amount of cash he will need to start and keep the business operating for the time it takes to become self-sustaining.”

Ginther and his wife, Sandy, funded Sudley Car Care with their personal savings and a home-equity loan.  While they considered several auto franchises, they ultimately decided to be an independent shop.  In the beginning, Ginther made the decision to lease both the building and the equipment he needed to start the business.  He started small and ran the business very conservatively, a practice he continues today despite his success.

“You have to keep an eye on every expense,” says Ginther.  “It is so much easier to control $1 of expense than it is to get a whole new car into the shop to repair.”

Teach your employees about the realities of profitability. 

As an employee, it is easy to make assumptions about the profitability of a business based on the size of a company’s inventory, the number of customers going in and out every day, and the value of the invoices that are processed daily.  Any business owner will tell you, the reality of that profit is a heck of a lot less.  Craig takes a pro-active approach to educating his employees on the realities of running a business.

“I take the new mechanics and show them a repair bill,” says Ginther. “Let’s say the bill shows we charged $400 for parts and $200 for labor.  Of the $600 total, I ask them to guess how much will be net profit.  I explain this is profit that will be reinvested into the business to buy better tools, more equipment, pay for employee training, etc.”

“Most of the time, they guess the amount to be about $250 in net profit.  This is when I start the exercise.  I show them where we deduct the cost of the equipment and their labor.  Then I deduct the appropriate percentage for taxes and insurance expenses.  Then I explain about fixed costs, like rent, utilities and lease payments.  So we deduct a percentage for that.  By the time we are finished, they realize the net profit is a lot closer to $25.  This is a real eye-opener for them.”

Ginther does this so his employees will be more actively engaged in expense control.

“After the exercise, they understand that every time they waste materials, or use a wrong part that cannot be returned, they are eating into that very narrow profit margin.  It makes them a lot more responsible,” commented Ginther.

Don’t expect all your employees to share your passion for the business.

One of the biggest lessons Ginther said he learned during the first few years of the business is that not every employee was going to have the same dedication to the business that Craig and Sandy had.

“I’d get frustrated with employees who did not seem to be as emotionally invested as I was in seeing the business succeed,” said Ginther.  “They didn’t seem to care that it was my house on the line, and my family’s security at risk if we failed.”

What Craig came to realize was that for many employees, their job was just that – a job.  They wanted to come into the shop, work hard, do a good job, and then go home to their family.  They were not ever going to be emotionally vested in Ginther’s vision.  And that was okay. As long as they remained dedicated to excellence, serviced the customer and honored the values of the business, it was enough.

Be just as clear on what you don’t want in the business as you are about what you do want.

About 13 years ago, Ginther opened a larger shop on Central Park Drive, several miles away from the original location on Sudley Road in Manassas. For about three years, he kept both locations running.  However, Craig realized that he didn’t want the additional burden of running two shops and driving back and forth between the two locations every day.  He also felt that by dividing his time between the two locations, he wasn’t able to attend to his customers in the way he wanted.

Many business owners are seduced by the idea of expanding, driven more by ego than solid business reasoning.  They jump into opening a new office or branch long before the business can support the expansion.  Ginther waited a decade before deciding to enlarge his operation.  His conservative approach toward corporate finances ensured that the expansion did not jeopardize the company’s cash flows or its ability to service the customer.

When Craig realized he did not like running both operations, he made the choice to close down the smaller, original shop.  His clear understanding of what his business stood for – servicing the customer – made the decision an easy one.

Don’t be afraid to say “no” to your customers.

You can’t run a successful business if you have unhappy employees.  The old adage, “the customer is always right” really needs to be tempered with, “but remember that some customers are just not worth keeping.”

When Sudley Car Care first opened its doors, they were open for half a day on Saturday.  However, most of Ginther ’s mechanics had families and on any given Saturday, kids needed to be taken to sporting events or practices of some sort.  The half-day of work made it difficult for the mechanics to meet these family demands.  Ginther decided to close the shop on weekends to allow his employees to enjoy the time with their friends and family.

“It upset quite a few customers at first,” said Ginther.  “But the type of work we did on weekends was mostly oil changes, and it didn’t seem fair to demand that our mechanics lose time with their families for work that could easily be done during the week.  We offer shuttle service for our customers that work locally, and I just had to hope that our customers would understand why I made this decision.”

The chance of tempers flying and customers yelling is higher in an auto repair shop than in other industries just by the nature of the business.  Ginther will be the first to tell you that most of the time the problem is not over costs, but some other type of misunderstanding.  While he counsels his employees not to take an angry customer personally, he also won’t tolerate a habitually abusive customer.

“About 99% of the time we are able to resolve the issue just by talking through the misunderstanding,” says Ginther.  “I have customers that may have been angry with us at one point or another, but have since become loyal clients and good friends.”

But on a few occasions, Craig has made the decision to “fire” a customer that he knows will never be happy, no matter how hard he and his mechanics try.

“In those few cases I have simply taken the person aside and had an honest talk about how it doesn’t look like we’re a good fit for his or her auto repair needs,” says Ginther.

Make sure you love what you are doing.

The longest vacation Craig has taken in 23 years is one week.  Despite this, he still gets up every morning eager to get to work.  He enjoys the camaraderie he has with his employees and the relationships he’s built with his many customers.

“People ask me if I have an exit strategy,” says Craig.  “I will most likely sell the business one day, but I still love what I’m doing so I’m in no hurry to stop.”

Breaking the Food Rut at the Farmer’s Market

Farmer’s Market Coordinator

Every couple of months, I’ll be eating my “old standby” meal when I realize mid-bite: I am in a food rut. It happened most recently over a bowl of oatmeal. Oats had become my staple in my morning. And I made them the exact same way every single time. The predictability of my morning meal was starting to grate on my nerves so greatly that I decided to take a break from the mundane oatsy mush I found myself forcing down.

I can’t possibly be the only person this happens to. There must be others that find something so enjoyable that it is overdone to the point of sickness. It’s sort of like when you hear that new Justin Timberlake song and you think, “I like this song! I should listen to it as many times as I want because I can’t imagine not enjoying it after the 34,554,546,890th time.”

This thinking is wrong because two months later you find yourself scoffing while changing the station when that song comes on the radio. Since I am on the cutting edge of “food rut” research (I did invent this terminology, after all), I have brainstormed a few suggested therapies for coping with the issue:

-Forage for a new recipe to try. Adding some flair to your meals will help you to re-appreciate a mundane meal. For example, I started eating oats again, I added blackberries and it made all the difference. Try and be realistic, though, find a recipe that is doable while still takes you a bit out of your comfort zone.

-Buy a new piece of produce as inspiration. It wasn’t until a few years ago when I became a lover of all things farm and vegetable that I discovered that there are delicious items sprouting from this earth that I have never tried—beets; kohlrabi (yea, I bet you’ve never heard of that one. Go Google it); patt pan squash. When you buy this new and astonishing vegetable, don’t be shy! Ask the farmer that you are buying it from for suggestions on how to prepare it. They are experts and more than happy to help.

Variety is the spice of life. Your body can certainly benefit from trying something new, your family may appreciate a different dish and your palette will enjoy a new host of flavors. There are so many foods that have yet to be explored, so I challenge you to connect with nature, and nutrition, by purchasing a novel item at the Farmer’s Market. Even if you don’t end up becoming a huge fan of beets, at least you’ll have given it a try and have an informed opinion of the root vegetable.

I recently stumbled upon this quote and I find that has a lot of truth in it:

“Cooking is like love; it should be entered into with abandon or not at all.” –Harriet Van Horne

I challenge you to pull yourself out of your food rut, be brave and try something new– and Virginia Grown!

New Prince William Logo Draws Ire from Traditionalist Jenkins

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Prince William County will use this new logo to help promote economic development and tourism. [Photo: Uriah Kiser / Potomac Local News]




PRINCE WILLIAM COUNTY, Va. — Virginia is for Lovers, so what’s Prince William’s marketing tagline?

It’s actually a new logo complete with two blue boxes and the words Prince William County, Virginia, in all capital letters. The new design, which cost $750 to come up with, is popping up on street signs, office letterhead, trade magazines, and on county computers. It’s much different from the recognizable County Seal that includes tobacco leaves, a weight and measure, and the hand of some random person.

The seal of Prince William County, Va.

The Seal of Prince William County, Va.

The new logo comes after a taskforce seeking to rebrand the county formed in 2010. Officials thought a new look would attract new interest, business, and tourism to Prince William County.

At a recent meeting of county officials, Neabsco District Supervisor John Jenkins said he doesn’t understand the message.

“This new logo, it’s an empty box, it has no message. People who look at it from outside the county, from Fairfax County, from Loudoun County, really don’t understand what it’s all about,” said Jenkins in an interview with Potomac Local News.


Commonwealth of Virginia Seal

Jenkins, who has become the unofficial defender of the County Seal, during the public Board meeting denounced the new logo after it popped up on his office computer screen. He demanded a work session so the Board members could be briefed on the new design, which he’ll get at the next Board of Supervisors meeting on May 21.

“This is an effort by staff members, under the direction of the County Executive, to try to establish a new identity, perhaps for the economic develop activities. I certainly believe that if something is not broke, you don’t fix it,” said Jenkins in an interview.

The logo will be used to attract new businesses to the area, and it’ll also be used at parks, for tourism purposes, and at official functions. The Seal will remain on the sides of police cars, fire trucks, government buildings, and will continue to be seen on all things that denote official county government, enforcement, or business correspondence.

Prince William County Economic Development Director Jeffrey A. Kaczmarek said while the logo will help to identify the county to new businesses, it doesn’t represent the entire brand of the county.

“A logo is not a brand, it is a symbol of a brand. A brand is the level of service we provide to our customers,” said Kaczmarek. “Our brand will take time to build, but now we have a symbol that can be used, and when working with businesses, and after having had put this logo in front of them for many years, they will have associated Prince William as a great county do business with in Northern Virginia.”

The new logo will also go a long way to help unify different offices and departments in the county like information technology and parks and recreation which, up until now, all had unique logos.

Those who work under the Seal in the government offices are still developing guidelines on exactly when and where the new logo will appear, and if a decision is made to replace the Seal now used on county vehicles, officials said that process will happen over time as new vehicles are purchased.

The county’s logo isn’t the only symbol that has changed in recent years. Earlier this year, Prince William’s Convention and Visitor’s Bureau was renamed Discover Prince William / Manassas, and quasi-government organization got a new logo and website.

After the merger of two chambers of commerce happened in 2010 to form the Prince William Chamber, they two used a blue box to identify themselves as the largest Chamber in the state.

Prince William Occoquan District Supervisor Mike May says it’s OK to have different logos for different things.

“I think it’s a good logo that will hopefully attract new businesses to the area. And when you think about it, Virginia doesn’t always use their Seal with ‘Sic Semper Tyrannis’ on it when they’re trying to market the state,” said May.

State officials traded the image of a sword-wielding woman standing atop a dead king for a much kinder, simpler, “Virginia is for Lovers”  for their website and tourism efforts. The “lovers” slogan was first unveiled in 1969 marketing campaign.

But for the lovers of Prince William’s County Seal, Jenkins said he wants the Board to hold a public hearing and to ultimately approve the new logo before it’s used anywhere else.

*This story has been corrected. The Virginia State Flag features a woman holding a sword on the Seal, not a man.


Area Fraternities Honor Members

[Submitted photo]

Submitted News

On 12 April 2013, Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc hosted their Eastern Province Council meeting at Dulles Hyatt in Dulles.

The Woodbridge Alumni Chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc “Guide Right Program” Director, Robe’rt Palmer was awarded the Eastern Province Bert V. Wadkins for outstanding mentoring work in the Eastern Province; the Eastern Province consists of Alumni Chapters from Bermuda, Md., District of Columbia, and Virginia.

Bert V. Wadkins award is named in honor of Mr. Wadkins who directed the Guide Right Program from 1937 – 1987 in Oklahoma City, Okla. We would like to formally thank all the members of Woodbridge Alumni Chapter, Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc and the Parents for their participation in making this a program to be recognized for its fine accomplishments throughout the Eastern Province.

[Submitted photo]

[Submitted photo]

On 5 May 2013, The Prince William County Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc hosted “Delta Scholarship & Community Service Awards” program luncheon on at Old Hickory Golf Club in Woodbridge at 1 p.m.

During the program, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc presented Scholarship Awards to area high school seniors and recognized Robe’rt Palmer and the Guide Right Program by presenting “2013 Minerva Awards”. The Awards presented were to acknowledge individuals who have provided tremendous guidance, immeasurable support, and abundant love to so many of our youth.

In Greek mythology, Minerva was the Goddess of Wisdom who presided over useful and ornamental arts, crafts and “A Thousand Great Works”. It is therefore very fitting that we recognize people like Mr. Palmer and his Guide Right committee who have honed their craft of helping young people into an art form. We especially appreciate their contributions and applaud Robe’rt Palmer and the Guide Right Committee for their commitment they have made to continually provide quality life experiences for students.

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