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Belvoir Commander Urges Businesses to Help Vets Transition into Workforce

Driving home the importance of helping veterans transition from the military into the workforce, Col. Gregory D. Gadsen, commander at Ft. Belvoir, said a country owes its all-volunteer military more than just a simple thank you. [Photo: Uriah Kiser / Potomac Local News]


WOODBRIDGE, Va. – Veterans who have served in this nation’s all-volunteer military are owed more than just a handshake a thank you – they deserve a chance to continue serving country and community.

That was the message delivered by Col. Gregory D. Gadson on Wednesday. The commander of Ft. Belvoir Army Base spoke to members of the Prince William Chamber of Commerce at its annual salute to the military luncheon in Woodbridge. Soldiers and Marines were represented at the event, and the community’s gratitude was bestowed upon them for their service.

As the nation’s military faces deep cuts in services and spending, now the transition from the military to civilian life is top of mind for many in the armed forces.

“Qauntico and Ft. Belvoir are not islands. We are apart of the Northern Virginia community. In many ways, we are all teammates. Every one of us who puts on this uniform eventually takes it off and comes back to a community and looks for a way to make a difference,” said Gadson.

The colonel said the many who have seen combat and were apart of the military’s ramp-up over the past decade are now leaving the military, coming home, and looking for work, and that business owners – many of whom do not have direct contact or experience working with the nation’s military – should realize the value American veterans can bring to their companies.

Gadson, himself, was also given a second chance of sorts. He lost both legs after an IED exploded in Iraq in May 2007. In the past, the Army would have simply given him a honorable discharge. Today he’s leading Ft. Belvoir, and Gadson said the U.S. knows members of its all-volunteer Army deserve better than to be tossed away.

Touting an office at Ft. Belvoir dedicated to helping vets transition into the workforce, Gadson invited those in the business community to become involved in the Army’s efforts to put all transitioning veterans to work on the home front.

In addition to Gadson, Quantico Commander Col. David W. Maxwell also spoke and honored some Marines whom serve on his base. Soldiers who also spoke commended the Army for helping them become the people they are today, and the Chamber of Commerce awarded each Marine and Soldier who spoke was honored with a small gift.

The event was held at the Harbor View conference center in front of a crowd of at least 200 people. Lunch was provided, Quantico’s color guard was on hand to present the flag, and a bugler played taps to honor those who paid the ultimate price and could not attend the ceremony. The first major event of 2013 for the Prince William Chamber of Commerce, it is one of several planned throughout the year.

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Students Honored in ‘Off the Wall’ Art Exhibit at Manassas’ Candy Factory

MANASSAS, Va – There are budding artists all across Prince William County, and many of them walked away with top honors in the “Off the Wall” art exhibit at Manassas’ Center for the Arts at the Candy Factory.

Many of the winners include students from Battlefield and Woodbridge high schools, but students from across the county participated the event. More in a press release from Prince William County Public Schools:

3rd place: Savannah Wichman,”The Boy”,Woodbridge

3rd place: Savannah Wichman,”The Boy”,Woodbridge

The award-winning work of budding young authors and aspiring artists is on display at the Caton Merchant Family Art Gallery in Old Town Manassas. Hundreds of high school students in Prince William, Manassas City, and Manassas Park Public Schools recently submitted entries in the juried “Off the Wall” Student Art and Poetry Festival.

Encouraged by their teachers, many of whom are professional artists, students put forth their best effort to create works for this competition. Hard work paid off with first, second, and third place in both categories awarded to students enrolled in the Woodbridge High School Center for Fine and Performing Arts and an additional nine honorable mentions to PWCS students.

The “Off the Wall” Student Art and Poetry Festival, now in its ninth year, is sponsored

1st place: Dara Merritt, “A Private Space”,Woodbridge

1st place: Dara Merritt, “A Private Space”,Woodbridge

by Lockheed Martin and the Center for the Arts/Caton Merchant Family Gallery.

“The arts programs in Prince William County Public Schools offer students many diverse and rich opportunities to develop and showcase their talents,” said Joyce Zsembery, curriculum supervisor of Arts. “Community support for students through juried shows such as “Off the Wall” provides students with additional recognition for their talents, and are appreciated by those of us involved in arts education. Community support for the arts is invaluable.”

PWCS students who were recognized for their achievement in the visual arts and poetry at the festival’s January 5 award ceremony are listed below.

Poetry Contest

1st Place: Brittany Crow,Woodbridge High School (second consecutive year)

2nd Place: Neil Hailey, Woodbridge High School

3rd Place: Mary DesJardin, Woodbridge High School

Visual Arts Contest

1st Place: Dara Merritt, Woodbridge High School

2nd Place: Catherine Winings, Woodbridge High School

3rd Place: Savannah Wichman, Woodbridge High School

Honorable Mention in poetry and art categories:

Brianna Washington, Woodbridge High School

Katie Vanderveldt, Battlefield High School

Bryan Simmons, Battlefield High School

Brooke Short, Battlefield High School

Kaitlyn Reeves, Patriot High School

Mary Kim, Battlefield High School

Jacqueline Javier, Battlefield High School

Genesis Flores-Aguilar, Woodbridge High School

Niklavs Barbars, Battlefield High School

Anna Mish, gallery director at the Center for the Arts, said this group of students and thier submitted artwork has been some of the best yet:

I am hearing from our visitors how this, so far, is the best overall exhibit of “Off the Wall” artwork we have had. The students truly raised the bar this year. After speaking to many of the students at the Open House on Saturday, I learned quite a few of them are seniors, so they have had past experience in preparing for the level of competition this exhibit brings. The sponsor, Lockheed Martin, and the Center for the Arts look forward each year to celebrating the achievements of a each new mix of artists.


NOVA Commute Has Nothing on a Post-Sandy New York City Trek


Of all the things I worried about in preparation of Hurricane Sandy, my commute was not something I thought would be changed. Sure, I’ve whined and complained about commuting from the suburbs of Northern Virginia to Downtown Washington, D.C. I thought that was bad. Nope. That was nothing.

And then I found myself in New York City, helping in the aftermath of the notorious “Superstorm Sandy,” among many other things, learning to appreciate my regular commute. Oh, and my regular job. There was a point where I began missing that, too.

Learn more about PRTCWhen I had the opportunity to help the citizens of New York City who were affected, I couldn’t say no. Though I was born and raised in Northern Virginia, my entire family is from New York and New Jersey. And with many of my family members living in the impacted areas, without power, heat and even cell service for days, even weeks, Sandy really hit home for me.

After arriving in Manhattan, I learned that my assignment would be located in Staten Island – the one borough I had never really visited. And since I didn’t drive a car there and downright refuse to drive in New York City, I wasn’t sure how I’d get back and forth from Manhattan, where I managed to find one of the few available hotel rooms. Between displaced families and first responders in the area to help, the hotels were all packed.

Commuting won’t be a problem, I was told. There are plenty of options for public transportation.

Under normal circumstances, yes, there are many options in New York City for transportation. There’s the subway system, taxis, buses… of course, these were not normal circumstances. Imagine every possible logistical nightmare – the tunnels were flooded, same with the subway stations, power outages all over lower Manhattan. Navigating the city was tricky, to say the least.

My hotel in Manhattan was located a little less than two miles from the Staten Island Ferry Station, a bit far to walk, especially while carrying my equipment back and forth and returning sometimes very late at night. There was a subway station conveniently located right outside of the ferry station, on a line that I could access from a block away from my hotel; however, that station, being so close to the water, was badly flooded and remained closed for most of my time there.

In the meantime, my only other option was to use taxis, making my commute very unpredictable. It would sometimes take as long as 25-30 minutes to travel less than two miles, depending on traffic! Not to mention, hailing a cab on my street wasn’t always easy so early in the morning.

On a typical morning, I was rushing to the ferry station, hoping for as little traffic as possible on the way. The ferry only leaves about every half hour, so any delay could potentially throw off my entire commute. The ferry ride was around 25 minutes, and once in Staten Island, I’d have to board a train for another 30 minute ride. All in all, the commute took anywhere from an hour and half, sometimes closer to two hours. It was exhausting!

At first, I somewhat enjoyed the ferry experience. I loved being able to see the Statue of Liberty every morning, and lit up every evening. It was inspiring. I couldn’t help but stare in awe sometimes, knowing what Lady Liberty represents. On the days where I felt myself becoming cranky, tired and burned out, I had to remind myself why I was there. I had no choice but to keep going.

Ultimately, I spent a month in New York City, commuting six or sometimes seven days a week. Those days were long and the work was tough – perhaps the only thing more heart wrenching than seeing the stories in the news was reading the casework or actually meeting the people who had lost what little they may have had before the storm hit. While I had a safe, warm hotel room to return to every night, I felt almost guilty knowing there were so many people without that luxury.

As anxious as I was to return home to my own loved ones, I miss the work I did in New York City. I had the opportunity to meet and work with some amazing people, and I came back with an incredible experience and a whole new outlook in so many aspects.

Sure, there are days like last Thursday, where traffic is so backed up that it takes two hours to commute home, and I’m mad that I missed my favorite class at the gym. I hate those days. But I try to keep in mind all of the good things in my life, all that I get to come home to, the fact that I have a comfortable home and so much to be thankful for (like not having to catch a boat back and forth to work every day!)

Sometimes, I just have to take a deep breath, close my eyes and enjoy the ride.

Laura Cirillo works for the federal government and lives in Prince William County.


Second Cake Try Ends with Smoke, Dripping Dollops


I am already disgusted with myself as I slide the cake into the oven. I haven’t had such difficulty baking a cake since the 6th grade, when my first solo cake broke coming out of the pan and I covered the whole thing with mini marshmallows to make it look decent.

Today’s cake is a gift for a sick friend. I pulled out my tried and true chocolate poundcake recipe, a surefire hit that is delicious and freezes well. I collected my ingredients, dug out my ancient tube pan – I mean really ancient, it was my mom’s, I used it as a teenager and appropriated it when I got married 24 years ago – measured the cocoa and separated the eggs. Oh, the batter was delicious.

But apparently the thermometer on my oven is off, because on minute 45 of the 70-minute recipe my husband called upstairs, “This cake is smelling pretty done.” I trotted downstairs, though it was way early, and was horrified to smell, yes, a pretty done chocolate poundcake. Seriously? Dang it. And since the situation wasn’t already bad enough, I accidentally dropped the whole thing as I went to remove the cooled cake from the pan. I was very relieved when it came out looking OK despite the crash-landing.

Until this morning, when, after worrying about it all night, I decided I was just going to have to try the cake. I could give it to my friend in individually wrapped slices, and one missing slice wouldn’t be noticed, but I couldn’t give it to her if it was overbaked. So, “Hey, you want to do me a favor?” My 17-year-old son was happy to help. I cut him a slab, and a thin piece for myself, and … “Yeah,” he said, two bites in, confirming my own conclusion. “This is too dry.”

So, dang it, I’m making another cake. I can’t believe it, I overbaked a cake! It’s been … decades! I shook my head, made a mental note to pick up an oven thermometer – and, until I get one, bake everything at, oh, 20 degrees lower – and pulled out the eggs and flour and sugar and cocoa and vanilla. Again.

I barely needed to look at the recipe the second time around. I had just made it! I creamed the butter and brown sugar, added the separated eggs, measured out the vanilla … and was just getting ready to pour it into the greased tube pan when I happened to lick my fingers. Ugh! What? I took another taste, looked at the recipe. Oh! I added the brown sugar, but not the granulated sugar! Whew, I caught that in the nick of time! I almost ruined the cake – again! Unbelievable! Hastily I added the sugar, poured the batter into the pan, and slid the pan into the oven.

And I felt good.

Until now, a mere five minutes later. When I hear a sizzle. And smell smoke. I flip on the oven light, and … no way. No, no way. Batter is leaking from the pan, dropping and burning in big dollops on the hot oven floor. Shoot! Dropping the tube pan must have dented the bottom, and now the inner piece and the outer piece are gapping. What can I do about this now? Shoot shoot shoot.

I grab oven mitts and my big long barbecue spatula. I open the oven door and lean in, scrape the batter off the bottom. One, two, three, four long reaches, my arm tingling from the heat, to scrape the burning blobs off the oven floor and – whack! – dump it into the sink. Finally I pull out a cookie sheet, long and wide, and slide it beneath the pan to catch the dripping batter.

The baking cake will solidify soon, I think, and I’ll lose some, but it’ll still be OK, I console myself. This second cake will still be fine. It’ll just be a little smaller. No one will notice.

But the batter … it doesn’t solidify quickly. It keeps oozing, dropping and mounding on the cookie sheet. Glumly I watch it drip and drip and drip.

A half-hour later, the cake smells done. Already. I shake my head, pull it out. The cake is maybe half the height of its overbaked predecessor, with the right side lower than the left. The cookie sheet underneath has a big heap of semi-burned cake, baked droppings from the pan above. And I got most of it out, but still – cough, cough! – there’s a good amount of smoke lingering in the kitchen.

Stupid darned annoying ridiculous cake, I think as I plop the pan onto the cooling rack. Tried and true surefire recipe my foot! Hey, maybe if I cover it with mini marshmallows ….

In Memoriam: Scott Welch

Scott R. Welch, age 53, passed away peacefully with his loved ones by his side on Monday, Jan. 7, 2013, at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md.

Scott was born on Sept. 5, 1959, to William Welch, Jr. and Doris (nee Manthe) Welch at St. Mary’s Hospital in Madison, Wisconsin. Having enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps’ delayed entry program two days after his 17th birthday, Scott decided to graduate early from Madison East High School in January 1977, and in February entered the active duty ranks of the Marine Corps.

Scott served numerous overseas assignments, primarily in the Western Pacific region and served in the Atlantic on sea duty, onboard various ships. His last Marine Corps duty station assignment was at Headquarters, Marine Corps serving as the Occupational Field Sponsor for over 12,000 data-communicators. He retired from the Marine Corps as a Master Gunnery Sergeant in July 2001. He is a life-time member of the VFW and an avid fan and proud shareholder of the Green Bay Packers.

In spring of 1998, as a single parent of two girls, Scott met Michele Gillette, another single parent via the internet, while he was in the Republic of Korea on assignment and she was in San Jose, California. All this before, eHarmony, match.com, etc. Over the next two years, and a reassignment to the Virginia, both families became acquainted with each other traveling coast to coast.

On May 5, 2000, Scott and Michele were united in marriage and made their home in Manassas, Virginia. After his retirement from the Marine Corps, Scott was employed with the Department of Homeland Security with his last assignment as the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Liaison to INTERPOL’s United States National Central Bureau in Washington, D.C. This was truly his finest assignment in which he enjoyed every day going to work at such an interesting law enforcement agency. Diagnosed with a Stage 4 Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) brain tumor in December 2010, he was subsequently retired from the federal government.

In order to honor and connect with his fellow brethren of the Marine Corps, Scott became a contributor on the TogetherWeServed website. Within a year, he was asked and accepted to be a volunteer staff member on the website.

Survivors include his wife, Michele; their children, Sara of Norfolk, Virginia, Leah of Quantico, Virginia, Melissa, Jessica and Daniel of Manassas, Virginia; his brothers, Timothy (Ranee) of Beaver Dam, Wisconsin and Robert (Deborah) of Henrietta, Texas; and his three grandsons, Leo, William and Elijah; along with numerous relatives and friends. Scott was preceded in death by his parents; and sister, Laurel Lee.

Funeral services will be held at GUNDERSON EAST FUNERAL HOME, 5203 Monona Drive, Madison, at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2013, with the Rev. Mark Bartels presiding. Burial will be held at Roselawn Memorial Park with military honors being conducted. Visitation will be held at the funeral home from 4:30 p.m. until 6:30 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 14, 2013, and also from 9 p.m. until the time of service on Tuesday. In lieu of flowers, Scott has requested any memorials be sent to the Wounded Warrior Project P.O. Box 758517 Topeka, Kansas 66675 or on-line at https://support.woundedwarriorproject.org/Default.aspx?tsid=66. Online condolences may be made at gundersonfh.com.

Gunderson East

Funeral & Cremation Care

5203 Monona Drive

(608) 221-5420


Old Rules No Longer Apply As Northern Virginia Job Market Faces Major Changes


Contributing Editor

The Northern Virginia Telework Council announced its focus project for 2013: Jobs, Jobs, Jobs.

The new jobs initiative comes after the Telework Task Force at the Prince William Chamber of Commerce held its final meeting on Friday. In its place is now the NVTC, and it’s new leader is intelligencecareers.com CEO Bill Golden.

“My focus for my 2013 is to pursue an agenda of jobs, jobs, jobs. How do we make this relate to money in someone’s pocket,” said Golden.

His company uses technology to connect people with careers all over the world. He is considered a subject matter expert on the defense industry, and travels around the U.S. and internationally to lead seminars on the subject.

Sequestration, the debt ceiling, and today’s announcement that Defense Secretary Panetta directed the Department of Defense to start implementing immediate spending cuts, have all been forefront on his mind. Golden said Prince William County depends heavily on the federal government for much of its wealth and success, and is very interested in exploring how people work during a time of economic change.

As the job market in Northern Virginia is about to change, Golden said residents in Prince William and Stafford counties need to prepare to lead the labor market into a new world of virtual jobs, free agent employees, and to help foster new relationships between employees and employers.

The old rules just don’t apply anymore.

Golden plans to establish a diverse board of advisors representing education, industry, government and technology to be represented on NVTC. In May, Golden plans to hold a “Jobs, Jobs, Jobs” summit to share information with the public and “deep dive” into the issues. He looks forward to working with George Mason University, the Prince William Chamber of Commerce, Prince William County Government and it’s leader Chairman Corey A. Stewart, state and federal government, and other stakeholders to grow jobs, and to connect the region’s intellectual capital with the global marketplace.

Among other things, Golden owns internet radio and TV outlets and produces several live-stream programs. He does business within the virtual world he advocates, and said he knows where the NVTC’s meetings will be held.

“Online, of course! We plan to ‘eat our own dog food.’ No one will have to drive to attend a NVTC meeting,” said Golden.

If you would learn more about NVTC’s 2013 jobs, jobs, jobs project, just go to  usateleworkjobs.com. If you would like to participate in this initiative, just contact Bill Golden at golden[at]usajobzoo.com.

Celebrating a Big Year


Potomac Local News celebrated a big year for our small hometown news operation last night.

All of those who attributed to our success over the past year came to Georgios Restaurant near Dumfries to bask in the glow of 2012, to look forward to new opportunities in 2013, and to eat things like cheese, pasta, and bread — my three favorite food groups.

In the past year we’ve seen our continuing commitment to bringing you stories that impacted your lives, your commutes, and your pocketbook. We have added columns like Slug Tales, Al Alborn, and Mom on the Run — all of which offer a unique insight to to life in our community.

So far in 2013, I hope you’ve noticed coverage about parks and wildlife areas brought to you by some dedicated people working to preserve them — the Prince William Conservation Alliance. We’ll look closer at the state of parks as the year progresses as they are a cherished resource for residents and visitors alike.

And not that it’s a big deal but we also  modified the name of our website to Potomac Local News to reflect just what we’re trying to to do — put the “local” back in news with a group of writers who live in work in their community, who are published on an independent news site not backed by corporate dollars, but is sponsored by area businesses and by supported by the its readers.

In the coming months we’ll have a lot more to to look forward to as Potomac Local News turns three-years-old. We’ll also take a more active role in Virginia’s Press Association and the newly formed Local Independent Online News organization.

With all of this, and continuing continuing commitment to bring you local news and events, we’ll just have to have another party — and this time you’ll be invited.

Chick-fil-A Offers Free Breakfast

Road delineator posts erected in the drive-through lane at the Chick-fil-A restaurant in Woodbridge forces drivers to circle the building before they can enter the lane to order food from their vehicles.

Chick-fil-A restaurants are offering a free breakfast to their customers this month.

More in a press release from the restaurant that specializes in the chicken sandwich:

The Chick-fil-A Cows are sending word to customers to “Eat Mor Chikin 4 Brekfust.” From now until Tuesday, Jan. 29, customers are invited to reserve a date, time and restaurant location to pick up a FREE Chick-fil-A breakfast entrée. Reservations can be made by visiting  chick-fil-aforbreakfast.com, and printed reservation confirmations will be redeemed each Wednesday morning until Jan. 30 at the 49 Washington, D.C. area Chick-fil-A restaurants.

Customers are being asked to go online to the web address provided let them know when they would like their free breakfast entree.

Unearthed Headstones at Merrimac Farm Offer Glimpse into Prince William’s Buried Past

[Submitted photo]

Prince William Conservation Alliance

The rapid development and modernization of Prince William County can challenge even the most astute observer’s sense of history. Shopping plazas, crowded roads and sprawling housing developments dominate the landscape. Stories of ancient Indian settlement, colonization and frontier communities, slavery and war, early industry and intensive farming permeate our local history, but the past is sometimes hard to see for the present.

At the Merrimac Farm Wildlife Management Area, one rich story could be easily overlooked, were it not for the survival and rebirth of a little graveyard in the woods.

The cemetery was all but forgotten until 2003, when a county-funded project to record hundreds of historic cemeteries led to a visit by a local man named Ron Turner. Turner was guided by the property owner to a small spot in the woods where graves were known to exist though none were clearly visible.

In a subsequent visit a few headstones bearing the surname French were found just below the duff layer of soil. Three massive marble tablet style markers, all broken, were lying flat and buried, oriented at odd angles, clearly misplaced from their original rows. Dates indicated graves from before the Civil War.

Since those early visits by Turner many changes have occurred at and around the cemetery. The property has transferred owners and purpose. The new landowner is the state of Virginia, specifically the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. They have conservation partners – Prince William Conservation Alliance, which provides wildlife watching and habitat improvement projects, and Marine Corps Base Quantico, which manages a conservation easement on the property.

The partners have supported an effort to search for additional headstones, record the cemetery with the state, and improve the cemetery’s condition. This effort has been led by a local man, Bill Olson, who is widely known and respected for his unique and tireless passion and dedication to historic cemetery preservation.

With professional volunteer archaeological support and the blessing of another state agency, the Department of Historic Resources, new stones have been unearthed from their shallow periwinkle and thin soil blanket. Five graves have been clearly defined, including William French, his wife Martha, and their daughters Elizabeth, Susan and Maria, their deaths ranging from 1823-1854.

Fragmented headstones have been unearthed and set in wooden frames that are aligned with their footstones. Several of the latter have been erected in their original positions, and overgrown vegetation has been removed from the area. Visitors walking the Cedar Run trail at Merrimac may now glimpse into the woods and notice the signs of an old, sacred place and the air of history.

Who were the French? The name French and the graves hidden in the woods mark one fascinating chapter in Merrimac history dating to the Early Republic and antebellum eras. Efforts to re-discover the cemetery have been matched by research using documents from county and state archives. As this information is pieced together, a plantation and area called Green Level is being revealed. Next week look for more on the story of Merrimac and Green Level.

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Write by the Rails Joins PWC Arts Council

Clockwise from left, Write by the Rails members Cindy Brookshire, Valerie Wallace, Claudia Lefeve, Leigh Giza, Mary Kay Montgomery, Nancy West and Dan Verner participated in a recent meet-and-greet at Panera’s on Liberia Avenue in Manassas.  [Photo: Chip Deyerle]


MANASSAS, Va. – On Jan. 8, the Board of Directors of the Prince William County Arts Council approved its newest member: Write by the Rails, the Prince William Chapter of the Virginia Writers Club.

“This expands the Arts Council in a wonderful way,” said Kathy Bentz, PWC Arts Liaison. “For 20 years, the council has represented dance, music, visual art and theatre, but never literature. As soon as we opened membership to individual writers in January 2011, a small trickle became a gushing stream. We welcome their talents!”

Four of those original individual writer members, Pete Pazmino, Sheila Lamb, Katherine Mercurio Gotthardt and Cindy Brookshire, founded Write by the Rails, a networking group for writers in Prince William, Manassas and Manassas Park. Their first gathering at Okra’s in Old Town Manassas in August 2011 brought 12 writers together, and the group has rapidly grown to 150 members through a Facebook group and the website www.writebytherails.org. Group members host bi-monthly “meet and greets” throughout the county, pool money to rent book sale tables at community events and promote book signings, manuscript groups and write-ins on the website’s calendar.

Since earning the Virginia Writers Club’s charter, Write by the Rails hosts monthly meetings at Trinity Episcopal Church, 9325 West Street, Old Town Manassas on the third Thursday of each month at 7 pm. The Jan. 17 speaker is William Golden of PrinceWilliamLife.com, who will talk about setting up author websites and blogs. The group also honors VWC’s mission to engage young writers by spreading the word about the state club’s 2013 Teen Golden Nib Contest, which has a deadline of March 1.

Members currently review books for Prince William Living magazine’s online “Book Nook” column. Twenty-two members are featured in New Departures, an anthology formatted by Manassas author Claudia LeFeve, who, in 2012, sold 7,700 ebook copies of her first three Travelers series books (PARALLEL, PARADOX and PARADIGM) on everything from Amazon Kindle to Barnes & Noble Nook and Apple iBooks and iTunes. LeFeve explained indie authors are estimated to sell, on average, only 100 to 200 books a year. Even traditionally published mid-list or debut authors can expect to sell between 1,000 to 5,000 copies.

One of the authors featured in New Departures is Robert Bausch, an NVCC-Woodbridge professor who is planning to lead his third annual Woodbridge Writers Retreat on May 15-18 with his brother, novelist Richard Bausch and Tom Zoellner, author of Uranium: War, Energy, and the Rock That Shaped the World. The cost is $650 and only 18 slots are available. More information is available at www.robertbausch.org. Another author featured in the anthology is Gainesville writer June Pair Kilpatrick, whose memoir, Wasps in the Bedroom, Butter in the Well: Growing Up during the Great Depression, will be the subject of a Book Talk at The Manassas Museum on Sunday, Jan. 27 at 2 p.m.

There are no dues to join Write by the Rails, however all local authors are encouraged to join the Virginia Writers Club to amplify their local art to the state level. For more information, email writebytherails[at]gmail.com.

Potomac Local News Launches Redesigned Community Events Calendar

One of the most popular sections on Potomac Local News is the community events calendar. It’s a no-brainer, really, as many of our readers want to know what fun things are happening where they live.

Starting today, it’s even easier for readers to view events in their area, and list their own events for free.

The newly redesigned Potomac Local Communities Calendar is now live on our site and has been a work in progress as we expand our efforts to cover more of what’s happening in Prince William and Stafford counties.

To view the Potomac Local Communities Calendar, simply click on Events at the top of the site. To submit events to the calendar, simply click Submit at the top of the site and select Submit Event. Fill out the easy-to-use submission form and get posted to the calendar. It’s the fastest, easiest, free way to have your events seen by Potomac Local News readers.

Thanks for reading and your continued support of local news and events in our communities.


Conservation Alliance Working to Open Pedestrian Access to Featherstone Refuge

[Photo: Prince William Conservation Alliance]


A starfish opens a clam by attacking its “feet” to the shell, then pulling steadily until the clam finally tires and the starfish succeeds in getting a meal.

That’s the same strategy used by the Prince William Conservation Alliance and others to get Featherstone National Wildlife Refuge opened to the public.

The natural area, 325 acres of wetlands and forest, is located on the Potomac River next to Rippon Landing. The refuge has been closed to public visitation since it was acquired by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service starting in 1970.

In 2011, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Compatibility Study determined that there are no sensitive natural resources that preclude wildlife-related recreation on the refuge. (Portions of the wildlife refuge at Mason Neck are closed seasonally for eagle nesting.) The Federal agency changed its access restrictions and allowed public visits, but only by boat.

At the nearby Virginia Railway Express Rippon station, you still can’t step off the station’s platform and simply walk into the refuge – legally. A new agreement is in the works to allow access from the station, but it has not yet been finalized.

Trespassers have created trails through the woods, as well as piles of trash and occasional tent shelters, but the refuge is essentially closed to legitimate public use. Anglers, hikers, birdwatchers, neighbors interested in a walk in the woods to a riverbank view of where John Smith sailed up the Potomac River in 1608… keep out, still.

There are no physical barriers blocking access to Featherstone; the bridge to the VRE platform already crosses the dangerous railroad tracks. However, CSX railroad lawyers still must authorize a trail across several feet of their right-of-way between the platform and the refuge.

County staff, Woodbridge District Supervisor Frank Principi, and Congressman Gerry Connolly have all been nudging the legal process to closure. In December, Prince William County committed to provide $2 million in additional insurance coverage beyond what VRE already carries for liability. A proffer associated with a development approval will fund building some new steps from the VRE platform to the ground.

So close, and still so far… Featherstone National Wildlife Refuge is public land – but the public can’t get there from here, except by boat.

It has been a multi-year effort to get to this point. Recently in 2007, there was much public response when an update of the Parks and Recreation chapter was considered for the Prince William County Comprehensive Plan. The Prince William Conservation Alliance led a charge to increase the county’s commitment to meet requirements for passive recreation, as well as to develop more active recreation ball fields as population increased.

That effort exposed the incongruity of having a 325-acre natural area on the Potomac River already owned by the taxpayers, but closed to public use. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was not inclined to open Featherstone National Wildlife Refuge to public use when it started its management planning process in 2007, but the Alliance ensured that the public kept up pressure to complete the plan.

In 2011, the Washington Sustainable Growth Alliance (WSGA) highlighted the opportunity to open the refuge, making it a regional conservation priority. In the final 2011 Comprehensive Conservation Plan, the federal agency finally committed to allowing wildlife-dependent recreation. Congressman Gerry Connolly (D-Fairfax, Prince William) led a special celebration walk from the VRE station to the river.

Since then, the starfish have kept pulling on the closed shell to settle the final liability issues. Organized, steady public engagement can spur official action, over time. Perhaps in 2013, Featherstone National Wildlife Refuge will be fully open to public access.

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[Photo: Prince William Conservation Alliance]

Sweet – and Sour – Gherkins



I’m standing at the open fridge, gathering condiments. We’re having cheeseburgers for dinner, they’re on the grill now, and everyone likes different toppings. I’ve already got a plate of lettuce leaves and tomato slices on the dining room table, and now: ketchup, yellow mustard, spicy brown mustard, relish, mayonnaise … what else?

My arms are full – I refuse to make a second trip, I’ve got this – as I peruse the refrigerator shelves. There was something extra, and I’m trying to remember. Oh! I know! Sweet gherkins.

On Christmas day, my in-laws hosted a buffet dinner. On the table, among the ham and turkey, sour-cream potatoes and sweet potatoes and salad, deviled eggs and seven-layer dip was a bowl of small sweet gherkins. My 17-year-old son had experimentally put a few on his plate, and “These are good,” he had smacked appreciatively after trying them. “Why don’t we get these?”

“We do,” I had explained. “They’re sweet gherkin pickles. We probably have a jar in the house right now.” My kid had nodded, pleased, and shoved more in his mouth.

So now it’s cheeseburger night and, I think, a good meal for pickles. I’m sure we have a jar in here somewhere, though it’s been a while since I ate any myself. I stand, juggling everything else hamburger in my arms, and gaze at the door, with its assemblage of jars and bottles.

There, on the bottom shelf, a short round jar with a gold lid. Is it … nope, dill pickles. But to the left – there it is! “Sweet Gherkins,” confirms the label. I twist the jar around briefly, scan the lid, raise it high to check the bottom. I have no idea when I opened this jar, but there’s no expiration date. I guess pickles don’t go bad, really, all that vinegar. And out onto the table it goes with everything else.

At dinner, my son dresses his burger, squirts a puddle of ketchup for his tater tots. He inhales it all in what seems like just a few bites. He rests, leaning back in his chair, stretches a little, looks around, and spies the jar on the table. “Oh, nice!” he says. He reaches forward, grabs the jar and his fork, and proceeds to spear himself a little green pickle. And a second, and a third, and a fourth.

He’s got five pickles piled on his plate when his dad says, “Don’t you want to try one first, before you get all those out?”

“Nah,” says my son. Then he stops a second, because he knows me and our history, and he looks at the jar. “How old are these, anyway?”

“No idea,” I tell him. “But I looked. There’s no expiration date.”

“Yeah,” he agrees, and he parrots exactly what I thought earlier: “pickles probably don’t really go bad, it’s all vinegar.” And he stabs a pickle on his plate, bites it in half, chews. Then, “Though this tastes a little strange,” he says.

Before he can eat another one, his dad picks up the lid to the jar, looks inside, rotates it toward me, shows me the black tracings on the top. Silently, our eyes meet. Silently, we note the evidence. Silently, we agree not to say anything.

My son, however, notices the eyes-only exchange. He picks up the jar, inspects it, takes the lid from his dad, looks inside. “Awwww,” he groans.

And just like that, I know, the sweet gherkin trend is over!

Hockey Great Roenick Appears as Prince William Ice Center Continues Rebound

Hockey All-Star Jeremy Roenick spent some time skating with children on at the Prince William Ice Center on Sunday. [Uriah Kiser/Potomac Local News]


DALE CITY, Va. – On the day NHL players and league officials broke the ice on a new deal to end a nearly five month player lockout, one of the greatest to ever play the game came to Dale City to give back.

All-Star Jeremy Roenick came to the Prince William Ice Center to coach a game from the bench, skate with fans, sign gear, and to inspire the next generation of hockey lovers.

Roenick grew up in Fairfax County where his love of hockey took root. While playing for teams like the Chicago Blackhawks, Philadelphia Flyers, and Los Angeles Kings, Roenick, a now retired TV hockey analyst, is one of only four U.S.-born players to ever score over 500 goals in his NHL career.

Roenick said the Prince William Ice Center was impressive.

“We didn’t have anything like this. This arena is spectacular. Hockey was just getting going [when growing up in Fairfax], but I think with the emergence of guys like [Washington Capital’s Alexander] Ovechkin, hockey is getting more popular,” said Roenick.

The All-Star is six feet tall and he towered over children who were wearing hockey gear, jerseys, and carrying sticks. Roenick spent an hour signing his autograph on whatever the children and their parents handed him. Then he put on his skates and got out onto the ice where once again the pro was swarmed by fans.

“It’s nice that they’re out as kids, and this gives them something to do. There exploring a competitive aspect to their lives, teaching them about the trials and tribulations of not just sports but life: you have to overcome adversity and overcome different things in their lives,” said Roenick.

Trials and tribulations are something the hockey star knows something about. In a previous player lockout during the 2004 and 2005 season, Roenick took heat when he lashed out at fans who said hockey players had become spoiled. He later made waves when he claimed he was excluded from the 2006 Winter Olympic Games, he got attention when he said an NLH coach was biased against American-born players, and was later tied to a nationwide gambling ring.

He retired from the NHL in 2009 having scored 513 goals, 703 assists, playing in more than 1,300 games. Roenick talks about those experiences in his new book, “J.R.: My Life as the Most Outspoken, Fearless, and Hard-Hitting Man in hockey.” It’s a story he’s never told before.

“Everybody knows what I did on the ice. I tried to tell people what life was like for me away from the rink, in the locker rooms, on the planes, in the restaurants, in the bars, with my friends and my family, and my relationships. I think that’s what people want to know. They see one thing when you play but they want to know about the person, too. I think that’s intimacy I brought to the book,” said Roenick.

He signed copies of the book on Sunday, and his presence brought nearly 400 people to the Prince William Ice Center – a larger than usual crowd for a Sunday.

The center itself is on the rebound. A snow storm in 2010 led to the collapse of the center’s roof. Remarkably, everyone who was inside on the day it collapsed made it out without injury. But the center was ruined.

The absence of a hockey rink left many children without a place to play, and league hockey teams without a home. But the owners were undeterred and rebuilt the center better than it was before, and in late September 2011 reopened the doors. They credit a strong hockey brand in the area, as well as great community relationships with being able to attract top talent appear at their center, and to their overall second time around success.

“Bigger and better than ever… we got a plan, we have focused on our plan…we’ve made the right investments and the right relationships… our program is as big as it’s ever been…” said Prince William Hockey Club President Randy Wood.

When Roenick eventually got off the ice to sign copies of his book, some children still remained skating. It’s them who will carry on the love of the ice.

“Whether any of them ever make it to the pros, it’s an extreme long shot, but there’s always that diamond in the rough,” said Roenick.

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[Photo: Uriah Kiser/Potomac Local News]

With Lean Times on Horizon, Prince William set to Outline its Future


I was a member of the Prince William County 2013 – 2016 Strategic Planning Team. It consisted of twenty appointees representing a wide variety of political, philosophical, and business points of view. It was a good mix.

Our first task was to develop a Strategic Vision Statement to frame the development of the Strategic Plan.

Strategic Vision Statement: Prince William County is a community of choice with a strong, diverse economic base, where individuals and families choose to live and work and businesses choose to locate.

This was used as the framework for our five goal areas (which follow).

Economic Development Goal: The County will provide a robust, diverse economy with more quality jobs and an expanded commercial tax base

The rational here is simple. Economic development pays for everything else. It creates new jobs in Prince William County, reduces the tax burden on homeowners, and creates multiple long-term streams of significant revenue.

 I’ve had the pleasure of chatting with and watching Executive Director of the Prince William County Department of Economic Development Jeff Kaczmarek several times. While Prince William faces unique challenges inside the “federal bubble,” and the change to our fundamentals resulting from sequestration and a general trend to downsize, I believe Jeff is our best bet to at least stay even or perhaps gain a little ground.

The “surprise” in this mix is Chris Price, Prince William County’s Director of Planning. He actually comes from an economic development background, and filling those empty strip malls with new small businesses is on his radar. While Jeff is focused on bringing in new business from outside Prince William County, and helping existing businesses grow, Chris has created a community development position to pay attention to revitalizing our community.

I believe these two Prince William County executives offer the mix we need for the future of Prince William County economic development.

We also added an educational element to our mission.

Education Goal: The County will provide an educational environment rich in opportunities to increase educational attainment for workforce readiness, post-secondary education and lifelong learning.

It’s simple (at least, to me), education is the price of a civil society. The best way to reduce crime, develop mutual respect for each other, and increase employment is through a well-rounded education system. I don’t mind paying for that.

I am interested in a little more oversight in the School Board budget process and greater involvement of our Board of County Supervisors.

Public Safety Goal: The County will maintain safe neighborhoods and business areas and provide prompt response to emergencies.

Full disclosure: I was also on the 2008-2012 Strategic Planning Team. We were organized by functional area. I was on the Public Safety Team. I became so interested in public safety that I volunteered for the Prince William County Police Department Citizens Police Academy to learn more about this complex business.

Public Safety is, to me, government’s prime responsibility. We want the police, firemen and EMT’s to show up when we need them. I suspect, considering the aging demographic in Prince William County, that is not a unique distinction.

Transportation Goal: The County will provide a multi-modal transportation network that supports county and regional connectivity

Transportation is one of those things that only Government can really do. Prince William County does it well. Prince William County Director of Transportation Thomas Blaser was on our planning team. He understands that moving people around isn’t just about putting cars on the road. It includes, trains, bikes, flexible work hours (to reduce folks on the road), and telework (to take people off the road). I believe the ways to move around (or not… that “telework thing”) will be there for our residents as Prince William County grows.

Human Services Goal: The county will provide human services to individuals and families most at risk, through innovative and effective leveraging of state and federal funds and community partnerships

While there are some things only government may do, there are some things that are best left to others. Prince William County is blessed with an army of volunteers and not for profits who focus on the full range of human services.

I would actually like to see greater utilization of Community Partners to reduce the size of our local Government. My only angst with our Community Partner program is its potential for politicization. Many of us will be watching to see if the process truly plays out objectively (as intended) free from political interference.

So, what’s next? The 2013-2016 Strategic Plan will be presented in detail at a public hearing in January 2013

Every meeting started with citizens time. If you still have comments or input, this is your last chance. Watch the Prince William County website or Potomac Local News for information on when this will be scheduled.

While our Board of County Supervisors will look to the Strategic Plan for a framework within which to allocate our tax dollars, it doesn’t drive where our tax dollars actually go. This is the ultimate trade-off. Would you prefer more police & firemen, or a larger school board budget? Is our investment in economic development worth fewer community partners?

The community is paying more attention to the budget process than it has in past years. I suggest that for those things not in our Strategic Plan that show up as potential budget items, operative question might be “why?”

The Strategic Plan defines “core services” for Prince William County, and we need a really good reason not to get the police or firefighters we need, fund education for our children, or support Community Partners in under served areas before straying into funding things that serve no strategic purpose.

I personally believe that the fundamentals for Prince William County are about to change. Sequestration, the wind down of foreign wars, and a trend to downsize the Federal Government, the engine of our local economy, will sent perturbations through the housing market, our projections for growth, and our revenue base.

I would suggest that it would be wise to focus on the fundamentals, and leave the “other stuff” on the budget floor to brace for the lean times ahead.

Al Alborn is a political blogger, and active resident who lives in Prince William County.

Fallen Police Officer Yung Remembered During Funeral, Cross-County Procession

The body of Prince William police Officer Chris Yung is placed into the back a hearse following a funeral at the Hylton Memorial Chapel in Woodbridge. [Mary Davidson/Potomac Local News]





WOODBRIDGE, Va. – Cold temperatures filled the air as memories of Prince William police officer Chris Yung were shared at the Hylton Memorial Chapel.

A funeral service was held Friday morning to remember the 35-year-old motorcycle officer who was killed on New Years Eve while responding to a car crash near Bristow. With lights and sirens activated, Yung’s motorcycle collided with a minivan outside of Sowder Village Square shopping center at Va. 28 and Piper Lane.

Yung was remembered as a dedicated father, husband, friend, and outstanding police officer.

“If you would given him a few minutes of your time, you would have walked away a friend forever,” said Dale Yung, Chris Yung’s brother.

Dale Yung said his brother inspired him to become a Prince William police officer, said his brother loved to ride motorcycles since a young age, and that he was always looking for the next challenge in life. After serving in the Marine Corps, Yung found that faced that challenge for the past seven years as a police officer.

“Chris was a special person with a big heart. He understood what police work was about…from members of the community, to our colleagues in law enforcement, to our fire fighter friends, we lost one of our very best,” said Acting Prince William police Chief Barry Barnard.

Police work was a family affair for Yung. Not only did he encourage his brother to become a law enforcement officer, his sister in-law is also a police officer, and his widow has also worn the uniform.

Several police agencies from across Virginia, Maryland, and Washington, D.C., as well as local fire and rescue squads were on hand to bid farewell to the officer. The funeral service inside the chapel was open to the public while audio of the ceremony was piped outdoors for reporters to hear, as well as police officers who were assisting with funeral operations, and mounted police officers on horseback who stood post nearby in the chapel’s parking lot.

A large U.S. Flag hung from two ladder fire engines above the entrance to the chapel. Following the funeral a procession passed under the flag included hundreds of police cars, and motorcycles. The casket carrying Yung’s body and a police motorcycle symbolic of the one Yung used while on duty were also apart of the procession that that made it’s way to the Eastern District Police Station in Woodbridge, then to the Western District Station in Manassas, and then to Quantico where it was received at a reception at the National Museum of the Marine Corps.

MORE to the STORY: Hear the final End of Watch radio transmission for Prince William County Police Officer Chris Yung

During the 30 minutes it took for the processional to pass the Eastern District Station, drivers slowed and neighbors looked on as the wave of police passed. Some waived flags while others put their hand over their hearts in a show of respect for a man who died doing what he loved, and serving his community.

Yung leaves behind a wife and three children. He is the third Prince William police officer to die in the line of duty since the department was founded in 1970.

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[Mary Davidson/Potomac Local News]

Word on the Street: What Do the Redskins Need to Keep in Mind to Win?

The Washington Redskins are headed back to the playoffs this weekend after clinching the NFC East Division Title with a win over the Dallas Cowboys. The Redskins will face the Seattle Seahawks – a team they last faced and lost to in the playoffs in 2007.

So, what’s the one thing the Redskins need to keep in mind to win this game?


“Don’t drop the ball. Hug it.”






“Be confident and don’t give up.”





Okras Cajun Creole Restaurant, Manassas

“I’m trying to become a Redskins fan. While RGIII has been explosive this season, don’t forget anyone can win any given Sunday.”


Photos: Silent Night in Old Town Manassas


The holiday season of 2012 may be gone but it’s certainly not forgotten.

Let us take you back to a silent, foggy night in December 2012 in Old Town Manassas.

Ice skaters filled the Harris Pavilion, wreaths and Christmas lights lined the streets, and gifts sat in store windows waiting for Santa Claus to come pick them up.

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Viewing, Funeral Details for Officer Yung Announced; Cross-County Procession will Pass Prince William Police Stations

PRINCE WILLIAM COUNTY, Va. – The details for the funeral of Prince William police Officer Chris Yung have been released.

A public viewing will take place tonight at the Hylton Memorial Chapel in Woodbridge at 6 p.m. A public funeral will be held at the chapel on Friday morning.

Following the funeral, a procession will take Yung’s body across the county where it is expected to pass both the Gar-Field Eastern District Police Station in Woodbridge and Western District Station in Manassas.

Yung will be buried during a private service in Albermarle County on Saturday.

Full details were outlined in a press release from the Prince William County Police Department:

· Viewing Service: *OPEN TO THE PUBLIC

Thursday evening, January 3rd, 6:00PM-9:00PM

Hylton Memorial Chapel – 14640 Gideon Dr, Woodbridge

· Funeral Service: *OPEN TO THE PUBLIC

Friday morning, January 4th, 10:00AM

Hylton Memorial Chapel – 14640 Gideon Dr, Woodbridge

· Procession Service:

Following funeral service, January 4th, tentatively around noon

Left onto Gideon Dr

Right onto Dale Blvd

Left onto Benita Fitzgerald Dr

Left onto Cardinal Dr

Short pause at the Eastern District [Garfield] Police Station

Right onto Jefferson Davis Hwy, RT 1

Right onto Dumfries Rd, continuing on Prince William Pkwy

Right onto University Blvd

Left onto Freedom Center Blvd

Short pause at the Western District Police Station

Left onto Wellington Rd

Left onto Prince William Pkwy, continuing on Dumfries Rd

Right onto Jefferson Davis Hwy, RT 1

Short pause at the Iwo Jima Memorial [RT 1 and Joplin Rd]

Procession will continue to a private reception

· Burial Service: *PRIVATE SERVICE

Saturday, January 5th in Albemarle County, Virginia.

Several Prince William police officers will attend the funeral service. Officials assure county residents calls for service will not go unanswered during the memorial service:

Police response to calls for service WILL NOT disrupted during funeral proceedings on Friday, January 4th. The public can expect Virginia State Police troopers (east end of the county, east of Hoadly Rd) and the Manassas City Police officers (west end of the county, west of Hoadly Rd) to respond to calls within the county from 8:00AM to 2:00PM on Friday, January 4th. The public will still be asked to call 911 for emergencies and 703-792-6500 for non-emergencies.

Yung was killed while on his police motorcycle on Monday while responding to a crash near Bristow.

The family has asked members of the media to not enter the Hylton Chapel during the viewing or funeral service.

Woodbridge Couple Welcomes Sentara’s First New Baby of 2013

Proud parents Ryan and Diana Crider, of Woodbridge, welcome their new baby girl, Grace, into the world at Sentara Northern Virginia Medical Center in Woodbridge. [Submitted photo]

WOODBRIDGE, Va. – Better late than never. A Woodbridge couple welcomed the first baby of 2013 born at Sentara Northern Virginia Medical Center.

The child was born the Woodbridge hospital not on New Year’s Day, but today.

Here’s more from Sentara spokeswoman Charlene Wilkins:

Welcome to the world, Grace Ann Crider! Grace was born on Wednesday, Jan. 2 at 1:28 a.m. and was the first baby born at Sentara Northern Virginia Medical Center in 2013.

Grace was welcomed by her parents, Ryan and Diana Crider of Woodbridge, and her big sister, 3-year-old Zoe.

She was 7 pounds, 2 ounces and 19 inches long. The Criders weren’t expecting to have the first baby of the New Year as Grace wasn’t due until Jan. 9; however, her early appearance was a happy surprise.

Congratulations to the Crider family on the birth of their beautiful daughter.

The region’s first new baby of the New Year was born at Stafford Hospital Center on late Tuesday morning.


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