Arlington, VA

Arlington County Board Communications Manager Mary Curtius was a journalist when the reporters wrote drunk and sometimes edited sober, and when the editors ashed their cigarettes on reporters’ desks if they were lucky.

She started writing when “cut-and-paste” literally meant cutting sections of type out and sticking paragraphs together with rubber cement glue.

“We probably went home high every day, we were inhaling so much rubber cement,” she said. (On that note, the photographers, stuck in dark rooms all day, were probably loopy from the developer and fixer chemicals.)

Curtius reported from Los Angeles, Jerusalem and Capitol Hill. She was the Middle East bureau chief for the Boston Globe and Christian Science Monitor. She covered Congress for the LA Times and before that was the paper’s National Security Editor. To have more time with her kids, she switched tracks 11 years ago and started handling communications for Arlington County.

Today is Curtius’ last day as Communications Manager for the County Board before she retires. After five decades of working — she started cleaning homes at 13 — she says she looks forward to visiting friends and family now that she is fully vaccinated, traveling and volunteering. And rest. She looks forward to rest.

“I don’t think there are a lot of people who can say they never had a bad job and never got to do anything fun,” she said. “I’m lucky. I’m really lucky. It’s been a great ride.”

And sometimes, the ride was dangerous. She remembers taking a road trip out of Jerusalem with two male reporters, and when she got into the car, she saw they were working through a bottle of whisky. The two polished it off over the five-hour drive.

“It was completely terrifying,” she said. “That was how they lived… I was always ‘the good girl.'”

She had to be, to get ahead in a male-dominated field.

But her distinguished journalism career took a toll on her family life. So Curtius joined the county 11 years ago to be home more with her kids. During her tenure, Curtius said the changing media landscape and the dawn of social media caused her job to morph too. She has been part of a few major crises — Snowmageddon and the Derecho storm and now the coronavirus — and has helped Arlington prepare for Amazon’s arrival.

“It was a great job,” she said. “It’s a great county — God’s truth — it’s a great county. It was an amazing experience to be doing something that directly related to my community.”

Curtius remembers spending 18 months documenting how Arlington transformed from a sleepy town to a bedroom community for Pentagon workers to a bustling metropolitan area. She found all the Board members and county managers who were still alive and put together plans in the 60s and 70s to accommodate the Metro and concentrate development around stations.

“That video captured the ‘Greatest Generation’ — people who had these ideas and laid the foundation of modern Arlington,” she said. “I really enjoyed meeting those people. Almost all of them are dead now.”

Over the last decade, she said local media coverage has waned. Before joining the County Board in 2006, she said TV stations would set up cameras to get clips from County Board meetings. No longer, except for major news like Amazon’s arrival.

“It seems incredible to think about that,” she said.

Since then, the Washington Post has pulled back on local coverage, and there are not as many news outlets focused on county government — the Sun Gazette and present company excluded, she added.

“Of course, it is happening across the country,” she said. “It’s really distressing, just as a reporter, that there’s not a lot of local coverage.”

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Morning Notes

Va. ‘Seals Deal’ for Rail Expansion — “Virginia finalized agreements Tuesday with CSX, Amtrak and Virginia Railway Express as part of the state’s $3.7 billion passenger rail expansion program that seeks to relieve a rail bottleneck and get more commuters onto trains. The signing of agreements advances a pledge Gov. Ralph Northam (D) made in December 2019 to significantly grow passenger rail service this decade by building a new rail bridge over the Potomac River, adding new track in the Washington-Richmond corridor and buying hundreds of miles of passenger right of way from CSX.” [Washington Post, Twitter]

Affordable Housing CEO Retiring — “Longtime CEO of the Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing Nina Janopaul will retire June 30, 2021, after a remarkable 14-year career at the helm of the organization, leading APAH through a period of transition and rapid expansion. The APAH Board has appointed Executive Vice President Carmen Romero to lead APAH into its ambitious next phase of growth and service.” [Press Release, Twitter]

New Restaurant Fighting for Funding — “Andrew Darneille had a sense of deja vu when he clicked on the link from his certified public accountant. It led him to a page that said, in essence, that the Restaurant Revitalization Fund would not be the lifeline he had hoped for. Based on the fund’s grant calculations buried in the larger $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act, his Smokecraft Modern Barbecue in Arlington, Va., would not get a cent in federal relief during a pandemic that has left many restaurateurs hanging by a thread.” [Washington Post]

No GOP County Board Candidates Yet — “The Arlington County Republican Committee remains on the hunt for a candidate or candidates to challenge for the one County Board seat on the November ballot. ‘We have had people reach out to us,’ party chairman Andrew Loposser said on March 24, though none has yet stepped forward publicly.” [Sun Gazette]

Green Valley Church Helping with Vaccinations — “At Macedonia Baptist Church in Arlington, the sanctuary has sat empty since the start of the coronavirus pandemic… So when Harcum was recently approached about a new vaccine equity partnership with Arlington County and Neighborhood Health, he said he was happy to offer up space inside the church.” [WJLA]

Photo courtesy James Mahony

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Deputy County Manager James Schwartz is retiring.

An announcement was made official by County Manager Mark Schwartz at Tuesday’s County Board meeting. Schwartz’s last full day with Arlington County will be February 5.

For the last six years, Schwartz has served as the Deputy County Manager overseeing public safety and technology, after just over a decade as the county’s fire chief.

Schwartz started at the Arlington County Fire in 1984 as a firefighter and served in multiple roles in the department. He led the county’s united command effort after the September 11, 2001 attack at the Pentagon. In 2004, he was appointed as chief.

Schwartz was the first person to rise through the department’s ranks to become chief since the 1970s. In 2015, he was named Deputy County Manager.

“This is an opportunity… to thank him from the bottom of my heart for all of his years of service,” said County Manager Mark Schwartz during the County Board meeting.

In a memo to fire personnel, ACFD lauded Schwartz’s leadership and dedication to serving the county and the region.

“Chief Schwartz was the architect of many local, NoVA, and [National Capital Region] initiatives that continue to improve public safety. While he does not have any immediate plans, Chief Schwartz will remain connected and invested in the department, county, and region,” the memo said. “ACFD is grateful for his leadership, dedication, and friendship over many years.”

“A big thanks to Jim Schwartz for his extraordinary service over the years,” said Board Chair Matt de Ferranti at Tuesday’s meeting. “If we were in the boardroom, we would all be standing and applauding.”

Photo courtesy of Arlington County

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The top federal prosecutor in Northern Virginia is leaving office ahead of President-Elect Biden’s inauguration

After two-and-a-half years on the job, G. Zachary Terwilliger will step down this month as the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia.

Terwilliger, who has a close relationship with former U.S. Attorney General William Barr, told the Washington Post that the recent election of Joe Biden as president had consequences and that he preferred to leave his post voluntarily.

His last day is Friday, Jan. 15, after which he will join the Texas-based firm Vinson & Elkins LLP as a partner in its D.C. office. The Eastern District’s First Assistant Attorney, Rah Parekh, will take over in an acting capacity until the role is officially filled.

“It has been the honor of honors to be in the arena with so many dedicated individuals in the pursuit of justice, and I feel so fortunate to conclude my service as the United States Attorney in the district where it all began,” Terwilliger said in a prepared statement.

An Alexandria resident, Terwilliger led a staff of more than 250 personnel in the Eastern District, which prosecuted high-profile cases of national interest and oversaw investigations throughout Northern Virginia, Richmond, Hampton Roads and Tidewater. His work included charging ISIS militants known as “The Beatles” with murder, overseeing a massive heroin and fentanyl bust that put 35 people behind bars, and putting 11 MS-13 gang members in connection with the murder of two juveniles in Fairfax County behind bars.

Regina Lombardo, the deputy director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, commended Terwilliger as a “driving force” behind the Department of Justice’s enforcement of federal firearms laws.

“U.S. Attorney Terwilliger’s partnership with ATF’s Washington Field Division has been nothing short of extraordinary, and the Eastern District of Virginia is a safer place because of him,” Lombardo said. “I sincerely wish him all the best in his next endeavor.”

Terwilliger’s career began as an intern for the Eastern District in 1999. A graduate of the William & Mary School of Law, he was appointed a Special Assistant U.S. Attorney in 2008. He was hired as an Assistant U.S. Attorney two years later, and then spent the next eight-plus years prosecuting cases until he was named by Attorney General Jeff Sessions as the acting Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia in May 2018. His appointment was later confirmed in the Senate, and was supported by Virginia Senators Tim Kaine and Mark Warner.

Terwilliger’s father was a former United States Deputy Attorney General and acting United States Attorney General. George J. Terwilliger III succeeded Barr as Deputy Attorney General after being nominated to the position in 1992.

Photo via U.S. Department of Justice

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Morning Notes

No, That Wasn’t ‘The Bachelor’ in Ballston — “Today, the world paused to consider what would have been the biggest news story of the past 72 hours: Wait — was the Bachelor filming in freaking Ballston? Well, that was at least the question posed by a whistleblower this afternoon, who tweeted out a photograph of a couple dining outdoors surrounded by a camera crew.” [Washingtonian, Twitter]

Pranksters Dialing Rosslyn-Based Trump Hotline — “Trump campaign staffers have been huddled on a noisy floor in the campaign’s Arlington, Virginia, headquarters fielding hundreds of calls a day on a hotline the campaign set up as they try to find instances of voter fraud, multiple sources told ABC News. But the hotline has… been bombarded with prank calls from people laughing or mocking them over Biden’s win before hanging up.” [ABC News, Washington Post]

Editor Rails Against Sports Decision, Media Gloom — “As for canceling the winter sports season… the coaches should have been part of the decision-making loop so they had a heads-up. Then again, maybe the pending arrival of our semi-comatose next president will lead the national media (which helped to haul him across the finish line) to stop the breathless 24/7 doom and gloom it relied on to eliminate Donald Trump, and we can start making decisions about the future like adults rather than weak-kneed scaredy-cats.” [Sun Gazette]

Arlington Couple Weds on GW Campus — “Law school graduate Ian Bryant-Smith and 2018 undergraduate alumna Sarah Breault gathered with a few friends at a high-top table in Kogan Plaza Thursday to sign their marriage papers and officially tie the knot. The couple, who had been dating since high school, said they decided to wed on campus because it was convenient, and their friends could easily access WiFi to project the ceremony to friends and family over Zoom.” [GW Hatchet]

ACPD Hails Four Retirees — “Last week we celebrated the distinguished careers of Captain Chris Hennigh, MPO Corporal Beth Lennon, Corporal Mike Lennon and Corporal Leo Garcia. Combined, they had over 100 years of service to the Arlington community and made significant impacts both within the agency and with those they served. We wish them all the best of luck in retirement and future endeavors!” [Facebook]

Holiday Closures Tomorrow — “Arlington County Government offices, courts, libraries & facilities will be closed on Wednesday, Nov. 11, for Veterans Day. Trash and recycling services will operate on a normal schedule. Metered parking will not be enforced.” [Arlington County]

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Morning Notes

Polls Are Open — After a record-setting run-up to the 2020 presidential election, it’s Election Day and polls are now open. Polling places in Arlington are open until 7 p.m. County government is closed today so metered parking will not be enforced. There are two local races: Audrey Clement (I) challenging incumbent Libby Garvey (D) for Arlington County Board, and Cristina Diaz-Torres, David Priddy and Symone Walker vying for two open Schools Board seats. [Arlington County]

Other Races on the Ballot — Two of Arlington’s members of Congress — Democrats Rep. Don Beyer and Sen. Mark Warner — are facing Republican challengers: Jeff Jordan and, in the Senate raceDaniel Gade. Both Jordan and Gade are retired Army officers. Also on the ballot are a pair of proposed changes to the Virginia constitution, and five county bond referenda, including one facing some organized opposition. [Arlington County]

Changes to Potomac Yard Development — “Six months after pivoting from office to residential, ZMA Development is aiming to go slightly smaller at Potomac Yard. The latest plans filed with Arlington County have reduced the number of residential units from 620 to 488 units planned at the Landbay C-East site at Potomac Avenue between 29th and 33rd Streets S (map). The two-phase development, now dubbed Hazel National Landing, also has added a 50 foot-wide ‘pedestrian passageway.'” [UrbanTurf]

Marymount Adding Softball — “Dr. Irma Becerra, President of Marymount University, has announced the addition of softball as a varsity sport, with competition set to begin during the Spring 2022 semester.” [Press Release]

New Public Access TV Series — “Months after their senior year in high school did a 180 degree turn from what they envisioned nearly a year ago for senior year rites, a group of students from Arlington launched the Gen Z Diaries: Senior Edition.” [Press Release]

Nearby: A Woke Retirement Home — Residents of the Goodwin House senior living community in Bailey’s Crossroads, home to a number of former Arlingtonians who were engaged in civic activism, have been busy getting out the vote and supporting the Black Lives Matter movement during the pandemic. [Washingtonian]

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Morning Notes

Pentagon Mandates Face Masks — “All on the Pentagon reservation must wear cloth face coverings in open spaces/work spaces where it is difficult to maintain at least 6 ft social distance. You may remove cloth face coverings in a private office/workspace where at least 6 ft of social distance is maintained.” [Twitter]

County May Host Online ‘Open Door’ Sessions — “Arlington County Board Chair Libby Garvey announced today that the Board will pilot a virtual format for Open Door Mondays, the informal weekly sessions where individuals or small groups can meet one-on-one with a Board Member to raise any issue, on Monday, April 13, 2020.” [Arlington County]

I-66 Lane Closures This Weekend — “Single- and double-lane closures will be needed for bridge joint reconstruction work over Williamsburg Boulevard and Westmoreland Street. At least one travel lane along I-66 Eastbound will be maintained at all times during this work.” [Press Release]

County Accelerates Columbia Pike Work — “Starting Monday, April 13, we will no longer open an additional eastbound lane during weekday morning rush hours. As a result, the work done between S. Jefferson Street and S. Dinwiddie/Columbus Street will only have one lane open in each direction on weekdays from 7 a.m.-9 p.m.” [Twitter]

South Block Adapts to Delivery and Takeout — “Mostafavi founded South Block in 2011 and he’s slowly grown the business since then, with nine locations and two more in the pipeline. Since the pandemic forced closures of dining rooms, Mostafavi has leaned hard into the delivery and takeout side of his business. ‘I feel fortunate to be in a business that’s still considered essential and that we already had an app, were already doing deliveries and the product is desired right now because it’s healthy,’ Mostafavi said.” [Washington Business Journal]

CPRO Providing Free Banners for Businesses — “The Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization is launching several new initiatives to support our business community… Are you operating an essential business on Columbia Pike? Need help letting the public know you’re open? Contact us today to receive a FREE banner.” [CPRO, Instagram]

Arlington Pension Investment Chief Retiring — “Daniel E. Zito, executive director and chief investment officer of the $2.5 billion Arlington County (Va.) Employees’ Retirement System, plans to retire in the next year.” [Pensions & Investments]

Community Foundation Distributes $500k — “More than 40 Arlington nonprofits have received a total of over $500,000 in emergency response support from the Arlington Community Foundation COVID-19 Prompt Response Fund, with more funds being disbursed daily.” [Press Release]

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Dr. Gregg Robertson, the beloved principal of Washington-Liberty High School, is retiring at the end of the school year.

With students out until at least the end of spring break as a result of the coronavirus outbreak, Robertson made the announcement yesterday via email. He said he is retiring to go back to teaching, this time at the college level.

Robertson said he’s hopeful the school year will resume and he’ll be able to close out his 17-year tenure as W-L’s principal with a proper farewell.

“I look very forward to when we are all back in school and the current situation is behind us,” he said. “I miss seeing you all in the hallways and can’t wait until we are together again.”

The full letter is below.

Dear Students,

I am sending you this message via Naviance because we are currently not together face-to-face. I originally intended to share this information with you in person, but the current situation does not allow me to do so. I will be retiring at the end of this school year. It has been my pleasure to serve as your principal at W-L.  I am completing my 17th year at W-L and have loved every single day! I have always claimed to be the luckiest person in the world to have been given the opportunity to get to know all of the current Generals at W-L and all the ones who have come before you. As you know, your high school continues to be one of the best high schools in the country. This is true due to all the wonderful and dedicated teachers, all the hard-working and caring students, and your supportive parents. I have met and gotten to know so many incredible students over the years — many with whom I still remain in contact.

I know each of you are going to do great things in life because you are receiving one of the best educations that can be had. I look forward to hearing about all the great things you accomplish over the years to come. I plan to continue my career in education by teaching at the college level. After all these years as a principal — I still miss being in the classroom. So who knows, maybe I will see some of you in class some day! In the meantime, stay safe and well. I look very forward to when we are all back in school and the current situation is behind us. I miss seeing you all in the hallways and can’t wait until we are together again.

With care and respect for all of you,

Dr. Robertson

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After 27 years at Arlington Independent Media (AIM), executive director Paul LeValley is stepping down as the organization’s executive director.

In a letter to friends and colleagues, LeValley cited ongoing health concerns as the reason he’s stepping down. He plans to remain active in AIM, which holds media training classes while operating Arlington’s public access cable TV channel and local radio station WERA 96.7, as a member of the organization.

“I’ll continue to be a strong supporter of AIM and WERA,” he wrote. “I’ll keep my membership active and I’ll come around to enjoy the parties and the [Friends of AIM] events — it will be fun (and strange) to not have to be the host.”

While LeValley will be stepping away from duties as executive director, he expressed a strong belief that the organization is being left in good hands with its board of directors and staff.

My tenure at AIM began more than 27 years ago when the board of directors took a chance on an eager, displaced Midwesterner who was only 35 years old and looked seventeen. I knew when I began that I was going to like the job. A great staff, tremendously talented producers, dedicated volunteers-what was not to like? But I didn’t know how much I would grow to love it and all the people that make up America’s Number One Community Media Organization.

[…]

We’ve been lucky for all the years that I’ve been the executive director to have benefitted from dozens of outstanding board leaders and members. Working with them to chart a path for AIM has been great fun as well as very rewarding. We’re extremely fortunate right now to have one of the best boards we’ve ever had. My leaving is made easier by the knowledge that they are here to keep the ship sailing in the right direction. Though the challenges are significant, I’m confident that they’re up to the task.

The challenges referenced in the letter include continued reductions in county funding.

LeValley said he plans to retire on Feb. 7.

Photo via AIM/Facebook

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Morning Notes

Hospital CEO Retiring Next Year — “Virginia Hospital Center President and CEO Jim Cole is stepping down after more than three decades with the organization. Cole, chief for 25 of his 35 years with the Arlington hospital, announced his retirement internally Monday. It’s set to take effect Sept. 1, 2020.” [Washington Business Journal]

County Crew Rescues Phone from Storm Drain — “So they got specialized shovels. And then the guy GOT INTO THE DRAIN and dig through the leaves, following the pinging and vibrating and found the phone! The phone was at 1% power when it came out. Still can’t believe it. Above and beyond. Kudos to Arlington County.” [Facebook/Arlington DES]

Bijan Ghaisar 911 Call Released — “Police in Arlington County, Virginia, have released part of a 911 call that set in motion a chase that ended when U.S. Park Police shot and killed Bijan Ghaisar in 2017… a caller tells Arlington County police that she is an Uber passenger whose ride-share was just involved in a crash, and the other driver, Ghaisar, has left the scene.” [WTOP, Fox 5]

It’s Giving Tuesday — Among the local nonprofits to consider donating to today, on Giving Tuesday, are: Doorways for Women and Families, Melwood, Arlington Thrive, Arlington Street People’s Assistance Network, Animal Welfare League of Arlington, Arlington Food Assistance CenterOffender Aid and Restoration, the Arlington-Alexandria Gay & Lesbian Alliance, and Culpepper Garden. [Twitter/@ARLnowDOTcom]

Del. Alfonso Lopez Named Co-Whip — “Majority Leader-elect Charniele Herring has appointed key leadership positions within the House Democratic Caucus. The whips and policy chairs will help guide the new Democratic majority through the 2020 legislative session.” [Press Release]

Ballston BID Holding ‘Cupcake Wars’ Event — “Join BallstonConnect Club and Cookology for a fun and interactive day of cupcake baking and decorating. Based on the popular Food Network show of the same name, guests will compete to create the most unique cupcake and take home the title of Cupcake Champion!” [Ballston BID]

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Just a few months into the county’s “Housing Arlington” initiative, Arlington’s Housing Director is retiring.

David Cristeal is stepping down after 15 years with the county, including six as Housing Director. Cristeal was elevated to the position in 2013 after a nationwide search.

At the time, he won plaudits from then-County Manager Barbara Donnellan for “working successfully with Arlington community members and non-profit partners to plan and preserve affordable housing.”

On Thursday, a county spokeswoman said Cristeal was retiring, after an inquiry from ARLnow about a job ad on the Washington Post website. His last day will be next Friday, the spokeswoman said.

From the job listing:

Arlington County’s Community Planning, Housing and Development is seeking a dynamic, energetic, and innovative Housing Director. This is a unique opportunity to work on a variety of housing solutions for one of the country’s most densely populated and well-educated communities. Recently, Arlington County has attracted new and expanding companies that have or will be bringing tens of thousands of new, high paying jobs to the County over the coming decade. This significant influx of workers will further stress the region’s already competitive housing market.

Duties include:

  • Implementing a new Housing Arlington initiative through a multi-department effort, while remaining responsible for other housing programs and initiatives that serve a diverse community;
  • Providing regional solutions to solve the complex challenge of serving the growing needs of the low and moderate-income residents in the County;
  • Developing strategies to increase supply for low income residents and moderate-income residents who are also impacted by increasing housing prices; and
  • Providing comprehensive approach to meeting housing needs, which is vital for economic sustainability, diversity, and quality of life.

The ad was posted on Thursday and lists an annual salary range of $101,150.40-$197,163.20.

The Housing Arlington initiative aims to create more housing — particularly for low- and middle-income residents — to help accommodate anticipated population growth. Earlier this year Arlington County reported that it had lost 17,000 market-rate affordable housing units since 2005 and was expecting 58,000 more residents by 2045.

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