Arlington, VA

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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Top Pike Booster Retiring

Cecilia Cassidy, the Executive Director of the Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization, is retiring.

CPRO, which was established in the 1980s to “champion and connect business and community along Columbia Pike,” announced the retirement in a press release Monday afternoon.

A search for Cassidy’s replacement is currently underway, the organization said. Her last day is currently expected to be Dec. 31.

More from the press release:

The Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization (CPRO) announces the retirement of its Executive Director, Cecilia Cassidy. Cassidy has served as the organization’s executive director since February 2016.

“CPRO is grateful for Cecilia’s leadership and her contributions to the organization,” said CPRO board president John Snyder, “but even more grateful for the spirit, enthusiasm, and friendship Cecilia has shared with us.”

Under Ms. Cassidy’s leadership, the organization has seen its largest period of financial growth in its 30-year history and adopted a strategic plan that included new initiatives such as the installation of nearly 70 place-making banners that were installed this month along the four-mile stretch of Columbia Pike that CPRO serves, unifying the corridor and celebrating “Arlington’s Oldest and Newest Main Street.”

Before joining CPRO, Cassidy led Rosslyn Renaissance, one of Arlington’s four public/private partnerships, and was instrumental in the creation of Arlington’s first BID, the Rosslyn Business Improvement District, which she headed until 2013.

CPRO’s Board of Directors is in the early stages of the search process for Cassidy’s replacement.

The Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization is a 501(c)(3) non-profit, public/private partnership. CPRO is a coalition of residents and civic associations, businesses and property owners, and the Arlington County Government.  For more information visit www.Columbia-Pike.org

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Morning Notes

More on Art Truck — Arlington’s new art truck will bring “hands-on experiences to schools and public events.” The art truck’s offerings are curated by Cynthia Connolly, who was involved in Arlington’s punk music scene in the 80s and 90s. There is no direct cost to county taxpayers, since the art truck is funded by the National Endowment for the Arts and other contributions. [WTOP, Twitter]

Pitch, Hit, Run Event in Arlington — Boys and girls ages 7-14 can participate in the Scotts MLB Pitch Hit & Run skills challenge at Barcroft Park Friday night. There is no registration fee and the first place overall champion in each age group will advance to the next round of competition. [Eventbrite]

Renovations at Culpepper Garden — A major renovation project will soon be getting underway at Culpepper Garden, a retirement home for low and very-low income seniors age 62 years and older. Built in the 70s, Culpepper Garden is undergoing renovations of its 204 original apartments and some of the building’s amenities. [Connection Newspapers]

Photo courtesy of our local tech guru, Alex Chamandy

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Since opening Filipino grocery store Fiesta Oriental in 1991, Fred Sunga and his family have done much more than sell food and provide other services to a bevy of loyal customers.

“When you have a Filipino business, your country people, they come to you for information,” he said. “They always call you, if they have a problem they will call you. Even if sometimes their car won’t start they will call and ask if I know a mechanic.”

But next month marks the end of an era, as the 67-year-old Sunga is set to retire on June 30 and close the Arlington Forest staple at 4815 1st Street N. That means that the area’s growing Filipino community must go elsewhere for groceries or to send money and packages to family back in the Philippines.

Sunga moved to the United States in 1978 and started working in a bank before opening Fiesta Oriental. He prides himself on staying true to his Filipino roots, right down to watching television shows from the Philippines in the store and speaking to customers in Tagalog, the country’s official language, or one of its many dialects.

And in addition to Filipinos, who come from as far away as Manassas and Maryland to shop at his store, local schoolchildren will now have to go elsewhere for their after-school snacks.

“When the school bus stops there, the kids are going to come and get their candy and soda,” Sunga said. “Just last week I told them that I’m closing up the store next month, and they said, ‘Why? Why are you doing this to me?'”

For the family, Fiesta Oriental was a major part of growing up in Arlington. Sunga’s three daughters, Audrey, Alyssa and Angelica, all worked there at least part-time from elementary school onwards and helped on Sunday when they would cook and sell homemade Filipino dishes.

The store is open every day from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., except Sundays, when it closes at 6 p.m.

Audrey Sunga, who has a 2-year-old son, Emmett, and another baby due in August, said it is a shame that the family business will close before they are old enough to appreciate it.

“We’re going to start buying rice for the first time in our lives,” she joked. “For Emmett and the baby on the way, it’s kind of sad they won’t be able to see this. We grew up with it our whole lives, so it’s sad to see it go.”

Fred Sunga, meanwhile, said he is looking forward to being a “stay-at-home grandpa,” and enjoying more time with his family. Both Audrey and Alyssa work in Arlington and graduated from VCU, while Angelica is still there studying electrical engineering.

While he is excited to start the next chapter of his life, Fred Sunga said it is hard when customers are clearly upset he is leaving.

“I’m going to miss the store that I’m doing every day,” he said. “Especially when my customers, when they come here and I’m telling them I’m retiring next month, I feel so sad when they say, ‘Oh my God, I’m going to miss you.’ Some old people, they cry when I tell them I’m retiring.”

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The Arlington County Sheriff’s Office announced last week that Chief Deputy Paul Larson will retire from the department on June 2.

Larson joined the Sheriff’s Office in September 2008. He was responsible for the day-to-day operations of the Sheriff’s Office and supervised its Administration, Corrections and Judicial Services Divisions.

Before joining the Sheriff’s Office, Larson worked for the Arlington County Police Department from 1988-2008. With the police, he commanded the department’s Criminal Investigations Section, the Third Patrol District, the Special Operations Section and the Internal Affairs Section.

“Chief Deputy Larson has had a tremendous impact on the office during his tenure and I appreciate his commitment and dedication,” said Sheriff Beth Arthur in a statement. “He has been an impactful member of Arlington County public safety and the county during his 28+ years of service.”

Retired Major Dave Kidwell will succeed Larson as the next Chief Deputy. Kidwell spent more than 25 years in the Sheriff’s Office, and retired in September 2015 as Director of Corrections.

“His experience, character and loyalty to the Sheriff’s Office will make this transition as seamless as possible,” Sheriff’s Office representatives said in a statement. “He has the values, dedication and passion to continue the strong traditions of the office and understands the challenges that the law enforcement profession faces in the future.”

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Screenshot via Yorktown HS video(Updated at 11:55 a.m.) Yorktown High School principal Dr. Ray Pasi is retiring at the end of the school year.

Pasi announced his plans in a recent email to parents.

“As you might imagine, this has not been an easy decision to make,” he wrote in his email. “I have given it serious thought, however, and after 20 years here in Arlington as the Yorktown principal, and nine years as a principal elsewhere before coming here, I believe the time is right.”

Yorktown is currently in the midst of an ongoing controversy over signs that some say are political, though Pasi’s announcement does not reference it. He says the decision was made “several weeks ago.”

Pasi shared the news with the school’s faculty members during a meeting yesterday afternoon.

The full letter is below.

Dear Yorktown Families:

I wanted to let you know that several weeks ago, I informed our school Superintendent, Dr. Murphy, that I plan to retire at the end of this school year. I informed the faculty of my decision at a meeting this afternoon and wanted to share the news with all of you, as well.

As you might imagine, this has not been an easy decision to make. I have given it serious thought, however, and after 20 years here in Arlington as the Yorktown principal, and nine years as a principal elsewhere before coming here, I believe the time is right.

Yorktown has been an amazing and wonderful school community, and it will be hard to leave when the time comes. I have enjoyed being part of such worthwhile work here, and have been grateful for the opportunity to collaborate with so many students, faculty, staff and parents on a wide range of projects over the years. I have admired and appreciated our collective commitment to make Yorktown the kind of school where students have the opportunity to grow and flourish. This work is never complete, but I am proud of the many successes and progress we have achieved together along the way.

I want to thank the School Board, Dr. Murphy, my past and present colleagues throughout APS, and most especially everyone here at Yorktown. In the coming weeks, Dr. Murphy will begin working with the PTA to discuss the process to select the next Yorktown principal.

Over the remaining months of this school year, and through our last day in June, I look forward to continuing to work with you to ensure the success of all our students.

With gratitude and continued best wishes,

Ray Pasi, Principal

Screeenshot via Yorktown High School

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Diana Sun (photo via Arlington County)Diana Sun is set to retire from her post as Arlington County’s chief spokeswoman this summer after 13 years on the job.

Sun, who joined the county as director of communications and assistant county manager in 2003, is slated to step down in the next couple of weeks. Her last day will be Friday, Sept. 2.

County Manager Mark Schwartz, who announced Sun’s retirement at a County Board meeting last month, said her communications department had “excellent relationships” with journalists and was available at all times to help with media relations.

“She’s held our communications efforts to the highest ethical standards and she has enhanced our reputation as a national leader,” he said.

Prior to working for the county, Sun served as the vice president of corporate communications at Capital One. The experience she brought with her had an immediate effect on the county government, her co-workers said.

“She joined us when we had at best a rudimentary public information office structure and she was bought in to professionalize and modernize the effort and she succeeded brilliantly at the task,” said Schwartz. “She built what I think is one of the best communications teams of any jurisdiction in the commonwealth and perhaps the United States. We are regarded as leaders and innovators in so many areas.”

During her time in the county government, Sun helped oversee the building and rebuilding of the county’s website, led the county’s expansion into social media, redesigned its Citizen newspaper and tracked down the history of the county seal, eventually getting it trademarked.

“The length of time you’ve been here, there’s been an enormous evolution of the communications function here in the county and a professionalization of that,” County Board member Jay Fisette said.

Photo via Arlington County

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