When Hon. Judith Wheat became Chief Judge of the Arlington County Circuit Court last week, she made history on two fronts.
She is the first woman Chief Judge the Circuit Court has ever had and, with her in the role, all three local courts now have a woman presiding as the lead judge.
Wheat assumed the responsibility last Thursday, replacing Hon. William T. Newman, Jr., who retired at the end of June. She makes the third in a trifecta of women chief justices in Arlington, joining Hon. R. Frances O’Brien, who leads the General District Court, and Hon. Robin Robb, who leads Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court.
“It is historical and I’m excited about that,” says Circuit Court Clerk Paul Ferguson.
The courthouse has seen a flurry of activity with the retirement of Newman, a local living historical figure.
Newman joined the Circuit Court in 1993, after serving two terms as Arlington’s first Black County Board member. He was appointed Chief Judge in 2003. He also founded the local nonprofit Arlington Community Foundation and moonlit as an actor in plays and on the TV screen.
“He’s a big part of Arlington history and we turned a big page with him ending his career in Arlington,” Ferguson said.
The courthouse celebrated Newman with send-offs fitting for a local celebrity and his notable wife, Sheila Johnson — the co-founder of Black Entertainment Television, a hotelier CEO, co-owner of the Washington Capitals and Wizards, and managing partner of the Mystics.
Additionally, the state legislature honored Newman during its 2023 session with a resolution saying he “presided over the court with great fairness and wisdom,” the Gazette Leader reported. The judge told the publication he is joining former Circuit Court Chief Judge Paul Sheridan and former Circuit Court Judge Joanne Alper at a regional firm that provides dispute resolution services.
As for Wheat becoming Chief Judge, Ferguson says the process is a bit of a mystery.
“Nobody knows really how a Chief Judge is chosen,” Ferguson said. “History would show that the General District Court and Juvenile Court tend to rotate the position, like the County Board and School Board.”
Contrast that with the Circuit Court, where Newman was the chief justice for 20 years. His recent predecessor, Sheridan, and the chief justices before him — William Winston and Walter McCarthy — had similarly long tenures as chief. State law requires judges to step down when they reach 73 years old.
Ferguson notes Wheat joined the Circuit Court later in life and “had a significant career” before doing so.
Dispute Leads to Violence, Vehicular Mayhem — “The victim pulled the suspect out of the vehicle and he pushed her, causing her to fall to the ground. A security guard intervened and separated the parties. The suspect then reentered his vehicle, described as a white van, and fled the scene. While fleeing, the suspect allegedly struck the victim’s vehicle, a sign on the property, and drove towards the security guard, causing him to dive out of the way.” [ACPD]
Beyer Wants Quieter Airplanes — “As the representative for the area around Reagan National Airport, one of the most common concern heard by Rep. Don Beyer is airplane noise. On Friday, Beyer is reintroducing the Cleaner, Quieter Airplanes Act to seek study on reducing airplane noise and emissions.” [Patch]
Top ACPD Official Retires — “Per a tribute that just went out on ACPD’s dispatch channel, Deputy Chief Michael Dunne is retiring today after 38 years of service.” [Twitter]
Arlington Ranks No. 15 for Solo Affordability — “Rent prices are rising rapidly in many of America’s largest cities. Nationally, average rent increased by 11.3% between the start of 2021 and 2022… In this study, we compared the 100 largest U.S. cities across topics such as rent costs, earnings, living costs and employment to uncover where renters can afford to live alone.” [SmartAsset]
Major Delays at DCA — “At Reagan National Airport in the Washington, D.C. region on Thursday, more than 200 flights — roughly 43 percent of scheduled departures — were delayed, and 79, or 16 percent, were canceled. At Dulles International Airport, only 4 percent of scheduled departures were canceled, but 30 percent of flights were delayed.” [Washington Post]
Flyover for Tuskegee Airman — “Memorial events for Brigadier General Charles E. McGee, one of the last surviving members of the famed Tuskegee Airmen, were held Friday… McGee’s funeral took place at Arlington National Cemetery with a flyover.” [WJLA, WRIC]
Chance Connection Turns into Emotional Bond — “An Arlington, Virginia, family recently met someone who has an indelible connection to their deceased father that was forged in the chaos and smoking debris at the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001.” [NBC 4]
It’s Monday — Partly cloudy throughout the day. High of 77 and low of 57. Sunrise at 5:45 am and sunset at 8:38 pm. [Weather.gov]
Editor’s Note — Our staff has the day off due to the federal observation of the Juneteenth holiday. Barring breaking news, we will only be publishing in the morning today.
It’s not just Telly Tucker who’s leaving Arlington Economic Development.
Tucker become the county’s Director of Economic Development in January 2020, just before the pandemic, after serving in the same role for Danville, Virginia. He’s now returning to Danville to head the state’s Institute for Advanced Learning and Research.
But Tucker is not the only impending high-level departure from AED. Cynthia Richmond, the Arlington’s Deputy Director of Economic Development, is retiring, AED has confirmed to ARLnow.
“Telly’s here through the end of May. His last day in the office is May 27,” said AED spokeswoman Kelly Rindfusz. “Cindy Richmond announced her retirement earlier this year. Her last day with the County is June 17.”
It’s unclear who will replace the organization’s two top leaders, though AED’s No. 3 appears to be staying put.
“County management is developing a continuity plan and will release it in the coming week,” Rindfusz tells ARLnow. “No other senior management departures. Katie McConnell remains as AED’s Assistant Director along with the Division Directors for the department.”
AED also experienced a series of high-profile departures prior to Tucker’s hiring.
Hoskins helped to shepherd Amazon’s successful bid for Amazon’s HQ2, which has produced its own gravitational pull of new development and new office leases, particularly in the Crystal City and Pentagon City areas. But the turnover at the top of AED raises questions about whether Arlington is maximizing its economic momentum, particularly at a time when pandemic-era work-from-home trends have caused office vacancy rates to rise.
Asked about the ongoing brain drain at the top of the county’s economic development organization, County Board Chair Katie Cristol deferred to County Manager Mark Schwartz, who issued the following statement to ARLnow.
Schwartz praised Tucker and Richmond’s contributions to economic development in Arlington while promising to recruit “talented and skilled leaders” to replace them at AED.
We have been fortunate to have Telly Tucker in the role as Director of Economic Development for the past several years. Telly has been an incredibly valuable team member, especially during COVID over the past two years, especially in addressing business challenges during the COVID pandemic and implementing our small business emergency grants. He has also been instrumental in attracting businesses of varying sizes from Microsoft to Zebox, and facilitated the development of the “relaunch program” for small businesses. He has also advanced 5G Smart City/Innovation districts with JBG Smith and advanced the resiliency of our commercial market. While we are disappointed that Telly will be leaving Arlington, we are excited for him to have this new opportunity as the President of the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research (IALR), located closer to his family in southern Virginia. And, while AED’s Deputy Director Cynthia Richmond also has a scheduled retirement after 17 years with Arlington County, we appreciate the strong foundation they have both established for our economic development across the County. We will begin recruitment for both of these senior positions as soon as possible and confident that we will identify talented and skilled leaders to continue to support existing businesses, welcome new companies, and expand the economic development principles in our community.
Facets Fine Jewelry is closing in May after 27 years in the Lee Heights Shops.
The shop on 4530 Cherry Hill Road is shuttering due to owners Suzanne and Tom Arnold retiring after six decades making, designing, and selling jewelry. The plan, according to the owners, is to be open until at least Mother’s Day (May 8) and then continue for a week or two after, until most of the merchandise has been sold.
The store has been named one of Arlington’s best jewelers several times by Arlington Magazine.
But now it’s time to pack it in, the owners say.
“Age and attrition,” Suzanne tells ARLnow about why the couple, ages 75 and 80, are retiring and closing up shop. “We’ve kept rolling with it as long as we can because we really love it.”
In 1995, after working for other local jewelry shops, the couple came upon the shopping center and decided to go out on their own.
“I remember thinking that ‘this looks just right,'” she says. “‘It has a real neighborhood feel.'”
They opened Facets Fine Jewelry in September 1995 and she remembers the store filling up with folks buying Christmas gifts. Tom says the store survived for nearly three decades at the shopping center, including the difficult last two years, due to the neighborhood and long-time clients.
“This is our home,” he said. “[When we opened in 1995] everyone took us in. It’s just been wonderful and I can’t say enough.”
Tom got started designing jewelry in the 1960s in Beverly Hills, California. In fact, he hand-designed pieces for some of the biggest stars of the day.
“He remembers John Wayne ordered a little gold charm [from him]… to be given to all of the cast and crew of [a film] he worked on,” says Suzanne. “He was very generous.”
Tom also was a jeweler for Jane Russell, one of Hollywood’s leading ladies in the mid-20th century.
Suzanne says one of her favorite parts of selling jewelry is that it’s so personal.
“Customers aren’t just anonymous souls,” she says. “You become part of people’s lives because you really do mark special moments in their lives.”
For the next month, Suzanne will be just enjoying saying goodbye and selling off as much jewelry as possible, at up to a 70% discount.
When that final day comes in May, the couple says they will be sad but will be looking forward to their big retirement plans — staying local and spending their new-found free time touring museums, going to plays, and eating fancy meals.
“We are going to play tourist in D.C., Maryland, and Virginia,” Suzanne says.
This story was made possible by the ARLnow Press Club. Join today to get the exclusive Early Morning Notes email and to help support more local reporting.
You’ve probably seen, spoken to, been directed by, or maybe even gotten a ticket from Arlington County police officer Adam Stone.
Ubiquitous on Arlington’s streets riding his gleaming blue and white motorcycle, Stone is a well-known presence in the community for his work patrolling, manning road closures, following motorcades, or letting kids try out his ride. He’s spoken up for police officers’ mental health while talking about his own challenges. Stone has escorted presidents, protected citizens’ right to protest, and worked dozens of Marine Corps Marathons and July 4ths.
And, after more than 30 years on the force, Stone is retiring.
As an appreciation of his upcoming retirement, Officer Adam Stone laid a wreath at the @ArlingtonNatl Tomb of The Unknown Soldier. Throughout his 33 years of dedicated service, Officer Stone has supported veterans and military members visiting and living in Arlington. pic.twitter.com/lQ6h3v5pzJ
— ArlingtonCountyPD (@ArlingtonVaPD) March 9, 2022
“Through all the years that I’ve been here, whether it’s good police times, bad police times, everyone in Arlington has always been super, super supportive,” he tells ARLnow, standing in front of his beloved motorcycle, yards away from the Iwo Jima memorial. “Not so much when I’m giving people tickets.”
Stone grew up in Long Island and joined the Arlington County Police Department in 1990, becoming part of the motorcycle unit four years later. And he’s been in the unit ever since, living in the Pentagon City area for the majority of his career.
“I always wanted to do two things in life: be a fighter pilot or be a cop,” he says. “Once I realized how much math was involved in flying, it was definitely police work for me.”
He holds countless memories of years of service. Some are still hard to think about, like the smell of concrete and kerosene after an airplane struck the Pentagon on 9/11. Others make Stone smile, even to this day. He’s met and taken pictures with six U.S. presidents, “still mind-blowing,” he says, and because his job often takes him to heavily guarded areas, he’s had the privilege of visiting places few others have.
“I’ve gotten to use the most secure bathrooms in all of the D.C. area,” he says.
And how are they different from other bathrooms?
“You have to walk through two doors to get there, ” Stone laughs. “And they are clean.”
Being a motorcycle cop also has added risks. He’s been hit three times, but says he’s gotten away with no serious injuries. He admits that he’s actually never told his mom that he rides a motorcycle every day at work. And when he retires in April, Stone says he will be “hanging up the helmet” and will never ride a motorcycle again.
Weekend Snowfall Total — From the Capital Weather Gang: “Observer at Reagan National Airport reports 2.6 inches, pushing Jan. total to 12.2″ – most since 2016 and more than double the norm. Most of the immediate area saw 1.5 to 3 inches.” [Twitter]
Long-time Hospital CEO Retiring — “Virginia Hospital Center ‘was quite a different place’ when Jim Cole arrived in 1985, he recalls… Now 37 years later, Cole is getting ready to retire from one of the area’s only independently owned hospitals — for real, this time after delaying his planned departure in 2020 to remain at the helm through the Covid-19 pandemic.” [Washington Business Journal]
‘Smart Restart APS’ Donates Masks — “Over the winter break, a bunch of other Arlington parents joined Headrick’s effort. They collected money and drove to Home Depots and hardware stores in three states to buy all the available masks they could.
This week, the group donated about 6,000 masks to APS. They will be distributed to all full-time and part-time school employees.” [Patch]
Fire Dept. Recruits Graduate — “After 30 weeks of hard work, ACFD Recruit Class 80 graduates today with 25 new Probationary FF/EMT’s.” [Twitter]
New Va. Gov. Inaugurated — “Virginia began a new chapter Saturday with the inauguration of Glenn Youngkin, the first Republican governor to take the oath of office in 12 years. In his inauguration speech, Youngkin promised a change in direction in the state, with shifts on COVID-19 policies, education, criminal justice and taxes. Youngkin was sworn in as the commonwealth’s 74th governor on the steps of the Virginia State Capitol in Richmond.” [NBC 4]
Fmr. Gov. Says Farewell — From Ralph and Pam Northam: “It has been the honor of our lifetimes to serve as your 73rd Governor and First Lady. From the bottom of our hearts–thank you, Virginia.” [Twitter]
Another Storm Possible This Week — “The European modeling system Monday morning showed a number of projections that would offer some snow but also had some that showed dry weather. On Sunday, one of the model runs from the American modeling system showed a snowstorm, then the next took it away. Monday morning’s run of the model has the storm just missing us to the southeast, but it’s close.” [Capital Weather Gang]
It’s Tuesday — A couple of brisk days are on tap. Today will be sunny, with a high near 39. West wind 10 to 15 mph, with gusts as high as 29 mph. Sunrise at 7:23 a.m. and sunset at 5:14 p.m. Tomorrow will be partly sunny, with a high near 48. Southwest wind 13 to 16 mph, with gusts as high as 31 mph. [Weather.gov]
Photo courtesy Wolfkann/Flickr
Koch Groups Moving to Ballston — “A group of nonprofits founded and supported in part by billionaire Charles Koch are moving to a combined 185K SF in the Ballston Exchange office complex owned by Jamestown, sources confirmed to Bisnow. Stand Together, Americans for Prosperity and the Charles Koch Institute, in addition to affiliated organizations, plan to occupy the space in 2023, a source familiar with the deal said.” [Bisnow]
Football and History in Halls Hill — “They were there — about a hundred mostly Black residents and former residents, gathered together on this sunny, crisp Thanksgiving morning — for the neighborhood’s annual Turkey Bowl… For more than fifty years, so-called ‘Old Heads’ in maroon jerseys and ‘Young Heads’ in yellow have squared off in this Halls Hill tradition — ‘since before Martin Luther King’s birthday was a holiday,’ says one longtime resident, Paul Terry, who has been living in Halls Hill since 1968. ‘It’s always fun.'” [DCist]
Parent Group Demands Schools Stay Open — “‘Students belong in school. Closing school buildings did nothing to reduce or mitigate spread the first time we tried it, and caused extensive harm that has yet to be remedied,’ said Arlington Parents for Education in a Dec. 21 statement. Prior to departing on a two-week holiday period, school-system leaders gave no inkling that a return to online-learning was anticipated, although Superintendent Francisco Durán did encourage families to behave responsibly over the holidays so schools could remain open in the new year.” [Sun Gazette]
Long-Time Local Judge Retires — “Having served the people of his hometown in judicial robes for a quarter-century, George Varoutsos was honored Dec. 17 as that tenure came to an end. Varoutsos – a judge of the 17th Judicial District Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court (serving Arlington and Falls Church) since 1998 – was lauded by colleagues and civic leaders during a ceremony held at the Arlington County Justice Center.” [Sun Gazette]
No Candidates for Dem PR and Equity Roles — “The Arlington County Democratic Committee’s upcoming leadership election will feature three contested races, eight unopposed races and three where no one filed by the Dec. 10 deadline… Three elected positions – voter-support chair, press-and-PR chair and inclusion-and-equity chair – did not receive any candidates and will be filled later.” [Sun Gazette, Sun Gazette]
It’s Thursday — Today will be sunny, with a high near 41. Sunrise at 7:24 a.m. and sunset at 4:50 p.m. Tomorrow, Christmas Eve, will be partly sunny, with a high near 53, with rain possible overnight and on Christmas Day. [Weather.gov]
Less than two weeks after announcing to Arlington Public Schools employees that its Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer was on leave, the school system has posted a job listing for the position.
ARLnow first reported that Dr. Arron Gregory was on “approved leave” to start the school year. Newly-hired Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Dr. Jason Ottley is filling in for Gregory on an interim basis, an APS spokesman said.
“Human Resources announces an opening for the position of Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer,” the job ad says. The position “is responsible for District-wide initiatives and programs that promote instructional equity, create diverse and inclusive environments for employees and students to ensure equal opportunity for academic success across APS. Areas of focus include the recruitment and retention of employees from diverse backgrounds (broadly defined) as well as eliminating opportunity gaps for students at all levels.”
APS spokesman Frank Bellavia confirmed to ARLnow that the school system is now hiring for the position. No explanation for Dr. Gregory’s leave or apparent departure was given. It appears to have been sudden, with Gregory saying via his official Twitter account at the beginning of August that he was looking forward to a DEI staff retreat “in a few weeks.”
Separately, Bellavia also confirmed that APS is hiring a new head of human resources to replace the retiring Dan Redding.
A job ad for the open Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources position was posted on Aug. 11.
“Dan announced his retirement a while ago to relocate with his family,” Bellavia said. Asked about the timing, at the beginning of the school year, he responded that “retirements happen at all times of the year.”
Webdale’s retirement announcement comes as the nonprofit faces fallout from reports of poor conditions and maintenance at its Serrano Apartments complex on Columbia Pike. Outrage over apartments infested with rodents, filthy air conditioning units and walls covered in mold has led to condemnations from local elected officials and a flurry of actions to fix the problems, as ARLnow first reported.
Among the actions taken: replacing AHC’s own for-profit management company with another firm to manage the Serrano Apartments.
Webdale, in an email this morning to AHC supporters, announced that he will be retiring as of this coming Monday. He touted AHC’s growth and good works over the course of his more than two decades of leadership. He said the organization will be announcing plans for new leadership soon.
Webdale received more than $400,000 in compensation by the nonprofit in 2018, according to federal filings. AHC and its affiliates and subsidiaries reported around $92 million in revenue that year, mostly from apartment rents.
Answering an ARLnow inquiry about Webdale’s compensation, AHC spokeswoman Celia Slater noted that “he does not receive compensation from AHC’s other affiliated entities.”
Webdale’s letter about his retirement is below.
Dear AHC family,
I am writing to you all today to announce my retirement, effective May 31, 2021. It has been my honor to lead our organization for the past 22 years, and I’m immensely proud of the growth and good work we have accomplished together.
You will hear more about specific plans for AHC’s new leadership soon, but I want to personally assure you that the organization is committed to continuing our mission of providing affordable, stable homes for those in need and serving our residents.
The AHC Board, led by Board Chair Bob Bushkoff, in conjunction with senior staff, will provide oversight while we undertake a search for a new CEO. A special committee has been set up to ensure a seamless transition. I have full confidence in the Board’s ability to find a successor that will lead AHC into the next chapter.
I wish you well and want to thank each and every one of you for your support of AHC’s mission of providing affordable housing and educational opportunities for our residents.
All my best,
Walter D. Webdale
President & CEO
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.”
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