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September 2019

Virginia To Develop Four New Solar Energy Projects

By Jimmy O’Keefe, Capital News Service

RICHMOND -- Permits were issued Thursday for the construction and operation of four new solar projects that are expected to offset carbon dioxide emissions in the state by 459 million pounds — the equivalent of driving more than 44,000 cars for a year.

“Virginia is adopting solar technology at record rates, and we are building an economy that is cleaner and greener as a result,” Gov. Ralph Northam stated in a press release announcing the permits, issued by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality.

The four new solar projects will produce an additional 192 megawatts of electricity. On average, 1 megawatt of solar energy can provide 190 homes with electrical power, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association.

The newly announced solar projects will consist of the following:

  • Danville Farm, which is being developed in Pittsylvania County by Strata Solar Development and will generate 12 megawatts of electricity.

  • Dragonfly Solar, which is being developed in Campbell County by Apex Clean Energy Holdings and will generate 80 megawatts of electricity. 

  • Grasshopper Solar Project, which is being developed in Mecklenburg County by Dominion Energy Services and will generate 80 megawatts of electricity. 

  • Turner Solar, which is being developed in Henrico County by Cypress Creek Renewables and will generate 20 megawatts of electricity.

“Over the last five years, Virginia has seen a dramatic increase in installed solar developments,” DEQ Director David Paylor stated in a press release. “As of August this year, there are nearly a dozen small projects in Virginia producing 357 megawatts, enough to power more than 86,000 homes.”

Last month, Northam issued Executive Order 43, which calls for 100% of Virginia’s electricity to come from carbon-free sources by 2050. The executive order also calls for 30% of the state’s electricity to be powered by renewable energy resources by 2030. In 2018, 7% of Virginia’s electricity was generated from renewable energy sources, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration

“This Executive Order will help ensure that Virginia remains at the forefront of clean energy innovation, meets the urgency of the challenges brought on by climate change, and captures the economic, environmental, and health benefits of this energy growth in an equitable way that benefits all Virginians,” Northam stated in a press release when the executive order was issued. 

Solar energy developments can save taxpayers money. Partnering with Sun Tribe Solar, a Charlottesville-based company, Libbie Mill Library in Henrico County began installation of a rooftop solar system in September. The 122-kilowatt system is projected to save Henrico taxpayers $150,000 over the next 25 years. 

According to the governor’s executive order, at least 3,000 megawatts of electricity will be generated from solar and onshore wind sources by 2022. And by 2026, up to 2,500 megawatts of electricity will be generated by offshore wind sources. Currently, the state does not generate any large-scale electricity through wind farms, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.  

Dominion Energy announced last month that it is building a 220-turbine wind farm off Virginia’s coastline. The project, projected to cost $7.8 billion, will be the largest offshore wind development in the U.S. Once the wind farm is complete, Dominion claims it will power 650,000 homes at peak wind. 

“Governor Ralph Northam has made it clear Virginia is committed to leading the way in offshore wind,” Mark Mitchell, vice president of generation construction for Dominion Energy, said in a press release. “We are rising to this challenge with this 2,600-megawatt commercial offshore wind development.”

DEQ is responsible for administering state and federal environmental policy in Virginia. The agency issues permits to regulate levels of pollution throughout the state.

Unemployment Drops in All Virginia Metro Areas

By Andrew Riddler, Capital News Service

RICHMOND — The Staunton-Waynesboro area had the lowest unemployment rate in August of all metropolitan areas in Virginia — and one of the lowest in the country, according to data released this week by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Unemployment in Staunton, Waynesboro and Augusta County was 2.5% in August. Of the approximately 390 metro areas in the U.S., only 21 had a lower unemployment rate.

All Virginia metro areas were below August’s national unemployment rate of 3.7%. Unemployment was below 3% in the Charlottesville, Winchester, Harrisonburg, Roanoke, Richmond and Blacksburg-Christiansburg-Radford metro areas. The rate was 3.1% in the Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News areas and 3.2% in the Lynchburg and Washington-Arlington-Alexandria areas.

All metro areas of Virginia saw their rates drop from August 2018 to this past August. The Harrisonburg area had the biggest decline — from 3.2% to 2.7%.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics released the metro-level data for August on Wednesday. That was a follow-up to an announcement on Sept. 20 that the national unemployment was 3.7% and Virginia’s statewide unemployment rate was 2.8% in August.

Also on Wednesday, the Virginia Employment Commission released the August unemployment rates for the state’s cities and counties. The data showed that compared with the previous year, unemployment rates went down in 124 of the 133 localities.

Even so, 27 cities and counties had unemployment rates at or above the national average in August. The localities were largely in the southwestern and southern parts of Virginia.

The highest levels of unemployment in August were in Buchanan County (5.7%), Petersburg (5.4%) and Danville and Dickenson and Wise counties (all at 4.9%). Emporia, Lexington and Lee County all had unemployment rates above 4.5%.

Arlington County continued to have the lowest unemployment rate in the state at 1.9%. The city of Fairfax was at 2%, and Alexandria and Falls Church were at 2.1%.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics announced Friday that the national unemployment rate had dropped even lower — to 3.5% — in September. “The unemployment rate is the lowest it has been since May 1969 — over 50 years ago,” the White House said.

 

 

 

Local Bicyclist Killed in Tragic Hit and Run

Virginia State Police investigate fatal hit and run in Greensville County.

On September 28, 2019, the Greensville County Sheriffs dispatch center received a 911 call of bicyclist lying in the grass near the 1000 block of Slagle Lake Road. Upon arrival of deputies and EMS, it was determined that the bicyclist had been struck by a vehicle and died at the scene. The bicyclist was identified as Henry Chester Boone, 81 YOA, of the 2100 block of Slagle Lake Road, Emporia, Virginia.

Greensville County contacted the Virginia State Police to investigate the fatality.

Preliminary investigation revealed Mr. Boone was riding a 2009 Fuji team road bike southbound on Slagle Lake Road when he was struck from behind by an unknown vehicle that fled the scene. Mr. Boone was thrown from the bicycle and suffered life threatening injuries.

The Virginia State Police accident reconstruction team was called to the scene.  Based on evidence located at the scene, they were able to identify and locate a suspect vehicle, a 2013 Hyundai Tucson with damages consistent with the crash.  The driver, Christopher Harley Reed, 35 YOA of Emporia, was arrested and charged with felony hit and run and involuntary manslaughter.  He was transported to the Southside Regional Jail and received a secured bond.

Currently this is still an ongoing criminal investigation. Anyone with any information relating to this crime are encouraged to contact the Virginia State Police at (757) 424-6800.

State Police would like to thank the Greensville Sheriffs Department with their assistance in this investigation.

James Calvin Vaughan

December 10, 1929 ~ September 23, 2019

James Calvin Vaughan,  a devoted Christian, loving husband, father, grandfather, brother, uncle and friend, began his journey through life on Tuesday, December 10, 1929 in Greensville County, Virginia.  He was born to the parentage of the late Deacon Calvin and Deaconess Mabel L. Vaughan.

During the earlier years of his life, James matriculated through the Greensville County School System. Upon completion of his education, he accepted Jesus Christ as his savior and joined the Diamond Grove Baptist Church of Skippers, Virginia.  It was at this church, where James' spiritual gifts were developed and love for God deepened.  He had the heart of a servant, as for many years he served as a Deacon, Church Treasurer, President of the Senior Usher Ministry and as the Graveyard Supervisor. Deacon Vaughan served his church well, but saw the need to broaden his horizon and share his gifts, talents and treasurers with the Greensville County Baptist Union, as past President and Treasurer for the Fellowship Ushers Union and Sunday School Union, respectively. It was really nothing new for him to find himself in leadership positions. He took every position seriously and gave it his, all until his health began to decline.

Deacon Vaughan was not only a churchman, but also a family man, who on March 11, 1950, united in Holy Matrimony to the love of  his life, Eldora Gilliam Vaughan. They shared sixty-seven years of marriage together before the Lord called her home on August 30, 2017.  This union was blessed with the birth of four children; James Larry, Woodrow, Dennis Wayne and Sherry Lorraine.  Seeing the need to provide for his family, he became gainfully employed with the International Paper Company. After 25 years of hard work, he retired and joined the faculty of the Greensville County Public Schools; serving for 20 years.

'James Cal', as he was affectionately called by many, was known throughout the community as a pioneer in social justice reform,   leader in political concerns that affected the community to which he belonged, civil and human rights activist. He served as  Chairman of the Greensville County Social Services Board, a member of the Board of Directors of the Boys & Girls Club, a lifetime member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), member of the Greensville County Planning Commission, and a past president of the International Paper Local Union 1825.  In October of 1995, he was appointed to the Greensville County Board of Supervisors, representing Election District 1 and was elected in November of 1995 for District 1, where he served on the Board of Supervisors for the Zion District of Greensville County, Virginia, for 20 years

Upon life's journey, we are given opportunities to plant seeds of goodness, seeds of kindness, and seeds of blessings that bestow our hearts, our work, and our being. For those that sow the  fields with loving generosity, so shall they reap the abundant harvest of eternal life. His seeds are well-sown; his service on earth is complete, and he now experiences the victory and triumph of eternal life.  On Monday, September 23, 2019, Deacon James C. Vaughan left silently with an angel of God and transitioned from this earthly life; while in the care of Covenant Columns Manor, Richmond, Virginia.  James has been reunited with those who have gone on before him: his parents,  beloved wife, Eldora and  his precious son, Woodrow Vaughan.

A golden heart stopped beating, hard working hands at rest, God broke our hearts to prove to us, he only takes the best.  We who remain and are bound to treasure his life and legacy are: children, James Larry Vaughan (Carolyn) of Baltimore, Maryland, Dennis Wayne Vaughan and Sherry Lorraine Vaughan both of Richmond, Virginia;  grandchildren, Bradley Vaughan and Ashley Vaughan both of Richmond, Virginia, Corey Vaughan (Keisha) of Coppell, Texas, Tajahnee Vaughan Cross (Zachary) of Lafayette Hills, Pennsylvania and Renee' Vaughan-Dixon (Derrick) of Louisville, Kentucky; great-grandchildren, Brayden Vaughan, Brooklyn Vaughan, Kennedy Cross, Vaughan Cross, Morgan Cross, Ryan Dixon and Taylor Dixon;  siblings, Sanford Vaughan (Dorothy) of Windsor, North Carolina and Virginia Watkins (James) of Columbia, Maryland; sister-in-law, Pauline G. Wright of Richmond, Virginia;  a host of nieces, nephews, relatives and friends.

General Assembly Candidates’ Environmental Report Cards Reveal Partisan Divides

 

By Emma North, Capital News Service

RICHMOND -- The Sierra Club recently endorsed a number of candidates running on environmentally friendly platforms after its legislative scorecards — which give incumbents grades on their past environmental performance — presented a stark contrast between the priorities of the Democrat and Republican parties. 

Del. Dawn Adams, D-Richmond, said that while she can’t know what drives the legislative decision making of others, she thinks environmental issues end up being addressed as partisan issues. 

“I think when most people talk about themselves and their families, it’s very nonpartisan,” Adams said. “When it gets into policy making it becomes more partisan and sadly that may just be because people aren’t remembering that it’s affecting their people and their family.”

General Assembly members could be tasked with passing legislation in the 2020 session that tackles issues such as coal ash management, clean energy mandates, climate change, Chesapeake Bay management and public land protection. For example, Del. Elizabeth Guzman, D-Prince William, campaigns on prioritizing the disposal of coal ash outside of her district, while Sen. Jill Vogel, R-Faquier, has focused her environmental support on the preservation of agricultural land. 

Nine legislators received an A-plus on the Sierra Club’s legislative scorecard for the 2019 General Assembly session, four from Prince William County. The lawmakers that received perfect scores were: 

Senators:

  • Sen. Jeremy McPike, D-Prince William

  • Sen. Lionell Spruill Sr., D-Chesapeake

Delegates: 

  • Del. Dawn Adams, D-Richmond 

  • Del. Jennifer Carroll Foy, D-Prince William

  • Del. Lee Carter, D-Manassas

  • Del. Elizabeth Guzman, D-Prince William

  • Del. Debra Rodman, D-Henrico 

  • Del. Danica Roem, D-Prince William

  • Del. Kathy Tran, D-Fairfax

With the exception of Rodman who is now running for a seat in Senate District 12, all of these incumbents are running for reelection in November. 

Of the 140 incumbent General Assembly members, 15 scored a C grade. All but 14 Democrats scored a B or above and all of the Republicans scored a D or F except for Vogel, who earned a C. 

Vogel was recognized as a legislative hero by the Virginia League of Conservation Voters. She represents District 27, which has a prominent agriculture industry and includes the counties of Frederick, Fauquier, Clarke, Stafford, Culpeper, Loudoun and the city of Winchester.

“I feel like I have to fight harder and do the right thing so that we have the opportunity to preserve agriculture and that means open space and that means good votes that usually skew more on ballots toward conservation votes,” Vogel said. 

The Republican Party of Virginia has a majority in the House of Delegates and Virginia Senate. The environment and clean energy are not included in the party’s priorities. 

“I wish I could have seen more of the candidates from both sides who are running for office talking about the environment,” said Guzman. “I believe that it should be part of the three main issues of your campaign if you are considering running for office.”

The legislative scorecard rated candidates based on how they voted on key bills, including HB 1934, which expanded the number of state agencies that can operate electric vehicle charging stations, and SB1456 and HB2329, which together would have removed barriers to generating solar energy.

“I think the environment is very important and as a legislator we have the responsibility to act today to secure the environment for future generations,” Guzman said. 

To help voters find candidates with environmentally conscious platforms the The Virginia LCV assembled a list of current endorsements to help voters find candidates with pro-environment platforms. Democrat Shelly Simonds is again challenging Del. David Yancey, R-Newport News, for the House seat in District 94. Simonds said her campaign includes promoting clean energy, expanding urban farming and increasing public transportation for Newport News. 

All of the Virginia LCV endorsements for 2019 are Democratic candidates with the exception of Del. Lee Ware, R-Powhatan. 

Adams said she is disappointed in how some legislators don’t act in favor of a healthy Virginia and thinks that solutions such as adding more greenery to urban areas shouldn’t deal with party lines. 

“I really do hope that there is some kind of global awakening,” Adams said. “We can't make the environment partisan.”

WARNER, KAINE INTRODUCE LEGISLATION TO PROVIDE FINANCIAL RELIEF TO VIRGINIA BEACH TRAGEDY FUND

~ Bill would permit the Virginia Beach Tragedy Fund to receive tax deductible donations ~

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), member of the Senate Finance Committee, along with Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) have introduced legislation to provide financial relief to the Virginia Beach Tragedy Fund to help Virginia Beach shooting victims get the financial assistance they need. The Virginia Beach Strong Act would ensure that any donations made to the Virginia Beach Tragedy Fund on behalf of the families of the dead or wounded victims of the mass shooting in Virginia Beach are tax-deductible.

“There is nothing we can do to undo this tragedy or bring back the individuals we lost in this senseless act of violence, but we can try to make it as easy as possible for families and those injured to get the relief they need,” said the Senators. “This legislation will further incentivize donations to the Virginia Beach Tragedy Fund by making sure that contributions to victims and families are permitted to be treated as charitable contributions.”

U.S. Rep. Elaine Luria (D-VA) introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives that is supported by Reps. Bobby Scott (D-VA), Rob Wittman (R-VA), Gerry Connolly (D-VA), Denver Riggleman (R-VA), Don Beyer (D-VA), A. Donald McEachin (D-VA), Abigail Spanberger (D-VA), and Jennifer Wexton (D-VA).

“On May 31st, our Virginia Beach community experienced an unspeakable tragedy that led to the loss of 12 wonderful people,” Rep. Luria said. “In the wake of our community’s darkest day, we saw countless selfless people donate to provide relief for grieving families. I am introducing the Virginia Beach Strong Act to make it easier to help bring more urgently-needed support to grieving families.”

On May 31, 2019, a gunman opened fire at the Virginia Beach Municipal Center, killing 12 people and injuring four. Soon after, the Virginia Beach Tragedy Fund was created to support the wounded victims and the families of those killed. However, because the fund was set up exclusively for the benefit of those affected by the tragedy, it violates a 501(c)(3) nonprofit charitable tax rule that prohibits charitable funds from being earmarked for specific individuals. As a result, donations to the fund are not currently tax-deductible for those making the contributions.

The Virginia Beach Strong Act would clarify that any contribution made for the relief of the families of the dead or wounded victims is treated as a tax-deductible contribution. This legislation would also apply retroactively, classifying any such contribution made on or after May 31, 2019 as tax-deductible.

Sens. Warner and Kaine, along with Rep. Luria have been fierce advocates for the victims and families affected by this mass shooting. In August, they successfully passed bicameral legislation to rename a Virginia Beach post office after Ryan “Keith” Cox, a longtime public utilities employee who, alongside other victims, sacrificed his own life to save others during the shooting. In June, Sens. Warner and Kaine wrote to the commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to verify that victims and families were not being taxed on the contributions they were receiving. Additionally, the Senators secured unanimous passage earlier this year of a Senate resolution honoring the 12 victims of the Virginia Beach shooting.

The full text of the bill is available here.

McEachin Announces New Eco Heroes District Program Washington, D.C. – Congressman A. Donald McEachin (VA-04) today announced a new environmental program, Eco Heroes, for elementary school students in Virginia’s Fourth Congressional District. Participa

Washington, D.C. – Congressman A. Donald McEachin (VA-04) today announced a new environmental program, Eco Heroes, for elementary school students in Virginia’s Fourth Congressional District. Participating students will complete a series of environmentally focused challenges to learn more about the importance of being eco-friendly in our daily lives.

“We are very excited to announce this special opportunity for the young people of my district,” said Congressman McEachin. “I am very concerned about the environment and the future health of our planet. I have been so impressed by the work, commitment and passion shown by youth around the world to improve the environment particularly after last week’s Youth Climate Strike.  This is an opportunity for youngsters in our district to show their passion and be Eco Heroes and I look forward to seeing their great efforts."

Students can register by emailing VA04.Projects@mail.house.gov until October 14, 2019. Participants will be recognized at a ceremony with local environmental leaders in Spring 2020. Any students needing resources to participate should contact Congressman McEachin’s Richmond office at 804-486-1840.

Jackson-Feild Behavioral Health Services Earns GuideStar’s Platinum Seal of Transparency

 

GuideStar USA is a preeminent information source about charities. GuideStar maintains a database of 2.7 million nonprofits and is IRS compliant. It handles 26 million searches annually.

GuideStar has four levels of transparency for nonprofits. Jackson-Feild was recently awarded the platinum level having previously achieved the bronze, silver and gold levels.

The platinum level gives donors and prospective donors better insight into Jackson-Feild’s mission and the work it does to treat children with mental illness and/or substance use disorders. The platinum level uses metrics to demonstrate outcomes and results.

Jackson-Feild Behavioral Health Service strives to be transparent and to provide its stakeholders with information to help them make an informed decision when making giving choices.

James B. “Pete” Wills, Jr.

August 21, 1928-September 25, 2019

Visitation Services

1 p.m. Friday, September 27

Owen Funeral Home
303 S. Halifax Rd.

Jarratt, Virginia

2 p.m. Friday, September 27

Owen Funeral Home
303 S. Halifax Rd.
Jarratt, Virginia

James B. “Pete” Wills, Jr., 91, of Emporia, VA, passed away Wednesday, September 25, 2019. James served his country in the United States Army four years during the Korean Conflict and was an employee of Johns-Manville/Georgia-Pacific plant for thirty-seven years. In his earlier years, he enjoyed playing golf and traveling with his wife.

 Mr. Wills is survived by his wife of 69 years, Annie Lee Warf Wills; daughter, Linda W. Bradley of Roanoke Rapids, NC; son, Eugene Wills (Sandra) of Emporia; five grandchildren, Cindy B. White, Susan B. Finney (Andy), Courtney W. Lynch (Jamie), Paul Bradley (Beth) and Tori Wills Pultz (Jeremy); ten great-grandchildren and a sister, Marie W. Holland of Emporia.

The funeral service will be held 2 p.m. Friday, September 27 at Owen Funeral Home, 303 S. Halifax Rd., Jarratt, Virginia where the family will receive friends one hour prior to the service. Interment will follow at High Hills Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests memorial contributions be made to Purdy Baptist Church Sanctuary Construction Project, 186 Smokey Ordinary Rd., Emporia, Virginia 23847.

Online condolences may be shared with the family at www.owenfh.com.

Dominion To Fund Electric School Buses in Virginia

By Susan Shibut and Jason Boleman, Capital News Service

RICHMOND, Va. -- A greener commute could soon be in store for some students across Virginia.  

Richmond-based Dominion Energy is now accepting applications from public school districts interested in receiving electric school buses in a program aimed to reduce carbon emissions, lower transportation costs and strengthen Dominion’s electric grid. The program’s goal is to replace the existing 13,000 diesel school buses with electric models by 2030.

Upfront costs are about $120,000 higher than a comparable diesel bus, according to a report filed in July with the House Select Committee. Dominion will pay the cost difference for electric buses as well as the cost of new charging stations and infrastructure for selected schools.

The bus batteries can be tapped as an energy source and provide grid stability in times of high energy needs. During a power outage or emergency, for example, the buses could serve as mobile power stations. Schools will be selected for the program based on the locational benefit of their local power grid. 

According to Dominion, 1,050 buses would provide enough energy to power more than 10,000 homes. 

The new buses operate much more quietly than the current fleet, which could help facilitate communication between drivers and students. Each bus also is equipped with a seat belt for every student.

“Customers will benefit from the battery technology and vehicle-to-grid technology built into the bus system, which will enhance reliability and support renewable energy development,” said Dominion spokesperson Samantha Moore.

Richmond Public Schools Superintendent Jason Kamras said that the school district is “incredibly excited” about the possibility of the initiative coming to Richmond. 

“We believe we’re the perfect school division to launch this initiative as we’ve already demonstrated a commitment to making RPS ‘greener,’” said Kamras.

Electric school buses would be another in a series of environmental initiatives for Richmond Public Schools. Solar panels installed in 10 schools are on track to be operative in late October and into November, and another recent initiative replaced styrofoam cafeteria trays with recyclable alternatives. 

Air quality inside the buses is six times better than in non-electric models, according to Dominion, and one bus would reduce carbon emissions by 54,000 pounds each year. Dominion estimates that a switch to electric buses will reduce operation and maintenance costs for schools by 60%. 

“They have other benefits too you know, they clean the air, they’re quieter, they’re easier to maintain because they have fewer parts -- moving parts -- that need to be replaced than an internal combustion engine,” said Wendy Fewster, a LEED-certified RPS sustainability associate. 

The initiative was praised by environmental advocacy organization Environment Virginia, who encouraged school districts to apply for the initiative.

“Dominion’s announcement is an important part of addressing climate change and protecting the health of thousands of school children across the commonwealth,” said Elly Boehmer, director of Environment Virginia.

Dominion aims to have 50 electric school buses fully operational by the end of 2020. The company also wants to grow the program by 200 buses per year for the next five years, pending state approval. The costs for the initial 50 buses will be covered by Dominion’s base rate, with full program implementation expecting to cost less than $1 per month for the average Dominion Energy customer.

Applications for the program close Oct. 5.

WARNER, KAINE ANNOUNCE MORE THAN $23 MILLION FOR VIRGINIA AIRPORTS

~ Grants will help fund projects at 11 airports across the Commonwealth ~

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) today announced $23,185,283 in federal funding from the United States Department of Transportation (DOT) to support improvement projects at 11 airports.

“We’re excited to announce that these federal dollars will benefit 11 Virginia airports,” said the Senators. “We look forward to seeing how these grants will help improve safety and increase efficiency at airports all across the Commonwealth.”

  • Washington Dulles International Airport will receive $854,786 to support Voluntary Airport Low emissions (VALE) infrastructure.
  • Manassas Regional Airport/Harry P. Davis Field will receive $3,513,300 to construct a taxiway, improve a runway safety area, and rehabilitate a runway.
  • Warrenton-Fauquier Airport will receive $150,000 to rehabilitate a taxiway and rehabilitate a runway.
  • Leesburg Executive Airport will receive $205,000 to construct an apron.
  • Richmond International Airport will receive $8,733,800 to construct a taxiway.
  • Lynchburg Regional Airport/Preston Glenn Field will receive $305,148 to rehabilitate and construct aprons, and rehabilitate a taxiway.
  • Norfolk International Airport will receive $3,591,524 to acquire land for approaches, install airfield guidance signs, rehabilitate taxiway lighting, rehabilitate a taxiway and acquire friction-measuring equipment.
  • Franklin Municipal-John Beverly Rose Airport will receive $90,000 to conduct a study.
  • Virginia Highlands Airport will receive $4,150,000 to extend a runway.
  • Luray Caverns Airport will receive $1,291,725 to construct an apron.
  • Shenandoah Valley Regional Airport will receive $300,000 to construct a taxiway and acquire safety and/or security equipment.

 The funding was awarded through the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Airport Improvement Program (AIP), which supports infrastructure improvement projects at airports across the nation. Sens. Warner and Kaine have been strong advocates for greater infrastructure investments, including for Virginia’s airports. They have pushed back against the Trump Administration’s suggested budget cuts to DOT to help ensure that critical upgrades like these can happen. Earlier this year, Sen. Warner introduced a bill to strengthen our nation’s infrastructure, create jobs, and generate economic stimulus.

Virginia’s Unemployment Rate Drops to 2.8%

 

By Andrew Riddler, Capital News Service

RICHMOND — Virginia continues to have one of the nation’s lowest unemployment rates, state and federal officials said Friday.

The commonwealth’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate dropped from 2.9 percent in July to 2.8 percent in August.

Virginia was tied with Utah and Colorado for the sixth-lowest unemployment rate last month. In July, Virginia and Colorado were tied for the seventh-lowest rate.

Virginia’s jobless rate continues to be much lower than the national average of 3.7 percent. Virginia has the third-lowest rate among states east of the Mississippi River, behind Vermont (2.1%) and New Hampshire (2.5%).

“The drop in Virginia’s unemployment rate is yet another sign that our economy remains strong and our efforts to create opportunity in every corner of the commonwealth are paying real dividends,” Gov. Ralph Northam said.

Timothy Aylor, an economist with the Virginia Employment Commission, also sees the falling rate as a strength for the state.

“Overall, as more people are able to find jobs and as people become more encouraged about the job market and re-enter it, I think that’s a good thing,” Aylor said. “It helps the state, and it helps the economy.”

Among the 18 states with the lowest unemployment rates in the country, Virginia has the largest labor force. Most of the 18 states have less than half of the labor force Virginia does. Aylor said this was a testament to the state’s economy.

“We have a highly skilled labor force. This is especially the case in some of the metro areas — Northern Virginia primarily,” Aylor said. “And this creates competition among employers as more employers take note of the quality of the workforce in the state.”

In Northern Virginia, unemployment is especially low — below the state average.

“For one reason or another, you can have a lower rate of people looking — you can have a lower rate of labor force participation — and that will kind of drive down the unemployment rate,” Aylor said.

“But that is not the case in an area like Alexandria or Arlington County in particular, where labor force participation rates are high and people are looking and finding work, and there is a lot of competition for it.”

Despite Virginia’s overall low rate, state officials affirmed their commitment to helping communities where unemployment is higher than average.

“We’re proud of this statewide unemployment rate,” said Brian Ball, Virginia’s secretary of commerce and trade. “But as some localities continue to struggle with a higher rate, the governor remains focused on bringing new investment and jobs to all regions of the commonwealth.”

Cheers! ABC Stores See Increase in Sales

By Pedro Coronado, Capital News Service

RICHMOND — Let’s raise a toast to the top-selling liquor store in Central Virginia in 2018. The ABC outlet at 10 N. Thompson St. in Richmond, registered almost $8 million in gross sales and had the highest profit margin in the state.

Only two other ABC stores, both in Virginia Beach, had higher sales than the one on Thompson, just off Carytown — on the edge of the Fan district and 2 miles from the Virginia Commonwealth University campus.

Jean Louis, a regular customer at the Thompson Street store, says it usually features more liquor than nearby ABC outlets on Broad and West Main streets.

“I love how they always have more than one supply of luxurious bottles like Hennessy Richard,” Louis said.” Those kinds of bottles are usually rarely stocked in other stores, making them hard to find.”

During the 2018 fiscal year, the 370 stores operated by the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority rang up sales of $978,751,341. Overall, the rate of return (the profit plus taxes collected, divided by gross sales) was 34.8%.

The stores with the highest gross sales were at:

  • 1612 Laskin Road, Virginia Beach — $9,333,007
  • 405 30th St., Virginia Beach — $8,701,621
  • 10 N. Thompson St., Richmond — $7,966,262

The stores with the highest rates of return were at:

  • 10 N. Thompson St., Richmond — 40.7%
  • 2901 Hermitage Rd., Richmond — 40.7%
  • 405 30th St., Virginia Beach — 40.2%

The Virginia ABC has four main sources of revenue: state-imposed taxes on beer and wine sales, sales of distilled spirits at the agency’s stores, violation penalties and license fees. After each fiscal year, the commission releases a report on its sales and other activities.

During the 2019 fiscal year, which ended June 30, ABC brought in even more money — more than $1 billion. Agency officials announced in August that they had another record-breaking milestone as revenues increased about $72 million over the previous year.

For 2019, the commission had about $197 million in store profits, $223 million in retail taxes and $80 million in wine and beer taxes. As a result, it pumped almost $500 million into the state government’s general fund, which supports education, health, transportation, public safety and other services.

The top five brands purchased in Virginia ABC stores last year remained Tito’s Handmade (domestic vodka), Hennessy VS (cognac), Jack Daniel’s 7 Black (Tennessee whiskey), Jim Beam (straight bourbon), and Fireball Cinnamon (imported cordial).

Another metric is the total gallons sold by the state’s ABC stores. In 2018, that number exceeded 12 million gallons, up about 3% from the previous year.

Revenues have risen as ABC amped up its marketing and merchandising.

“ABC’s revenue growth is primarily the result of adding stores around the state to improve customer convenience, a robust series of targeted seasonal promotional campaigns and changing consumer trends,” Travis Hill, the commission’s chief executive officer, said in announcing the 2019 revenue numbers.

“We opened seven new stores in the last fiscal year, which provided greater accessibility for customers and increased sales. Customers aren’t necessarily drinking more; they’re buying more premium products that have a higher per bottle price tag. Additionally, they’re choosing distilled spirits over other products.”

ABC stores are holding various promotions in September, which Gov. Ralph Northam has designated as Virginia Spirits Month. Thursday, for example, was Spirited Bourbon Day, with 20% discounts on select bourbons. Other events include wine tastings and samplings at distilleries.

(Editor's Note: According to data supplied by the Capital News Service, the Gross Sales for the Emporia ABC Store were $2,337,510 with a 33.5% Rate of Return)

Population Is Expected to Shrink in Rural Virginia

By Emma North, Capital News Service

RICHMOND — “More and more people are relocating to Highland County, Virginia, everyday!” the county’s website says.

Online, local officials offer resources and encouragement for people to relocate to Highland County, the most sparsely populated in Virginia. A brochure urges readers to consider Highland’s “elevated lifestyle.”

But Highland County faces an uphill battle in attracting new residents. Demographers at the University of Virginia predict that the county’s population, now about 2,260, will drop 17% over the next two decades.

Of the state’s 133 cities and counties, U.Va.’s Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service projects that 53 will lose population by 2040. Most of those shrinking localities are in south, southwest and western Virginia.

“These areas are losing population every time the population is counted,” said Augie Wallmeyer, author of the book “Extremes of Virginia.”

“With a few minor exceptions, they just don’t have what it takes to retain people or attract new people.”

Many of the localities projected to lose population offer tranquility, clean air and beautiful views, but they lack job opportunities. Some also lack high-speed internet access that businesses need.

Wallmeyer said rural areas may lack sufficient health care and educational opportunities as well.

The state has implemented programs such as GO Virginia to encourage the growth of high-paying jobs throughout the commonwealth. Community colleges also are offering more job training programs. But Wallmeyer said there has been a lack of coordination among efforts to address problems in rural counties.

“Without coordination, you may find, for example, that GO Virginia might find a way to attract jobs to a county. But if the educational opportunities are very limited or if there is no good health care nearby or a terrible drug abuse problem or no amenities like Starbucks and that sort of thing, the effort fails,” Wallmeyer said.

The available workforce in rural counties becomes even smaller after factoring in age.

In an analysis of the data, Shonel Sen, a research and policy analyst for the Weldon Cooper Center’s Demographics Research Group, said that by next year, more than 30% of the residents in rural counties like Highland are expected to be over 65. That is double the statewide proportion of people over 65.

By 2040, people over 65 would make up more than 35% of the population of Highland and Lancaster counties, according to the center’s projections.

Having so many residents at retirement age subtracts from the available workforce. An aging population also creates a greater demand for health care, which many rural areas are struggling to provide.

The population trends affect not just the economy but also politics, Wallmeyer said. As rural counties shrink, so does their legislative representation. This makes it difficult to make their issues a priority at the state level.

“It bodes ill for people in those areas who think the political system can fix their problems,” Wallmeyer said.

The Demographics Research Group predicts that while parts of Virginia face drastic population losses, other parts will grapple with dramatic population gains. Overall, the state population will grow 14%, to almost 10 million, by 2040, the projections show.

Sen pointed out the “significant rural-urban divide” in Virginia. She noted that currently, 70% of the state’s residents live in the three largest metropolitan areas (Northern Virginia, Hampton Roads and the Richmond area) and only 12% live in non-metro areas.

By 2040, the demographers predict, Loudoun County would grow 55%, to almost 670,000 residents — adding the equivalent of the current population of Richmond. Loudoun would rise from being the state’s fourth most populous locality to the second, behind only Fairfax County.

The data also project high growth in other localities in Northern Virginia (such as Prince William and Stafford counties) and between Richmond and Williamsburg (New Kent and James City counties).

At the same time, the number of residents likely will decrease in rural areas. For instance, the center predicts that Buchanan County will lose almost a third of its population, going from more than 21,000 residents to about 14,500. The group’s data suggest that the populations of Danville and Martinsville, as well as Accomack and Grayson counties, will decline by more than one-fifth.

William T. “Bill” Bradley Jr.

November 12, 1947-September 19, 1947

Graveside Services

11 a.m. Saturday, September 21

Greensville Memorial Cemetery
1250 Skippers Road
Emporia, Virginia 23847

William T. “Bill” Bradley, Jr., 71, passed away Thursday, September 19,2019. He was preceded in death by his former wife and life partner, Elisabet “Lisa” Bradley.

Mr. Bradley is survived by his daughter, Linda B. Watkins and husband, David; three grandchildren, Brian K. Sexton, Jr. of Duluth, Minnesota, Travis Watkins and Krista Watkins.

A graveside funeral service will be held 11 a.m. Saturday, September 21 at Greensville Memorial Cemetery.

The family will receive friends at his daughter’s home.

Online condolences may be shared with the family at www.owenfh.com.

September Update From Congressman McEachin

This summer, we were happy to host a “Mobile McEachin” in Emporia. This is where a staffer travels to the locality to provide easier and more efficient service for constituents. We were excited to meet folks from Emporia and be able to offer help. Until we are there again, if you need assistance with a federal agency, please contact my office at mceachin.house.gov.  We are also happy to hear your opinions on issues of the day.

On September 28th, from 10 am to noon at Capital One, West Creek Commons, 15000 Capital One Drive, Richmond, 23238, I will be hosting, with Congresswoman Spanberger a Service Academy Day for students interested in attending one of the five service academies – US Coast Guard Academy, US Air Force Academy, US Merchant Marine Academy, US Naval Academy at Annapolis and US Military Academy at West Point. This is a great opportunity to learn about the academies and the application process. Our academies train leaders of the next generation.

Unfortunately, I had to cancel my August town hall in Emporia because of dangerous threatening weather. I was very disappointed not to have the chance to dialogue with folks, but safety is paramount. I plan to be back soon.

-Congressman A. Donald McEachin represents Virginia’s 4th Congressional District

Voter Registration Is Up More in Democratic Strongholds

By Kelly Booth, Capital News Service

RICHMOND — Over the past four years, voter registration has grown faster in Virginia localities that tend to vote Democratic than in localities that usually go Republican. That could spell trouble for the GOP heading into November’s elections.

Between August 2015 and August 2019, voter registration increased 9% in the state’s Democratic strongholds but only 6% in Republican strongholds, according to an analysis of data from the Virginia Department of Elections.

Democratic Party officials say they are pleased about the trend in a year when Virginians are electing state legislators but not a governor or U.S. senator.

“We always say slower turnout with Virginia’s off-year election and fully recognize that this is an off-off year election with no statewide race,” said Kathryn Gilley, communications director for the House Democratic Caucus. “That being said, the fact that there is so much new voter registration ... Virginians are really aware of the importance of this year.”

But Jeff Ryer, press secretary for the Virginia Senate Republican Caucus, said an increase in registered voters in Democratic areas doesn’t necessarily mean Democrats will win at the polls. He said something similar happened in Florida in 2016 and 2018, with news stories and opinion surveys predicting victories for Democrats.

“Not only did they (Democrats) not prevail, but they lost both,” Ryer said. “One of the things I really like to point out to people is Republicans do much better at the polls than in the polls.”

Gilley said Democrats are still energized from the 2016 presidential election, in which Hillary Clinton carried Virginia but lost in the Electoral College to Donald Trump.

“Trump’s election has really highlighted the importance of state legislatures,” Gilley said.

Pro-Trump vs. Pro-Clinton localities

Statewide in 2016, 50% of Virginia voters cast their ballots for Clinton and 44% for Trump. (The remaining votes went to the Libertarian and other minor-party candidates.)

Trump carried 93 cities and counties in Virginia, mostly in the less populated southern and western parts of the state where population has been flat or declining. Clinton carried 40 localities, largely in Northern Virginia, the Richmond area and Hampton Roads — areas that are more densely populated and generally are growing in population.

Last week, the Virginia Department of Elections posted data on how many people were registered to vote in each locality as of August. Capital News Service compared those numbers with the corresponding data for August 2015, when Virginia was preparing for a similar election in which only legislative and local offices were up for grabs.

During the four-year period, voter registration increased 6.4%, to 2.68 million, in the 93 localities that voted for Trump. But the number of voters jumped 8.6%, to 2.91 million, in the 40 localities that backed Clinton.

The difference was even bigger in the communities that went heavily for one candidate or another:

·         Seventy-six localities cast at least 55% of their votes for Trump. In those cities and counties combined, voter registration went up 5.8% over the past four years.

·         Thirty localities cast at least 55% of their votes for Clinton. Taken as a whole, those areas have seen an 8.7% jump in registered voters since 2015.

For example, voter registration is up 16% in Richmond and 11% in Alexandria — cities that cast at least three-fourths of their votes for Clinton.

In contrast, voter registration declined slightly in most of the localities that cast at least three-fourths of their votes for Trump. For instance, the number of registered voters is down 5% in Buchanan County and 7% in Dickenson County.

Not every locality reflected the trend. Voter registration increased 15% or more in the Republican strongholds of New Kent, Louisa and Goochland counties, and it dropped in Greensville County and the cities of Williamsburg and Franklin, which tend to vote for Democrats.

 

But overall, the number of registered voters went up more in Democratic localities than Republican ones.

Will redrawn districts help Democrats?

Stephen Farnsworth, director of the Center for Leadership and Media Studies at the University of Mary Washington, noted that voter registration increased after 11 Virginia House districts were redrawn this year. That happened after the courts found that the districts had been racially gerrymandered. The redrawn districts generally are more favorable to Democrats.

“When lines are drawn more favorably for one party or the other, that increases the quality of the candidates who are willing to run, increases the amount of money that donors are willing to spend, and those two things can increase voter interest,” said Farnsworth, a professor of political science and international affairs.

“Expect higher turnout in some of those newly drawn districts because they’re more competitive than they used to be.”

All seats in the General Assembly are up for election on Nov. 5. Currently, Republicans hold a 21-19 majority in the Virginia Senate and a 51-49 edge in the House of Delegates.

Ryer noted that the Senate has had the same districts drawn by the Democrats since 2011.

“The Senate is operating under a Democratic gerrymander,” Ryer said. “Yet, despite the fact that the Democrats drew the lines, Republicans have been in the majority since those lines went into effect.”

Democrats are hoping to flip both chambers so that they control not only state government’s executive branch, with Ralph Northam’s election as governor in 2017, but also the legislative branch.

“If Democrats can pick up a few seats in either chamber, the legislature will shift. And if they pick up a couple of seats in both chambers, then Democrats will control the governor’s office as well as both chambers of the legislature — and we haven’t seen that in Virginia in 20 years,” Farnsworth said.

With control of the General Assembly at stake, Virginia’s legislative elections have attracted national attention.

“People really look to Virginia as an indicator for how the rest of the nation will vote, especially since we have become a purple (state) trending blue,” Gilley said.

“A lot of campaign operations and different groups almost use Virginia as like a test area for different tactics and strategies … National groups look at Virginia because we’ve got off-year elections, so they’ll implement strategies here to see if they want to use them in the regular-year election.”

Gilley said voters also were motivated by how close some elections have been in Virginia. In 2017, the race between Republican incumbent David Yancey and Democratic challenger Shelly Simonds in the 94th House District in Newport News ended in a tie. The election was decided by a lottery: Yancey’s name was pulled from a bowl, allowing Republicans to maintain control of the House.

Gilley said that election “really highlighted how important every single vote is.”

Episcopal Churches Help Jackson-Feild’s Children

Members of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Hopewell and Martin’s Brandon in Disputanta recently participated in a combined effort to collect items for the youth at Jackson-Feild.

Carol Hopkins of St. John’s coordinated the project that resulted in a donation of 163 items ranging from school supplies to bikes, sporting goods, board games, puzzles, and art supplies. Hopkins and her husband, Ed, delivered the items to the Jackson-Feild campus where they were enthusiastically welcomed with open arms by residents and staff alike, and were immediately pressed into service.

Since 1855, churches, individuals, and businesses have provided hope and help for more than 15,000 children by providing cash donations and in-kind gifts.

Perhaps you or your group would like to conduct a donation drive!  Please visit www.jacksonfeild.org and click on the “Ways to Give” tab.  You will find the current Wish List posted there.  For more information, you may also contact Tod Balsbaugh at 804-354-6929 or tbalsbaugh@jacksonfeild.org.

The staff and residents at Jackson-Feild gratefully thank the members of St. John’s and Martin’s Brandon for their kindness and generosity.

 

 

 

As Vaping Illnesses Mount, Officials Warn of Dangers of E-cigarettes

 

By Georgia Geen, Capital News Service

RICHMOND — When cases of lung disease linked to vaping began popping up across the country this summer, the Virginia Poison Center began receiving calls from people who thought they might have become ill from using e-cigarettes.

“Nobody knows why there’s all of a sudden been a cluster,” said Dr. S. Rutherfoord Rose, director of the Virginia Poison Center. “There is an inherent danger, and nobody really knows what that danger is. If you’re young and healthy, why risk it? Just stop.”

On Thursday, the Trump administration moved to ban flavored vapes in response to the spike in lung illnesses, the latest in a series of measures nationwide aimed at curbing e-cigarette use. This summer, a Virginia law went into effect that increased the age to buy cigarettes and other tobacco products from 18 to 21, and Virginia Commonwealth University instituted a smoking ban on its Monroe Park Campus.

Virginia is one of dozens of states with reports of vaping-related illness. Nationwide, officials have linked 380 cases of lung disease and six deaths to e-cigarettes.

Altria Group, the Henrico-based conglomerate that produces and sells tobacco and related products, is a top investor in Juul Labs Inc., maker of the popular Juul e-cigarettes. On Monday, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration warned Juul about its marketing practices, “including those targeted at students, tribes, health insurers and employers.”

“We agree that urgent action is needed, and we look forward to reviewing the guidance,” Altria spokesman George Parman said in an email. “Reducing youth use of e-vapor products is a top priority for Altria.”

Vaping often has been cast as a safe alternative to cigarettes. But Rose, who is also a professor at the VCU School of Medicine, said that because the products are so new, there is a lack of data on the long-term use of vaping. As a result, it’s “premature” to say e-cigarettes are indeed safer, Rose said.

“When these things were touted as a safe alternative to cigarettes, that was really only based on the harmful effects of long-term cigarettes. It really wasn’t a comparison because there wasn’t any data,” Rose said. “There’s certainly no data for long-term use of these products; they haven’t been around long enough.”

Using vapes early on can lead young people to smoke cigarettes in the future, according to a 2015 study.

How prevalent is vaping in Virginia?

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has compiled data on e-cigarette use in 37 states and U.S. territories in 2017. The data showed that:

  • About 33% of Virginia high school students had used an electronic cigarette at some point. That compared with about 42% of high school students nationwide.
  • About 12% of high schoolers in Virginia were current vape users, just below the national average of 13%. (The CDC defines a current user as someone who has vaped at least once during the past 30 days.)
  • About 3% of the state’s high school students vaped frequently. That was on par with the national average. (A frequent user is someone who has used e-cigarettes at least 20 days during the past month.)
  • About 10% of Virginia’s young adults (ages 18-24) were current e-cigarette users. That also was about the national average.

“If somebody’s a teenager, a young person, you don’t want them to continue doing this for 20, 30 years,” Rose said. “There is an inherent danger, and nobody really knows what that danger is. If you’re young and healthy, why risk it?”

Last week, the FDA announced it had found a commonality — the presence of vitamin E acetate — among users who had fallen ill after vaping cannabis products. But Rose said it could take months or years to understand the cause of the outbreak, which he expects will grow before the situation improves.

The wide scope of products people are using — some of which contain nicotine or THC, and are purchased at stores or illicitly — makes it more challenging to narrow down an exact cause.

“There are a variety of products out there, people putting a variety of ingredients in those products,” Rose said. “So there’s not a lot of uniformity. There’s some common themes but not to all patients who have developed the problem.”

Some e-cigarette users are having second thoughts

VCU student Kevin McGarry has seen that variety firsthand. He said he started using a Juul over the summer, about a month or two after he stopped smoking cigarettes. He said he knew one person who modified a vape so that he could put “Juul juice” in it. That product has one of the highest nicotine concentrations of any e-cigarette, health officials say.

“There’s so many different things, all different kinds of new vapes coming out,” McGarry said, “new devices all the time.”

As a 20-year-old, McGarry said he’s found it more challenging to acquire Juul pods since the smoking age increased to 21 — but at the end of the day, “anyone who wants it could really get their hands on it.”

And data shows more people have picked up vaping in recent years. Nationally, the rate of current e-cigarette use among high school students increased to almost 21% in 2018, according to the CDC.

McGarry says he doesn’t plan to continue vaping for very long, and the recent outbreak of illnesses has a lot to do with that decision.

“Before all this came out, I was kind of comfortable thinking, ‘OK, yeah, I’m not smoking cigarettes anymore; this is a better alternative,’” McGarry said. “Seeing that these young kids are getting really sick just a few years into vaping, it’s really changed my mind.”

WARNER RAISES QUESTIONS ABOUT CYBERSECURITY PRACTICES AMID BREACHES INVOLVING SENSITIVE BIOMETRIC DATA

~ Requests answers from U.S. Customs and Border Protection and Suprema HQ Inc. ~

 

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Vice Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee and former tech entrepreneur, wrote to U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and South Korean company Suprema HQ, following separate but alarming incidents that impacted both entities and exposed Americans’ personal, permanently identifiable data. In a letter to CBP, Sen. Warner inquired about the information security practices of CBP contractors, in light of a June cyberattack that resulted in the theft of tens of thousands of facial images belonging to U.S. travelers. In a separate letter, Sen. Warner requested more information from Suprema HQ, the company that owns web-based biometric lock system, Biostar 2, which experienced a cyber incident in August, resulting in the exposure of permanently identifiable biometric data belonging to at least one million people worldwide.
 
“While all of the stolen information was sensitive and required protection, facial image data is especially sensitive, since such permanent personal information cannot be replaced like a password or a license plate number,” wrote Sen. Warner to Acting CBP Commissioner Mark Morgan.  “It is absolutely critical that federal agencies and industry improve their track records, especially when handling and processing biometric data. Americans deserve to have their sensitive information secured, regardless of whether it is being handled by a first or a third-party.”
 
In June, CBP announced the theft of at least 100,000 traveler ID photos from a CBP subcontractor that had improperly transferred copies of these photos from CBP servers to its own company database. In addition to facial images, the cyberattack resulted in the theft of several gigabytes of data, including license plate photos, confidential agreements, hardware blueprints for security systems, and budget spreadsheets.
 
In the letter to CBP, Sen. Warner expressed alarm regarding the failure of federal agencies to ensure that Americans’ sensitive information is safe in the hands of contractors. He also asked CBP to provide timely answers to a series of questions regarding the information security practices of CBP contractors and subcontractors. Among these questions, Sen. Warner requested details on CBP’s third-party contractual requirements concerning database encryption, biometric data management, vulnerability management, logging data retention, and identity and access management, among other security measures.
 
Similarly, in his letter to Suprema HQ, Sen. Warner raised concerns about the Biostar 2 incident, which exposed permanently identifiable biometric data, including user photos.
 
“Unlike passwords, email addresses and phone numbers, biometric information in voices, fingerprints, and eyes are unique data that are impossible to reset. Biometric data can be used effectively for unauthorized surveillance and access to secure facilities, to steal identities, and is even valuable in developing deepfake technologies,” wrote Sen. Warner to Suprema HQ CEO James Lee. “It is my understanding that your customers use your biometric security system to provide access to secure facilities, and that the product has also been integrated into Nedap’s AEOS access control systems, which are used by at least 5,700 organizations in 83 countries, including banks and foreign law enforcement entities.  Given the sensitivity of this information, it is absolutely critical that companies like yours exercise exceptional due care when collecting and securing biometric information, and when contracting with customers that collect permanent personal information.”
 
The Biostar 2 breach resulted in the online exposure of more than one million fingerprint records, in addition to user images, personal details, usernames and passwords, and employee security clearances. The breach also revealed that large portions of the Biostar 2 database were unprotected and unencrypted. In the letter, Sen. Warner asked Suprema HQ to list which U.S. businesses are served by the company. He also requested more information on the company’s practices regarding server security, biometric data storage security, and database encryption.
 
Sen. Warner has been a champion for cybersecurity throughout his career, and has been an outspoken critic of poor cybersecurity practices that compromise Americans’ personal information. In May, Sen. Warner introduced bold legislation to hold credit reporting agencies accountable for data breaches. He also introduced legislation earlier this year to empower state and local government to counter cyberattacks, and to increase cybersecurity among public companies.

Toni Morrison documentary screens at ICA

Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am post-screening discussion Film Curator Enjoli Moon and Poet Nikki Giovanni lead discussion

By Aliviah Jones, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – Poet, scholar and activist Nikki Giovanni feels the loss everyday of her best friend Toni Morrison.

Giovanni stood on stage at the Institute for Contemporary Art at Virginia Commonwealth University Wednesday and candidly told the audience how her friendship began with Nobel Prize winning author Toni Morrison, who died in early August at age 88.

“I picked up “The Bluest Eye” and I read it and I thought ‘Oh my God this is brilliant, I have to meet this woman,’” Giovanni said.

Then she did what most people don’t do when they finish an inspiring book. Giovanni walked across New York from her apartment ato Random House where Morrison was working. After Giovanni patiently waited, Morrison agreed to meet with her. They had a cup of coffee across the street, beginning a 40-year long friendship.

Giovanni led a post-discussion of the documentary “Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am” that screened to a packed auditorium in the ICA.

The film detailed what the black experience was like for Morrison as she journeyed through her upbringing in Lorain, Ohio, education at Howard University and then Cornell University, on to a critically-lauded literary career authoring 11 novels. Morrison was the first African American female editor at Penguin Random House and the first African American woman to win the Nobel Prize in literature, in 1993. 

The film peered into Morrison’s life through first-hand interviews with Morrison and other notable literary figures such as Hilton Als, Fran Lebowitz and Sonia Sanchez.

ICA film curator Enjoli Moon, who also founded the Afrikana Film Festival taking place in Richmond this weekend, said the museum was already interested in screening the film. When Morrison died in August, hosting the event transitioned into an honor. 

“I’m excited to be able to present this film, something that I think will help to elevate her legacy,” said Moon.

The two-hour documentary directed by Timothy Greenfield-Sanders was released in June.
The theme of sisterhood weaves throughout the film, highlighting moments shared between Morrison and Oprah Winfrey and with civil rights activist Angela Davis. Morrison convinced Davis to write an autobiography shortly after she was found not guilty of murder. 

Giovanni misses the sisterhood; she misses long talks on the phone with Morrison.

She said Morrison’s success will live on through her literature, and hopes that one day Morrison’s life is made into a biopic.

 “Reading Toni Morrison is like reading the New Testament over and over,” Giovanni said. “You start to look at everything very, very differently.” 

Morrison’s commentary in the film elicited laughter and tears from the audience. She discussed her experience working in an industry dominated by white men. She also said she was critized for writing about slavery and being African American. 

The film kicked off the second season of ICA Cinema, which screens films by independent filmmakers at 7 p.m. on the second Wednesday of the month.

“Some Warm Thoughts”

With the temperature being very hot
And the humidity extra high
To find some pleasant entertainment
One really has to try.
 
Now every day is an adventure
So I turn to center stage
I try and do all the things I can
For people of my age.
 
I fixed breakfast on the sidewalk
With my tow eggs over light
Then I fried the strips of bacon
Until it was crispy to the bite.
 
Well the eggs ended they ended up scrambled
When I  tried to make them flip
I shoud have first fixed up the bacon
So the grease would have made them slide.
 
The likes are not impossible
With the heat we’ve had of late
Yet the city didn’t appreciate
The mess I did create.
 
Yes this venture was a wipeout
Outside cooking on my knees
Yet if the temperature continues to rise
I’ll be trying a grilled cheese!
 
                         - Roy E. Schepp

GO Virginia Region 3 announces successful project award to develop a Regional Entrepreneur & Innovation Investment Strategy

Project will result in strategic path forward to help entrepreneurs in Region 3

 

The team of Mid-Atlantic Broadband Communities Corporation (MBC) and the Longwood University Office of Community and Economic Development (LOCED) have been awarded a $100,000 grant from GO Virginia to develop the Region 3 Entrepreneur & Innovation Investment Strategy (EII).   By Spring 2020 this team will present a formal recommendation to the Region 3 Council on ways it can support and utilize its resources to invest in projects that improve business formation in the Region.

 

As early as July 2017, the Region 3 Council identified a number of innovation partners in its footprint and utilized these partners as part of its stakeholder group for input into the original Growth & Diversification Plan that was completed in 2017.  In 2018 and in concert with the State GO Virginia Board and its technology consulting firm TEConomy, the Council created a standing Innovation Committee to lead stakeholder sessions on the TEConomy report, which resulted in an assessment of the status of innovation and business formation in the Region 3 footprint.

 

MBC and LOCED bring exceptional strengths to lead this effort. Each organization includes individuals with direct entrepreneurial experience.  From Mid-Atlantic Broadband, this experience includes its deep connectivity with Microsoft and the Microsoft TechSpark Program and its staff engagement with innovation and entrepreneurship organizations outside the Region 3 footprint including Startup VA, Lighthouse Labs and RVA Works.  For the Longwood Office of Economic and Community Development, its experience includes its leadership across the Region in supporting Community Business Launches, its deep and recognized business planning expertise through its Small Business Development Center, and its existing geographic coverage of the entire Region 3 footprint with staffing and programs.  These two entities also bring a level of technical skills that are unique, including business research, mapping capabilities, and demonstrated use of electronic communication platforms to engage broad stakeholder audiences.

 

"It is exciting to see the breadth and depth of regional collaboration from these two experienced partners,” Region 3 GO Virginia Council Chairman Randy Lail said. "We are even more pleased that the State GO Virginia Board concurred with our recommendation to use the knowledge gained from the TEConomy report and advance it into a thoughtful strategy. We know that the lead partners will be engaging as many stakeholders as possible and will create a viable strategy for business formation that will also help us with talent retention and attraction, two areas of focus for our Regional Council."

 

The MBC/LOCED team brings strong skillsets in project management, stakeholder engagement, event planning, research, business analysis, and entrepreneurial program management.  Specifically, LOCED skillsets include a track record of successfully supporting Community Business Launches, analyzing business formation plans and scale-up plans, connecting entrepreneurs to diverse resources, and offering training and mentoring as part of its core competencies.  Four of its team members are active entrepreneurs, bringing practical experience into this project. MBC’s team also includes individual entrepreneurs as well as a founding member of the Danville/Pittsylvania IDEA Fest pitch competition. MBC is also directly connected to a significant corporate partner, Microsoft, through its TechSpark program and through the SOVA Innovation Hub.

"The Regional Council has high hopes that this project team will involve as many of our regional innovation partners as possible in developing this strategy," said Region 3 Vice-Chairman Charley Majors. "Creative thinking, and building impactful partnerships is the way that rural Virginia can successfully create sustainable economies, and this is an example of rural leadership in action." 

"We are excited to be partnering with the Longwood team," said Lauren Mathena, Project Manager for the EII Project.  "And we are eager to use our resources to complement the knowledge that MBC brings to this effort,” said Sheri McGuire, Associate Vice-President for Longwood’s Office of Community & Economic Development.  She continued “We believe that the deep resources of Region 3, and the partners who will help us with this planning effort, will result in a well-designed strategy for this Council to use.”

About GO Virginia: GO Virginia is a statewide business-led economic development initiative with funding to invest in collaborative projects that lead to high-paying jobs in each region. The mission of GO Virginia is to encourage collaboration among business, education, and government in each region. GO Virginia Region 3 is one of nine regions in Virginia and includes the Counties of Amelia, Brunswick, Buckingham, Charlotte, Cumberland, Halifax, Henry, Lunenburg, Mecklenburg, Nottoway, Patrick, Pittsylvania and Prince Edward and the Cities of Danville and Martinsville. For more information, please visit govirginia3.org and sign up for the Region 3 monthly newsletter or connect with GO Virginia Region 3 on Facebook or LinkedIn.

BA STUDENT OF THE MONTH SADLER HASTINGS LUNDY SEPTEMBER 2019

Brunswick Academy is pleased to announce that Sadler Hastings Lundy has been named its September 2019 Student of the Month.  She was recognized at the Brunswick Chamber of Commerce luncheon held on Wednesday, September 11, 2019.    Sadler, a senior at Brunswick Academy, is the daughter of Missi Sadler and Russell Lundy, Jr. She is the granddaughter of Mr. and Mrs. Herman Sadler of Emporia, Virginia and Mrs. Betty Lundy and the late Mr. Russell Lundy, Sr. of Emporia, Virginia.

Sadler is in the Brunswick Academy Honors Program - the most rigorous and challenging program of study our school offers. In addition to her BA classes this year, Sadler is enrolled in dual enrollment courses through both Southside Virginia Community College as well as Liberty University’s Online Academy. Throughout her entire time at Brunswick Academy, Sadler has earned the distinction of Brunswick Academy’s Honor Roll and has attended the Head of School’s All-A Breakfast her 9th, 10th & 11th grade years at the Upper School. Given her academic history, we fully anticipate her attendance for this year’s event as well.

Inducted into the National Honor Society in 2019, Sadler serves as the President this year. In addition, she is the Vice-President of the Student Council Organization which is the student government group for Brunswick Academy. Also, Sadler is a member of Brunswick Academy’s Latin Club and serves as its Vice-President. Furthermore, Sadler is a member of the National Honors Art program. Sadler has enhanced her academic career by attending both Girls State and Envision’s National Youth Leaders Forum.

Sadler has an impressive extra-curricular record as well. For the past 8 years, she has been a member of the city of Raleigh’s Cheer Extreme Competition team and has traveled throughout the contiguous United States to compete on a national level. In addition, she has participated in a variety of Brunswick Academy sports since 6th grade to include JV & Varsity Cheer, JV & Varsity Volleyball, as well as Soccer.  Furthermore, she works part-time as a waitress at the Fosho restaurant in Emporia.

When Sadler has any spare time, she enjoys traveling, cooking, and socializing with her friends. At this time, Sadler has been accepted to the University of Alabama. Meanwhile, she is awaiting responses from UNC, USC, Clemson, UVA, UT, and VT. Sadler plans to continue her love of cheer by being a cheerleader at the University level while she pursues a study of Biology and hopes to attend medical school to become a Dermatologist.

CONGRATULATIONS SADLER!

Virginia Legal Aid Society Creates New Project to Combat Domestic Violence

Virginia Legal Aid Society has created a six-person Domestic Violence Project dedicated to meeting the civil legal needs of domestic violence victims in Central, Southside and Western Tidewater Virginia.

“In our last strategic planning process in 2017, we learned that domestic violence is especially common in the 26 cities and counties that we serve in Central, Southside and Western Tidewater, Virginia. These cities and counties issue 47% more protective orders than the statewide average by population” said David Neumeyer, Executive Director of VLAS. “Victims particularly need an attorney when asking for a permanent protective order because abusers who control the family money often show up with an attorney, and victims cannot afford one. We have been working for the last eighteen months to create this unit, and are excited that we now have the team in place.

”VLAS expects to help more than 1,300 domestic violence victims and their family members with the help of a two-year grant from the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services. VLAS staff will help many of these victims obtain permanent protective orders against their abusers. The project also covers a full range of civil legal services, as long as the client is a domestic violence victim. Victims who need help, for example, obtaining a divorce, defending themselves in an eviction proceeding, receiving government benefits for which they are entitled or many other services can receive help.

VLAS’s Domestic Violence Project team consists of six positions, four of which are new. They include four attorneys, one in each of VLAS’s four offices; a Community Outreach Coordinator; and a paralegal. The attorneys and their offices are:

  • Pamela DeCamp, Managing Attorney for the Domestic Violence Project and also Managing Attorney of VLAS’s Farmville office.
  • Lindsay Horne (Lynchburg)
  • Dana Sanford (Suffolk)
  • Michael Simmons (Danville)

Mary Buchanan is the project’s Community Outreach Coordinator. In that role, she will work with VLAS’s partners to encourage client referrals and also help educate the public directly through public presentations and informational brochures and videos. Susan Crawley, the new paralegal, will work with domestic violence victims and assist project attorneys.

“We are grateful to DCJS for its confidence in this effort. The grant will allow VLAS to play a pivotal role in helping hundreds of victims receive protection from their abusers and work toward rebuilding their lives” said DeCamp said.

Over the past year, VLAS signed agreements with 18 agencies that work with domestic violence victims. VLAS will accept client referrals from these partners, build relationships with new partners, and help domestic violence clients who apply directly through VLAS’s LawLine (1-866-LEGLAID, or 1-866-534-5243).

David Clinton Bradley

October 17, 1931-September 9, 2019

Visitation Services

Wednesday September 11, 2019 from 6:00-8:00 PM

Echols Funeral Home and Cremation Service
806 Brunswick Avenue
Emporia, Virginia 23847

Thursday, September 12, 2019 at 2:00 PM

Echols Funeral Home and Cremation Chapel
806 Brunswick Avenue
Emporia, Virginia 23847

David Clinton Bradley, 87, died Monday, September 9, 2019.

A native of Greensville county, he was the son of the late William Henry and Jennie Morris Bradley. Clinton was a retired Insurance agent with Home Beneficial Life Insurance Co., a United States Navy veteran, and a Charter Member of Word of Life Assembly of God. In addition to his parents, he was preceded in death by three brothers; W.H., Simms, and Earl Bradley, a sister; Kathryn Kirkland, and a son in law; Steve Hueber.

Clinton is survived by his loving wife of 63 years; Lorine Slagle Bradley, his daughters; Anita B. Shelburne and her husband Lee, and Marilyn B. Hueber, a sister Hazel B. Conn, a brother Mack Bradley of Roanoke Rapids, NC, grandchildren; Janet S. Meck and her husband Ronald “Bo” of Toano, VA, Amy S. Pernell and her husband Jason of Garysburg, NC, and Adam Hueber and his wife Melissa of Carson, VA, great grandchildren; Justin, Rachel and Natalie Meck, and Drew and Jacob Pernell.

Funeral Services will be held Thursday, September 12, 2019 at 2:00 PM at the Echols Funeral Home and Cremation Chapel with Pastor Larry Walczykowski officiating. Burial will follow at Greensville Memorial Cemetery. The family will receive friends Wednesday September 11, 2019 from 6:00 PM until 8:00 PM at Echols Funeral Home and Cremation Service.

Online condolences may be left at echolsfuneralhome.com.

“I’ve Lost It”

It seems I no longer have the passion
For my friends I know in need
Yes I’ve now something of my own
That has come to intercede.
 
I hope they will forgive me
For it’s  not that I don’t care
No it’s just there are sometimes in life
Feelings are hard to share.
 
Now when again I’m able
I’m sure I will return
Yet this has taught me how in life
Each day we live and learn.
 
Yes I never thought that in my time
This would ever happen to me
Still once that I had cleared my eyes
It wasn’t hard to see.
 
The Good Lord let me ride along
For years at a good pace
Then he took my Saddle and my Spurs
So I can no longer race.
 
Well I’ve been Blessed throughout the years
And have no right to complain
Yet I am human so leave no doubt
With me some still remain!
 
                         - Roy E. Schepp

How About A Pawpaw?

Pawpaw fruit is often called the “Poor Man’s Banana” because its taste is a cross between a banana and a mango with a hint of pineapple.

A little-known fruit with amazing flavor

Perhaps you’ve never heard of a pawpaw, let alone eaten one. But the sweet, creamy tropical fruit was once a common staple for Native Americans and colonial settlers in the Commonwealth—and a rumored favorite for two former United States presidents.

Both George Washington and Thomas Jefferson are said to have been passionate about pawpaws, which they planted and cultivated at Mount Vernon and Monticello. The pawpaw is the largest edible fruit native to North America. It was first documented in 1540 by a Portuguese explorer on an expedition to the New World who noticed Native Americans eating the fruit.

Pawpaw looks similar to a mango, and its flesh has a custardy texture that is not only sweet and delicious to eat as is, but also is a common ingredient in mouth-watering jams, jellies, pies, tarts, smoothies and ice cream. No wonder Washington and Jefferson are said to have enjoyed a good pawpaw in their day.

Despite its popularity then, pawpaw somehow became a fruit of the past, but not anymore. The once-obscure plant is growing in popularity again. Pawpaw grows in approximately 26 states, mainly in the eastern region of the country, and it is believed to have been spread throughout the region by Native American tribes. Even today, pawpaw can still be found at Mount Vernon and Monticello.

If you’re interested in learning more about pawpaws, growing them or just sampling the juicy delicacy that tastes like a cross between a banana and mango with a hint of pineapple, then you won’t want to miss the Pawpaw Production and Marketing Workshop on Sept. 6 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Virginia State University’s Randolph Farm Pavilion at 4415 River Road, Petersburg, VA. Admission is $20. Pre-registration is required.

A limited number of exhibition spaces are available at the workshop on a first-come, first-served basis. The exhibition fee is $50 and includes two six-foot tables and two chairs. Table skirting and access to electricity will not be provided. One complimentary registration is provided per exhibit space. Exhibition setup will begin at 7 a.m.

To register for the workshop or to reserve exhibition space, visit http://www.ext.vsu.edu/pawpaw. Boxed lunches will be provided for participants and exhibitors.

The keynote speaker for the workshop is Neal Peterson, nationally-known pawpaw plant breeder, who will present on basic pawpaw production. Peterson will be joined by several farmers who will share their experiences growing and marketing pawpaw. Participants will also be able to sample locally grown varieties of pawpaw.

Pawpaw doesn’t just taste good, the fruit is also nutritious and high in vitamin C, magnesium, iron, copper, manganese and several essential amino acids. As an added bonus they also have significant amounts of riboflavin, niacin, calcium, phosphorus, and zinc, all of which contribute to a healthy body.

“Pawpaw was an important fruit during colonial times, and is now growing in popularity more for its taste and nutritional value,” said Dr. Reza Rafie, a horticulture professor and an Extension specialist for the Virginia Cooperative Extension at Virginia State University. “Pawpaw is easy to grow, and has good potential for local markets.”

If you have any questions about this event or are a person with a disability and desire any assistive devices, services or other accommodations to participate in this activity, please contact Mollie Klein at mklein@vsu.edu/804-524-5960/TDD (800) 828-1120 during business hours of 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. to discuss accommodations five days prior to the event.

Extension is a joint program of Virginia Tech, Virginia State University, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and state and local governments. Virginia Cooperative Extension programs and employment are open to all, regardless of age, color, disability, gender, gender identity, gender expression, national origin, political affiliation, race, religion, sexual orientation, genetic information, veteran status, or any other basis protected by law. An equal opportunity/ affirmative action employer. Issued in furtherance of Cooperative Extension work, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Virginia State University, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture cooperating. Edwin J. Jones, Director, Virginia Cooperative Extension, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg; M. Ray McKinnie, Administrator, 1890 Extension Program, Virginia State University, Petersburg.

 
 
Pawpaw could be called a "wonderfruit" because it is high
in vitamin C, magnesium, iron, copper and manganese
and also is a good source of potassium and
several essential amino acids.

 

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HEAT Program Honors Virginia Law Enforcement Agencies and Officers

Awards Recognize Efforts in Auto-Theft Reduction

RICHMOND, Va. – The Virginia State Police (VSP) Help Eliminate Auto Theft (HEAT) program presented awards to three Virginia police departments and nine police officers to recognize their efforts in reducing vehicle theft and theft of vehicle parts in the commonwealth. The awards ceremony took place on August 26 during the annual conference of the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police and Foundation held in Norfolk.

The Henrico County Police Division was the winner in the agency category serving more than 100,000 citizens. The Roanoke City Police Department took the top prize in the agency category serving serving a population from 20,001 to 100,000, while the Salem Police Department was recognized in the same category as an agency finalist.

Officer Melissa Foster with the Roanoke City Police Department and Officer Shane Richardson with the Henrico County Police Division took the top honors in the individual category. Detective Mark Adkins with the Salem Police Department and Detective Christopher Gordon with the Henrico County Police Division were named individual awards finalists.

Certificates of merit were presented to Officers Aubrey Hughes, William Jenkins Jr. and Shawn Maxwell Jr. with the Henrico County Police Division. Also receiving certificates of merit were Detective Thomas Nash, Roanoke City Police Department and Officer Thomas Newman, Salem Police Department.

“We are grateful to law enforcement agencies and officers from throughout Virginia who join with the Virginia State Police in fighting vehicle theft,” said First Sgt. Thomas Molnar, HEAT Program Coordinator. “These annual awards are an opportunity to recognize outstanding efforts.”

The HEAT Awards program is an annual competition open to all Virginia law enforcement entities and employees who work in auto theft enforcement and prevention. Nominees must demonstrate excellence in at least two of the following four categories: enforcement, intelligence gathering, prevention and recovery.

“Virginia citizens also have an important role to play in preventing auto theft,” said First Sgt. Molnar. “By following a few common-sense tips, they can protect their vehicles.” The HEAT program recommends the following:

  • Take your keys and lock your doors every time you leave your vehicle.
  • Never leave valuables in plain sight in your vehicle. Place them in the trunk or somewhere out of sight.
  • Be aware of your surroundings when out and about.
  • Park in well-lit areas.
  • Invest in an audible or visible deterrent.
  • Install GPS or other tracking devices.
  • Learn more about the HEAT program at HEATreward.com.

The Virginia State Police Help Eliminate Auto Theft (HEAT) program was established in 1992 to educate citizens and law enforcement about the theft of vehicles and vehicle parts. For more information, visit HEATreward.com. Visit Virginia State Police online at www.vsp.virginia.gov.

SVCC’s Johnny Paws Is One of Many College Mascots

Fall is the time to meet the mascots at some of your favorite colleges such as  Mike the Tiger of Louisiana State, HokieBird of Virginia Tech, the Trojan of Virginia State, Smokey of the University of Tennessee, and of course, Johnny Paws of Southside Virginia Community College.  Paws was born on January 1, 2013, and named by a student who won a contest and in honor of then SVCC President John Cavan.  Since then, many have ‘played’ Johnny so here is the story of just one former SVCC mascot. 

Suppose you chose a college to explore careers and ended up becoming the college mascot, too.  This was the journey of Jared Hurak of Farmville, Virginia who reminds those starting college this fall to make friends and participate in the activities like he did at SVCC.

“Do not hesitate to be friendly with people!  Yes, we all go to college to get a degree, but if the opportunity presents itself, do not pass it up.  College is a social environment as well as professional one so make some friends,” he advises.

A self-described hyperactive person, Hurak  said with time between classes,  he volunteered to help Student Activities Coordinator Le’Tina Giles with events.  Hearing about a need for someone to don the Johnny Paws costume for Panther Prep Day,  Hurak and a friend filled out the paperwork with plans to share the responsibilities of being the big cat at the all-day event.  A week before the date, he learned his friend had not completed the paperwork and he would be the lone Panther.

“I had not planned to be Johnny Paws the entire day and internal panic ensued.  I proceeded and am glad I did,” he notes.

He remembers, “My first time as Johnny Paws I had no idea what I was doing. I had received some pointers from one of the people who had been Johnny Paws before me, but that did not help with how nervous the prospect of being in a mascot suit in front of strangers and friends alike made me. Looking back on it, I was overthinking things and was fretting over my social skills not being good enough to be a college mascot. Once I was actually in the mascot suit, I was not nervous anymore.”

He continued, “ It dawned on me that no matter how nervous I was, it would not show and certainly would not help me. Therefore, I proceeded to put some of the pointers I received into practice and was astonished at their effectiveness. I mostly greeted people, made exaggerated movements, and posed for pictures, but these simple things made so many people smile and laugh that it made me happy that I went through with it.”

The only downside of being the mascot is how hot the suit is in warmer weather, he noted.  Otherwise, being Johnny was a great experience. 

“SVCC helped me develop my communication skills immensely. Fresh out of high school, I was somewhat shy and always afraid to talk to new people;  yet, thanks to the faculty and my fellow students at SVCC I became far friendlier and more conversational than I ever have been,” said Hurak.

He also was a member of  the Gaming Club and participated in other activities.  He stresses to new and old students to make friends and spend time with them but finish your schoolwork first. 

Hurak does not see college mascot in his future.  He plans to continue his studies at a four-year university and hopes for a career along the lines of preventing wildlife extinction, especially among large mammals.  I guess that includes panthers!!

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