Alexandria, VA

Jollibee to open first Alexandria restaurant — “The Filipino chicken restaurant Jollibee is bringing its signature Chickenjoy to Alexandria. Jollibee will open in Lincolnia at the intersection of Beauregard Street and Little River Turnpike. The building was previously occupied by Boston Market. Jollibee has about 40 restaurants in the United States — primarily in California — and more than 1,300 restaurants worldwide.” [Alexandria Living]

Bishop Ireton seniors win honors — “Congratulations to senior Mary Kate Mull who was named the Commonwealth of Virginia Young Woman of the Year by the Knights of Columbus! She is the first BI student to win this statewide prestigious honor. Mary Kate and senior Critter Johnson were named Young Woman and Young Man of the Year by the Knights of Columbus, Fitzgerald Council #459. Seniors Madeleine Klunder and Aidan Fedorochko received the same honors from the Knights of Columbus, Springfield Council #6153. Bravo to these amazing students!” [Facebook]

Gastropub ‘Old Hat Bar’ opens May 21 at the Former King Street Blues location — “Anticipating their opening for almost two years, friends and business partners, Jack Caminos and Tim Prosser are looking forward to introducing Old Town to Old Hat Bar Friday, May 21. Newly renovated 112 N. Saint Asaph Street, the former King Street Blues location, has kept some of the booths and has refinished the original bars along with adding their own artistic style to the location.” [Zebra]

Today’s weather — “Mostly cloudy (during the day). High around 75F. Winds SE at 5 to 10 mph… Mostly cloudy (in the evening). Low near 55F. Winds SSE at 5 to 10 mph.” [Weather.com]

New job: Child watch attendant –– “The YMCA of Metropolitan Washington is one of the largest charities in the DC area. The Y serves as an anchor in the community offering programs and services encompassing youth development, healthy living, and social responsibility.” [Indeed]

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What a week in Alexandria.

Our top story this week is on Gregory Elliott, a special education teacher at T.C. Williams High School. Elliot also goes by the name of “Sugar Bear” for the D.C.-based go-go band Experience Unlimited, and their song “Da’ Butt” from the Spike Lee movie “School Daze” was featured at the Oscars, along with actress Glenn Close dancing to it.

This week was full of news.

City Manager Mark Jinks hinted at retiring, there was a chlorine spill at Lake Cook and the Alexandria Fire Department is contending with reports of racism, sexism and favoritism.

Additionally, a cyberattack on a gas pipeline resulted in a state of emergency throughout Virginia. We asked readers about it in our weekly poll, and out of 250 responses only 31% (78 votes) considered making alternate travel plans.

Election stories

Important stories

Top stories

  1. Go-go music star-turned Alexandria teacher ‘Sugar Bear’ in the spotlight after Oscars shoutout
  2. Landmark Mall developers to field public question in forum this week
  3. UPDATE: Woman arrested for firing gun near Alexandria Courthouse in Old Town
  4. AHDC proposes nearly 500 units of affordable housing for Arlandria
  5. ALXnow’s top stories this week in Alexandria
  6. Here’s which City Council candidates signed the new ‘Alexandria Constituents’ Bill of Rights’ pledge
  7. Girlfriend of murder suspect arrested for breaking into home and beating up witness
  8. Election: Stark differences as Wilson and Silberberg face off in mayoral debate
  9. Racism, sexism and favoritism reported within the Alexandria Fire Department
  10. Here’s the order that City Council candidates will appear on the ballot for the June 8 democratic primary
  11. Wilson and Silberberg clash over new challenges, old wounds, and The Golden Girls

Have a safe weekend!

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Alexandria Police say that a string of recent smash-and-grab burglaries in the West End are tied to 130 similar incidents throughout the region.

Last month, police investigated five separate incidents that occurred at businesses on S. Pickett Street in the West End on April 23. A juvenile was arrested in connection to the incidents as well as another commercial burglary in Arlington County.

“The juvenile suspect is facing multiple charges connected to the smash & grab burglaries in the region,” police said in a release.

Anyone with information or video of suspects committing offenses is asked to contact Detective Walter Boyd at 703-746-6245 or [email protected] or Detective Edmund Dougherty at 703-746-6697 or at [email protected].

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Cicadas are all the buzz right now, and the city released a quick update with advice for local residents and updating some tree plans to deal with the bugs’ anticipated emergence.

According to the city:

“The City of Alexandria will experience the 17-year cycle of the emergence of millions of the Brood X Cicadas from underground to mate and lay eggs in trees throughout the City now through mid-summer,” the city said in a press release. “The egg laying will be concentrated on smaller diameter twigs and branches. Impacted trees will exhibit clusters of dead leaves and branches that droop and turn brown as their circulation is cut off by the implanted eggs.

The city said that most trees will take unsightly but superficial damage.

“The trees will shed their damaged portions and continue growing,” the city said. “Some trees, particularly young, newly established trees, may succumb to their injuries.”

The city is making a few changes to its normal planting schedule to accommodate. Spring tree plantings will be delayed until the fall to avoid cicada damage, and recently planted trees will be watered to try and boost their health and ability to deal with cicada damage.

The city said it would not be spraying pesticides to deter cicadas, however, and netting won’t be installed on trees.

“While effective, netting is not economical at the municipal scale,” the city said. “Individual property owners should still consider netting as a potential protective measure for small or newly established trees.”

Photo via Shannon Potter/Unsplash

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(Updated 5:30 p.m.) Most of Alexandria’s City Council candidates met in person for the first time in Arlandria on Thursday night, and affordable housing, school resource officers and access to health care led the bilingual discussion to a mostly Spanish-speaking audience.

The forum was hosted outside by Tenants and Workers United and Grassroots Alexandria.

“The pandemic really showed us that we need to work to ensure that if we want low income people of color to continue being a part of our community, we have to work on that,” Evelin Urrutia, the executive director of Tenants & Workers United, told ALXnow. “We have lost a lot of affordable housing units in the past two decades. They need to change a lot of policies and they have to start investing more money in affordable housing, something that was not done in previous years.”

Councilman Canek Aguirre, the first elected Latino to Council in Alexandria, said he’s worked to get more health care resources to the immigrant population in Arlandria.

“I will say the health department, we did add four community health workers,” Aguirre said. “Three speak Spanish, one speaks Amharic. This is all on purpose. I have been working with health population managers, the last three of them, talking about how we do outreach and where we need people, making sure we meet them where they are.”

Councilman John Taylor Chapman said that Chapman said that the city needs to give more resources to Neighborhood Health, which provides health care services to low-income residents without insurance.

“The Alexandria Health Department needs to become a better partner with the folks that are doing the work in the community,” Chapman said. “Because it’s really about you and your health.”

Candidate Bill Campbell agreed, and said that many of the city’s woes can be solved with more diversity.

“”To me, this is easy,” Campbell said. “Neighborhood Health, I’m sure, has more nurses and doctors and look like you and me. And so we got to make sure that we increase our diversity everywhere — in our health department, on Council, everywhere in this city the more voices that we can get, and the places where things are needed, the better this city is going to be. That’s the key to it, is adding diversity everywhere.”

Candidate Alyia Gaskins said that the city needs to expand health care access by expanding the operations of the mobile health van, as well as increase resources for health care pop-ups in low income areas.

“I think that expanding health care services begins with expanding access,” Gaskins said.

There are seven candidates of color and five women running for Council — out of the 15 candidates running, including an independent and a Republican candidate. That means that there is a chance, depending on the outcome of the November election, that the newly elected City Council could have a majority of Black members — a first in history.

“As a black man in America, I’m probably the most endangered human species out here, right?” Campbell said. “I raised three kids through the Alexandria school system, two boys of color. I also helped start the Family and Community Engagement Center in ACPS. All of my work will be focused around equity, and trying to eliminate systems that we know have been racist and have institutionalized biases in them. And that’s what I want to continue doing for Alexandria.”

Candidate Kevin Harris said that his work creating a safety committee for the Alexandria Redevelopment and Housing Authority community set him apart.

“The chief of police has already highlighted that this is an effective measure that he wants to duplicate across the city,” Harris said. “We shouldn’t have to wait once we get on Council to start doing those things you want to be able to get started.”

Candidate Patrick Moran is against the elimination of school resource officers from ACPS, and candidate Bill Rossello said the issue needs more public discussion.

“We need public safety professionals in our schools to protect our kids,” Moran said. “I’m a straight white male. I’ve experienced privilege my entire life. Throughout that I’ve fought to serve, to give and to work hard for my community. Otherwise, I don’t know what it means and feels like to be intimidated in school from police officers because I feel as though I’m being discriminated against. I appreciate the efforts that have been made to counteract that, and I appreciate the funding that has gone into our mental health services and wellness services.”

Candidate James Lewis said that the city should have more diversity in its police department.

“I think it starts with ensuring that the current law enforcement practices in the city don’t over-criminalize or over-police communities of color,” Lewis said. “We’ve taken some good steps in that direction and need to continue to do them. But really, the way you solve the problem on term is making opportunities for people in communities of color to become law enforcement.”

Aguirre said the elimination of SROs was a first step.

“How do you want officers to interact with our community?” Aguirre said. “We need to continue working on that a lot. There’s going to be more conversations to be had as we move forward.”

Candidate Meronne E. Teklu said that police need to stay out of schools.

“How we implement that is the real question,” Teklu said. “Working with community organizers will be critical. Folks like Tamir Rice, Sandra Bland, Daunte Wright, Breonna Taylor have not seen justice. We need to ensure common sense gun safety and data transparency.”

On affordable housing, Aguirre said that he supported raising the city’s meals tax to 5% to pay for the effort, and Chapman said that the city hasn’t pressed developers hard enough to contribute more. Gaskins said the city needs to expand tools, such as the right of first refusal, and .

“We haven’t pressed that button enough [with developers], haven’t pressed that issue enough,” Chapman said. “And that’s what we need to do.”

The Democratic primary for City Council is June 8.

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Just Listed in Alexandria

Just Listed highlights Alexandria City properties that came on the market within the past week. This feature  is sponsored by the Jen Walker Team (Licensed in VA) of McEnearney Associates Realtors®. 

Welcome back!

Jen Walker here with The Jen Walker Team! We are a real estate group based out of Alexandria. I, along with my two rock-star team members, Sue Kovalsky and Micki MacNaughton, have more than 35 years of experience in real estate and sold over $107 million in 2020!

We will be hosting an in-person open house featuring this Villamay beauty this Saturday, May 15, 2-4 p.m.

Nestled in the sought-after and picturesque neighborhood of Villamay, 1203 Gatewood Drive is a true gem on a private lot and ready for move-in! This 4 BD/3 BA bath home with an oversized 2-car garage has everything you need on two spacious levels.

Enter through the foyer and immediately fall in love with the updated gourmet eat-in kitchen featuring tall natural cabinetry, sleek granite countertops, stainless steel appliances and a Sub Zero refrigerator. Enjoy meals in your dining room that leads out to a stone patio, a perfect place for a grill or indoor/outdoor dining! Flow right into the huge living room overlooking the lush backyard, offering abundant natural light and a wood-burning fireplace. Warm hardwood flooring leads you down the hall to the primary suite with a large ensuite bathroom. Two additional bedrooms and a hall bathroom round out this main level.

Head downstairs to a generous-sized lower level featuring a second wood-burning fireplace, unique stone flooring and brick wall detail. The living area is so versatile, offering a large space for a recreational room, den, playroom… so many options! A bedroom, additional full bathroom, and gorgeous and bright sunroom are situated off the living room. Head out to the sunroom where you can relax and enjoy a quiet evening with friends and family. Enjoy the view of lush landscaping, a tranquil fountain and an outdoor patio.

This home offers so much space and very easy living! Anchor yourself in this amazing neighborhood near the GW Parkway, running trails, parks and shopping. Easy access to Old Town, D.C., 495, Mount Vernon and more. Welcome home!

1203 Gatewood Drive, Alexandria, VA 22307The Jen Walker Team

Next up, we bring you 113 W Bellefonte Avenue, a lovingly cared for and meticulously maintained solar-powered home in the desirable neighborhood of Del Ray!

Sitting atop almost a quarter of an acre lot, this 5 BD/3 BA home is the space you’ve been looking for. A lovely and lush garden greets you as you enter into the foyer. Take a few steps to the upper level and find ample living space with tons of natural light. An updated eat-in kitchen features stainless steel appliances, beautiful high-end cabinetry with soft-close drawers, Silestone counters and tasteful Italian-imported porcelain backsplash. From the dining room, you’ll find an updated sunroom with newer windows, triple pane Pella doors and a huge deck overlooking your private green yard. Three bedrooms and one full bath round out this upper level.

The lower level of this home features a second living space with a wood-burning fireplace and a fabulous kitchenette with updated countertops and chic subway backsplash. Continue down the hall to the spacious primary suite with ensuite bathroom, a fifth bedroom with adjacent hall bathroom and a full laundry room with a freezer.

This home has so many noteworthy updates and is ready for your finishing touches! The heat pump was replaced in 2020, the electrical panel was updated in 2016, Solar Edge solar panels and solar tube lights were installed in 2016, a new kitchen and kitchenette were added in 2015 — just to name a few! Ideally located near all the fun things in Del Ray and “The Avenue,” schools, parks, easy access to the Metro, the airport, D.C. and more!

113 W. Bellefonte Avenue, Alexandria, VA 22301The Jen Walker Team

We’re not done yet! This gorgeous semi-detached townhome with fabulous primary suite addition just hit the market!

Located just steps from The Avenue in sought-after Del Ray, this home has 3 bedrooms, 2 full bathrooms and well-appointed updates. The front porch invites you into the open living room with gleaming hardwood flooring and nice natural light through every room. A lovely dining area flows right into the recently updated kitchen with shaker-style cabinetry, stainless steel appliances, granite countertops and a great peninsula island for maximum storage and prep space. Just beyond the kitchen, enter the new addition (designed by Kulinski Group Architects) where you’ll find a huge primary suite with vaulted ceilings and beautiful french doors overlooking the rear garden. This 2014 addition includes a tasteful en suite bathroom with a glass shower and subway tiled walls and custom double door closets.

Walk upstairs to find two great-sized bedrooms and one full bathroom with a tub/shower combo. On the lower level, you’ll find the laundry area with a utility sink, amazing storage and a blank canvas to create your own space! Don’t miss the fantastic outdoor space, perfect for entertaining, playing or relaxing. Leave the car at home and enjoy being so close to shopping, restaurants, coffee shops, Saturday morning farmers market and all the fun community events Del Ray has to offer! You don’t want to miss this opportunity!

105 E. Windsor Ave., Alexandria, VA 22301The Jen Walker Team

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There was a valve in Cameron Run Regional Park that wasn’t meant to be used. But two days ago, it was, and the result was a chemical leak into the adjacent Lake Cook that’s had a fatal effect on the park’s wildlife.

“There are two different pump stations and filter systems at Cameron Run, one for the main wave-pool and one for the shallow children’s pool,” explained Paul Gilbert, Executive Director of the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority (NOVA Parks). “Each system is a little bit different, both designed so they never put chlorinated pool water into the lake.”

But a relic of an earlier, outdated system remained at the park, and an employee mistook it for part of the filtration system.

“Someone who was not as familiar with the system found a valve that would allow them to drain that pool,” Gilbert said. “It’s a valve that hasn’t been used in over 15 years since we put in the new system. They didn’t understand what they were doing, but that pool water went into Lake Cook.”

Gilbert said NOVA Parks staff were on-site yesterday with the city’s fire marshal to examine the impact and figure out what happened.

“We disabled the valve that allowed the pool to be drained,” Gilbert said. “Today, we’re out there with the contractor cleaning up Lake Cook.”

Gilbert said the contamination was a fish kill.

“It’s a small lake, Lake Cook, so it’s an issue of concentration,” Gilbert said. “Right now, we’re focusing on clean up.”

According to Alexandria communications officer Andrea Blackford:

The Fire Marshals Office (FMO) issued a notice of violation for the illegal discharge of approximately 60,000 gallons of pool water that contained a strong odor of chlorine. The FMO also ordered NOVA Waterpark staff to make necessary repairs to the sanitary drains and other drains prior to refilling the pools. Additionally, a notice of violation was issued for the illegal discharge of a blue substance used as a stain on the pool deck.

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Ready to go into business?

The latest listings on BizBuySell show businesses for sale in and around Alexandria. Many are restaurants, which have been heavily impacted by the pandemic.

The website aggregates numerous business sale listings. The names and locations are generally left out, but there are exceptions.

Reasons for selling, when provided, typically do not mention economic hardship, but more often involve the owner retiring or not having time to actively run the business.

Here are some that are currently listed:

  1. Hair salon for sale — “Established over 32 years, 17 with current owner. Located in a major brand grocery anchored shopping center. Good demographics. Exclusive right in the shopping center for hair and nail operations but focus on hair services right now. Staff and seller will stay if new owner desires. Currently 5-day operation but can expand to 6 or 7 to increase revenue. Excellent opportunity for both owner operators and/or investors.”
  2. 30 Year Old Deli — “Clean and well run Deli in office park with schools and healthcare facilities as neighbors. The business has been operated absentee for several years and has produced a profit of $45,000+ for the owners. A owner operator can expect to earn $90,000+.”
  3. Beautiful Modern Laundromat for Sale — “Beautiful modern laundromat in a great location! 21st century laundromat with card system, customized folding tables, modern design, with high-powered energy efficient machines. Location is about 4000 SF located near many current and upcoming apartment complexes. Long-term 10 tear lease with 5 year option. This place is fully card operated and can be easily managed from home with one visit a week.”
  4. Alexandria Auto Body Garage For Sale — “Auto body shop in the Cameron Park section of Alexandria, one block off Duke Street. Unique opportunity to take over an existing business, or start a similar industrial use.”
  5. Absentee-Owner Gourmet Pizza & Italian With Loyal Following — “This high-visibility restaurant has long been a destination and neighborhood favorite with locals – it continues to enjoy a following as a gourmet take-out option for pizza and all Italian cuisine favorites. Purchased in 2019 as a decades-old chef-owned establishment, the new owner invested in a complete turn around, nearly doubling sales and converting the business model to absentee ownership. Owner has refrained from applying for PPP or other SBA loans so that new owner might be able to take advantage of those opportunities.”
  6. Beautiful Hair & Nail Spa for Sale/Price Reduced — “Great opportunity!!! Serious Inquiries only. Beautiful and well established Hair & Nail Spa for Sale in a very busy shopping center. Seller is retiring after many successful years in the business. Beautiful & Very efficiently designed. 6 years old Spa. Established, loyal customers. Reasonable rent & excellent location. 10 Hair stations, 5 Dryers, 3 Shampoo stations, 8 Manicure Tables, 8 Pedicure chairs, 3 Waxing rooms, 2 Facial Rooms, 1 Body scrub. There is plenty of room to expand. Room to grow by improving social media and other marketing and adding massage service.”
  7. Profitable Sandwich Shop in Prime Location MRB VA 1013 — “This profitable turn key deli located in a prime location of Alexandria VA is for sale to any qualified buyer. Surrounded by retail and residential on a main road with heavy walking traffic. This restaurant has a very strong following and highly rated on google reviews. The restaurant was completely renovated in 2016 with all brand new furniture, fixtures & high end equipment. The current owner averages a $50,000 cash flow plus salary while working limited hours. Do to family circumstances, the owner needs to sell. We are now looking for a new owner/operator to bring this business to the next level.”
  8. Long-standing Italian Restaurant — “Lending available and you can be approved in just two business days on this his beautifully built-out location with sales of $404,000 and Beer/Wine license in place.
    Walk in the door of this Italian Restaurant for Sale and you are transported into the Old World atmosphere that gives the guests the feeling of being able to get away, even if it’s just for one meal.”
  9. Specialty pizza in high-volume high-income area — “A neighborhood success centered around its high-quality stone oven with an array of alternative Mediterranean main courses, sandwiches and desserts, . The owner has created several of these locations in Northern Virginia and is ready to spin this one off to stand on its own while he focuses on bringing others to maturity.”
  10. Well-established deli for sale — “Located in a great neighborhood, among many loyal customers. Serving over 40 years. Turnkey operation. Doing quite well during the pandemic. Plenty of room to improve. Currently has no marketing and delivery service. Not serving beer and wine. Seller will train new owner for a reasonable time period.”
  11. Coin Laundry/Laundromats — “No Exception, Non-Disclosure must be signed in person meeting, No emailing signing. We can meet at anywhere in Fairfax county to sign NDA with appointment.”
  12. Plumbing Company — “Very profitable commercial plumbing company with speciality services and all phases of full service plumbing needs. Don’t miss out on this opportunity to acquire this Well-established Northern Virginia plumbing company, rapidly growing, with a solid client list and repeat business. This high-end company operates in the new build out market as well as the repair and replacement and service markets. Sales have continuously grown over the past 3 years with no signs of stopping.”
  13. Profitable Sandwich Shop and Deli — “Established in 1955, this well known deli located in a prime location of Alexandria VA is for sale to any qualified buyer… The restaurant was completely renovated in 2016 with all brand new furniture, fixtures & high end equipment. The current owner averages a $50,000 cash flow while working limited hours. Do to family circumstances, the owner needs to sell. We are now looking for a new owner/operator to bring this business to the next level.”
  14. Award-winning pastry shop, cafe and catering — “Business is booming as life returns to normal! Mother’s Day 2021 was a record breaking sales day for this Pastry Shop and Cafe. In March 2020, the owners received 3 written purchase letters of intent but did not sell as Covid took hold, and the entire Country shut down. However Covid had not prevailed, and this 32-year old neighborhood old pastry shop and cafe is standing tall with rapidly rebounding sales. Because of its fiercely loyal customer base and with increasing economic optimism, the owners are confident that 2021 sales will easily exceed 2020 which was up 4% over 2019 through mid-March of their respective years.”
  15. Well Known Deli in Alexandria Part of Fairfax County — “This money making Deli been there 23 years and very well known in town. most busy deli shop around Fairfax Country, Alexandria VA Great location deli and sandwich shop. after 23 years, seller wants to retire. Don’t miss out on this Deli shop.”
  16. Mexican Restaurant & Bar Can Convert MRB VA 876 — “This Profitable Mexican Restaurant for Sale has been open and operating profitably for eight years. The location is on a high traffic road and surrounded by residential. This is a turnkey situation on a restaurant that has been grossing in excess of $840,000 annually with profits to an absentee owner of $80,000 annually. Nice full service bar. Outdoor Seating!! Great opportunity for a new on hand owner/operator to take this business to the next level. MUST SEE.”
  17. Taco Place For Sale — “Great location in Alexandria, very favorite Mexican restaurant, nice location, open kitchen with low rent 4800 nnn, 6 days operation.”
  18. 5 Days Deli in Alexandria Asking $175,000 — “WELL ESTABLISHED 5 DAY DELI SANDWICH SHOP FOR SALE IN ALEXANDRIA VA. RENT $4,500 ( INCLUDE UTILITY, TAX ). FULLY EQUIPPED KITCHEN. GREATER CASH FLOW BUSINESS; ADD YOUR OWN CONCEPT. ADD DELIVERY, ONLINE ORDERING.”
  19. Asian Restaurant and Sushi Bar for Sale — “Established Business for Sale. Owner is looking to retire from business. All equipment is owned and in good condition, except the dishwasher is leased. Asking price is negotiable, send your offers!”
  20. Two Optometry Practices — “Two established Optical/Optometry stores for sale. Both locations have street frontage visibility, are located in upscale parts of town, and have high sales and cash flow.”

See more Alexandria listings here.

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Morning Notes

Deadline today for Alexandria Trauma & Resiliency Summit — “A free community-wide event on May 20 focusing on the pillars of equity and resilience with three workshop tracks. Learn more at alexandriava.gov/121863.” [Twitter]

Alexandria Old Town Art Festival on May 15 and 16 — “After the festival had success despite the pandemic in September 2020, a springtime festival will be held on May 15 and 16, 2021. The festival features thousands of art pieces across various mediums, including sculptures, paintings, jewelry, pottery, textiles and more. The event used to be held along King Street, but it is now held at John Carlyle Square, 300 John Carlyle Street, Alexandria. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on both days, and it is free and open to the public, but visitors are asked to reserve a time slot.” [Patch]

Local artist gains national following for hyper-realistic drawings — “When Hayden started promoting her art on Instagram three years ago, she had less than 1,000 followers. Then, brands started promoting her free hand, liquor bottle drawings, leading to a flood of commission work from high profile clients like Dwayne (The Rock) Johnson and thousands of new followers.” [Alexandria Living]

Today’s weather — “Sunny, along with a few afternoon clouds. High 72F. Winds light and variable… Some clouds early will give way to generally clear conditions overnight. Low 48F. Winds light and variable.” [Weather.com]

New job: Bartender — “We are looking for magnetic bartenders for our restaurants two bars & cocktail areas. You’ll be the face of our restaurant and responsible for our customers’ experiences. Bartender responsibilities include ensuring bar tops are clean and tidy when guests arrive, presenting menus and serving food and beverages.” [Indeed]

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Tensions are running high within the Alexandria Fire Department, as racism, sexism and favoritism have resulted in “considerable suspicion, distrust, and loss of confidence in organizational processes, and leaders,” according to a 2020 report.

Perceptions of racism, sexism, and favoritism undercut trust in department processes including assignment, resource distribution, discipline, and promotion,” notes the 2020 Organizational Assessment Report for the Alexandria Fire Department. “Women fight a conservative mindset that has not yet disappeared. Conflict and related conditions fester until they become serious.”

Fire Chief Corey Smedley says his staff are exhausted by COVID-19, and that he is working on addressing multiple issues. He said that race relations within the department remain a work in progress, and that he continually hears negative comments against AFD academy classes that are filled with women and minorities.

“I can tell you, based on my experience, I get sometimes a few people that treat me in a certain way that isn’t what I’ve seen my caucasian counterparts be treated,” Smedley told ALXnow. “Specifically my predecessor… When there are more women and minorities in the recruitment class, I get comments about how everybody isn’t cut out for this job… We need to improve our training practices and the philosophy of training.”

Last summer, results from the annual citywide employee engagement survey were mixed, with only about 25 percent of respondents (147 AFD employees) seeing the department as a great place to work and seeing career opportunities for advancement.

According to the report, “A few participants suggested race may have been a factor in promotions of some members, some perceive that there are members who believe that personnel trained by a minority instructor may not be as capable as those taught by white training.”

All of this comes while the department undergoes a reorganization. Just days after the city made a deal on collective bargaining, AFD announced that roughly two-thirds of AFD staff are being relocated around the city.

“The department has met a new low in moral and low level of trust in senior staff,” one AFD staffer wrote. “If senior staff does not engage its employees, seek input (and listen) from people who actually do the work, and so on, we will continue to plunge further into the lowest we have ever been. There are many talented people who work here and who care; that number is rapidly shrinking by the day.”

AFD staff said that a number of issues, including racism, sexism and pay plague the department.

“Blatant racism and sexism,” an AFD employee wrote. “Pay freeze, fools in charge. How dare you hide behind covid and the bodies of dead Americans as an excuse to not provide me with a raise. The rate of inflation is roughly 2 percent a year. So in reality I’m receiving less money because my purchasing power decreases. Data is a joke.”

The reorganization, among other things, calls for shifting more than a dozen members of the technical rescue team and its resources (including the HAZMAT team and Foam Unit for flammable liquid spills and fires) to the station at Potomac Yard from Fire Station 206 at 4609 Seminary Road in the West End.

Morale has never been lower, Josh Turner, president of the Alexandria Fire Fighters Inc. and International Association of Firefighters Local 2141, told ALXnow.

“I’ve never seen morale this low in the fire department in my 11 years here,” Turner said. “People are tired. I’ve got members that are overworked. Between COVID vaccination sites and just running the normal emergencies that we run, people are tired, and they feel like their leadership isn’t looking out for them.”

AFD Chief of Staff Chris Thompson was hired in February 2020. Thompson was a recruiter for AFD for six years before his promotion, and says that he has fought against an exclusive culture where women and minorities were held back from promotion. He said that he has recruited roughly half of the department, and has gotten a lot of feedback about recruiting “the wrong people.”

“I believe that with any change there is stress,” Thompson said. “The changes that we’re making are basically a reorganization. And that’s basically moving apparatus, changing where people might have to work, changes some of the responsibilities.”

Smedley said that staff are working on 14 initiatives outlined in the report, including developing an advisory committee with employees from various divisions; developing an administrative team; creating an EMS blueprint for promotion to higher ranks; revamping communications within the department and working with the City’s race and social equity officer to develop a Departmental Equity Core Team to train staff on race and equity issues.

“I embrace diverse thoughts and opinions,” Smedley said. “I encourage people to be courageous about their convictions and about their opinion and passion. But they have to be aligned with our values.”

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