Post Content
Alexandria Fire Chief Corey Smedley (center) with Alexandria Fire Department first responders (via AFD/Facebook)

(Updated at 5:15 p.m.) With emergency medical incidents taking up nearly 75% of calls for service, the Alexandria Fire Department (AFD) is planning to redeploy some of its resources, Fire Chief Corey Smedley tells ALXnow.

Smedley’s AFD Forward plan is still being ironed out, but the gist is that by the first quarter of 2024 the department’s fire engines will get reduced from nine to seven and increasing smaller Emergency Medical transport units staffed by firefighters/emergency medical technicians (EMTs).

“As a firefighter and as manager based on the needs of the community, we will put you in the most appropriate place to serve the community,” Smedley said. “Sometimes that will be on a fire truck, sometimes that will be on an emergency medical unit. It just varies based on the needs and resources we have to accommodate those needs.”

AFD’s calls for service saw 27,435 incidents in 2022. About 72% of those incidents were medical and rescue-related, while just 15% were fire alarm and fire-related.

Fire Chief Corey Smedley at Alexandria’s birthday celebration at Oronoco Bay Park, July 10, 2022. (staff photo by James Cullum)

Smedley wants to take away fire engines from Station 204 (900 Second Street) in Old Town North and Station 205 (1210 Cameron Street) in Rosemont. Just where the new EMS units and staff will be redeployed has not been determined, he said.

“What’s needed for the community, mainly, is our core functions,” Smedley said. “AFD Forward is a short and mid-term solution that we have the capability within our own purview to adjust accordingly to better serve our community, to help our workforce and in their working conditions. And, within our fiscal capabilities, manage our mission.”

Smedley said that no staff will be let go from the department, just redistributed, and that response times to incidents should not change.

“It also means my fuel costs will hopefully go down, my maintenance costs for heavy apparatus, a large apparatus will go down,” Smedley said. “The hope also is that we better serve our community and we are less reliant on mutual aid, we have better reliability of our own resources and we have to go to less hours for our workforce as in the collective bargaining agreement, and we are working very diligently to get there.”

Smedley was promoted to fire chief in 2020, after spending five years as the department’s deputy fire chief of emergency management. He implemented a restructuring in 2021, shifting AFD responsibilities and resources to stations around the city.

The move isn’t popular with the AFD union.

“Local 2141 does not support ANY cuts in the services our members provide to the Alexandria community,” said AFD Captain Josh Turner, president of IAFF Local 2141, the union representing the city’s firefighters, medics and fire marshals, in a text to ALXnow. “We as a union will proactively reach out to City and Department management to find a solution that will protect the interests of the community we serve. Cutting emergency services is never something we will support.”

So far, AFD Forward has been sent to the city manager’s office and AFD staff, the union and members of City Council, Smedley said.

Alexandria Fire Department call volume (via AFD)

The plan includes:

  • Adding two additional life support transit units Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. to handle peak call volume
  • Adding rapid response paramedics
  • Promoting four new captains for the uniform watch office and 911 center, to help direct adequate resources to service calls

City Manager Jim Parajon should also expect a request for more AFD resources in next year’s budget, Smedley said.

“I’m going to ask for more,” he said. “The FY ’25 budget process is coming. I’ve already told the city manager’s office I’m going to be asking for more and more so that we can manage our mission.”


Hundreds solemnly gathered outside Police Headquarters this morning to dedicate the Alexandria Police Department Suicide Memorial.

The names of officers Jason Kline, who died in 2004, and his best friend, Steven Pagach IV, who died in 2011, are etched in the memorial.

The memorial is reportedly the second in the United States to honor police officers who have died by suicide, after the Boston Police Officer Suicide Memorial Wall. It is next to the APD memorial for officers who died in the line of duty.

APD Lieutenant Tara May came up with the idea after graduating from the National FBI Academy last year.

“Jason and Steven’s loss was devastating to the department,” May said. “My fear is, you know, do we have more of Jason and Steven’s we don’t know about walking around the hallways. I’m hoping that this will remind people that there is hope, and there’s help when it’s needed.”

Police Chief Don Hayes is also a pastor and gave the invocation.

“We pray that this memorial will always be a reminder and a remembrance to those who are now wearing this uniform that care,” Hayes said. “And that we don’t want to see anybody else’s name on this memorial.”

Retired Sheriff Dana Lawhorne, an APD veteran, is the chair of the chairman of the board of Ivy Hill Cemetery, which donated the granite slabs used in the memorial.

“It recognizes these two men for their sacrifices in a respectful and dignified way,” Lawhorne said. “This dancing slate of granite will forever whisper the names of Jason and Steve, that they are not forgotten.”

Retired Police Chief David Baker donated the funds for the inscription on the memorial.

“We miss their enormous presence in our lives,” Baker said of Kline and Pagach. “We miss their contributions and commitment to public safety and we salute their excellence in bravery in service to others. Make no mistake, they are and will always be our brothers and blue.”

Above the officers’ names, the memorial states: “In darkness, there is light. In honor and memory of the officers we have lost to suicide. Thank you for your dedication and service.”

Retired Deputy Chief Hassan Aden said that APD must confront the stigma of mental health in policing.

“Policing is a profession that demands unwavering dedication, sacrifice and resilience,” Aden said. “Every day officers put on their uniforms, not knowing what challenges they will face what dangers they will encounter, or how deeply those experiences will impact their lives. The weight of the badge is not just physical, it’s emotional, and mental.”

May said the department has work to do to address mental health challenges of its officers.

“In our collective bargaining negotiations, we asked for an improvement in the department’s mental health programs,” she said. “We’ve got a lot of work to do.”

Glynn Jones Salon at 720 King Street (via City of Alexandria)

Alexandria planning staff are recommending that City Council reverse a ruling by the Board of Architectural Review and allow a hair salon to keep an after-the-fact paint job on its exterior.

In May, the city was notified that the Glynn Jones Salon at 720 King Street painted a large portion of its exterior the color gray. On July 6, the Board of Architectural Review unanimously voted to deny the salon a certificate of appropriateness for the work.

While the salon is located in the Old Town Historic District, city staff do not believe the work has any adverse effect on the previously unpainted masonry.

“The Board found that painting the building’s yellow brick was not appropriate since yellow brick buildings are rare in Alexandria and the material can be considered a character defining,” city staff reported. “(S)taff does not believe that the after-the-fact work of partially painting previously unpainted masonry has an adverse effect on the building at 720 King Street, nor does it diminish the historic character of the historic district.”

Anthony Hughes is representing the salon, and said in the appeal that the facade of the building was constructed in the 1960s and is not historic.

“The brick used in the construction is not historically significant, as it is not part of the original structure,” Hughes said. “Therefore, any alterations to the exterior, including painting, should be evaluated based on the existing planning guidelines and not restricted by the historical context of the area, but on a case-by-case basis.”

According to the city:

The building at 720 King Street was built between 1891 and 1896. However, the Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps show constant alterations and additions throughout the decades. The Sanborn Map of 1931 shows for the first time that the main building (front portion) was entirely made of brick. Therefore, the main building is considered an Early building (built before 1932) within the Old and Historic Alexandria District (Figure 2). However, the building underwent major renovations in 1967 (Permit # 24731) when the front/ north elevation was completely rebuilt, thus the front portion of the building is considered Late (built after 1931).

The Zoning Ordinance specifically prohibits painting previously unpainted masonry surfaces without BAR approval. However, the BAR does not regulate colors once buildings are already painted. The chosen color gray applied on the building’s storefront (without BAR approval) is subtle and does not subtract from or diminish the character of the building and/or the adjacent existing structures. Furthermore, the color gray has been historically appropriate to both Early and Late buildings within the historic districts.

4850 Mark Center Drive. (Courtesy photo)

City leaders hope to make good use of the new government hub in the West End with a multi-language town hall event this weekend.

The event is scheduled for Sunday, Sept. 24, from 1-3 p.m. in the Del Peper Community Resource Center (4850 Mark Center Drive) — colloquially called West End City Hall during development.

While other meetings are held for specific issues — like the Zoning for Housing/Housing for All discussion recently moved to Thursday, Sept. 28 — this town hall is focused more generally on issues around Alexandria.

“Mayor Justin Wilson, Vice Mayor Amy Jackson, and all members of City Council will be present to speak about the issues impacting you and your family,” the city said in a release. “You can also get the latest news on upcoming projects and initiatives in Alexandria. Spanish, Amharic, and Arabic interpretation services will be available at the event.”

2 Comment
The Franklin P. Backus Courthouse at 520 King Street in Alexandria (staff photo by James Cullum)

After weeks of waiting, Alexandria Circuit Court Judge Katie Uston denied a petition to promote Alexandria Police Department Captain Monica Lisle to the rank of assistant police chief.

Lisle, a 29-year APD veteran, is a white, gay woman who has fought for more than a year to become the assistant chief of police. She sued the city after City Manager Jim Parajon refused a three-member city grievance panel’s order to promote her to the position after finding that she’d been harmed and discriminated against in her pursuit of the job.

In her decision, Uston wrote that City Manager Jim Parajon has the sole authority on hiring and promoting in Alexandria, and that the grievance panel exceeded its authority in demanding that he promote Lisle to one of two open assistant police chief positions.

Uston wrote in her decision that she would not restate the city’s “alleged failure to follow established procedures and standing practices in this selection process,” and that the panel went outside of its limited scope.

“While the panel may order such relief as it deems necessary to remedy the harm shown to have affected the grievant (Lisle), the actual scope of that relief, while not clearly defined, is clearly limited,” Uston wrote in her decision. “Any relief ordered must be consistent with written personnel policies of the City. Nowhere is the Panel empowered to promote an employee. That power is instead reserved to the City Manager.”

Lisle’s attorney Will Thetford said his client was disappointed by the ruling and is looking at appeal options.

“I do hope the city keeps one of those positions open for her,” Thetford said. “The panel said that Monica Lisle should be in that position and is qualified for the position.”

A flawed process

The grievance panel was comprised of an Alexandria Police Department lieutenant, a deputy director of planning, construction and facilities, and a staffer with the Department of Planning and Zoning. They found on July 3 that APD violated 10 city procedures in the effort to fill the vacant position. Those violations included improperly posting the job announcement in the summer of 2022, appointing under-qualified officers to question candidates, appointing an all-Black panel that “improperly” considered race, and tanking Lisle’s application with unfairly low scores.

On July 1, however, Parajon’s officer amended city administrative regulations so that only he – not a grievance panel – can promote employees in the city of Alexandria.

Parajon and Police Chief Don Hayes then submitted affidavits to the court acknowledging that they discussed “concerns” that had been raised regarding the hiring process last October. Parajon allowed the process to continue despite those concerns, and he told the court that he had nothing else to do with filling the position until Hayes finally selected now-Assistant Police Chief Easton McDonald.

Former Alexandria Police Chief David Baker is an Alexandria Police Foundation board member, and said that the optics of the hiring failure reflects poorly on the department’s leadership.

“I wish someone in the decision-making posture in the city would have corrected whatever was going wrong in this process and redid the whole thing,” Baker said. “I know this department, and there will be lingering ill-will, finger pointing and mistrust. None of that is good for the city, and I find it sad and unnecessary and I wish they’d handled it better.”


Alexandria and Arlington officials celebrated the ribbon cutting for the renovated West Glebe Road bridge today.

The nearly 70-year-old bridge suffered severe deterioration over the years and fully closed last summer, and partially reopened in March.

“For nearly 70 years, this bridge has played a critical role linking people to jobs, to resources, to emergency services and their loved ones that exist across boundaries in this Arlandria region of the National Capital Area,” Arlington County Board Chair Christian Dorsey said.

Dorsey continued, “And now with these improvements, we can look forward to another seven decades of this bridge, serving as both a metaphorical and an actual connecting of our two communities. And they will do so in a way that is much safer, much more accommodating of all modes.”

Mayor Justin Wilson said that the jurisdictions will need to come together to finish another connecting bridge between Alexandria and Arlington over the course of the next year — the Arlington Ridge Road/Mount Vernon Avenue Bridge.

“We look forward to coming back in a little while and celebrating the next one (bridge),” Wilson said. “I live close to both of these bridges, so I feel the pain that everyone is feeling. But we look forward to celebrating both of the bridges when they’re both done and in this great partnership between the two jurisdictions.”

Artist Vicki Scuri designed the arc and bubble patterns on the bridge.

“Enjoy the crossing, enjoy the moment and celebrate your communities,” Scuri said.

Galactic Panther Art Gallery at 1303 King Street (via City of Alexandria)

Galactic Panther Art Gallery has hosted live music and paid events since opening in 2021, and now its owners are asking the city for approval to host them.

Galactic Panther’s 1,900-square-foot art gallery has hosted comedy, improv, sound baths, yoga, open mic nights and live music for more than a year, and their proposal to continue with the events goes to the Planning Commission on October 3 and City Council on October 14.

“We plan to host paid events at the art gallery,” owners Eli Pollard and Erik Muendel asked in the application. “These events include art workshops, comedy, live music, yoga, sound baths and receptions.”

The owners said in their special use permit application that they expect the events to attract 20-to-30 people, although photos of events shared on the gallery’s Facebook page show events with more than 30 people in attendance.

“I started the gallery during Covid and (the city was) pretty relaxed about it, and it was this process of maturing and knowing the city,” Muendel said. “I’ve never been in retail and am new to these experiences, and we’re getting all our paperwork in place.”

Muendel continued, “We’re going to upgrade with a booking agent to bring in more touring musical artists. It’s a maturation of our programming.”

An event at the Galactic Panther Art Gallery at 1303 King Street in Old Town (via Facebook) 

Galactic Panther (currently open Thursday to Sunday), already hosts the following events every week:

  • Comedy every Wednesday & Friday
  • Live Music by Jah Messenger Sound every Thursday
  • Live Music 1st Saturdays
  • Improv 2nd Saturdays
  • Glow night Paint & Sip 3rd Saturdays
  • Sound Bath & Yoga every other Sunday
  • Open Mic every Sunday

Muendel is also the owner of ESP Tea and Coffee at 1012 King Street.

According to the city staff report:

  • The applicant is proposing using the space for comedy and live music events which constitute the live entertainment use. They are also proposing art workshops, yoga and other classes that are the commercial private school use. All of these activities would take place in the existing gallery, which has an area to the rear of the space, which is currently equipped with a microphone and an amplifier
  • Noise from live entertainment and activities, such as music, performances, and trivia, shall end no later than 11 p.m.
  • Noise levels are anticipated to reach 80 decibels
Police investigating a shooting in the Andrew Adkins development (staff photo by James Cullum)

Alexandria is pursuing a Federal grant to help hire more police officers for patrol and investigations units left understaffed by higher-priority investigations.

At a meeting tomorrow, the City Council is scheduled to vote on a grant application to the FY 2023 Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) Program. The vote is largely ceremonial: retroactively approving a submission filed in August for up to $43,152 and allowing Alexandria’s City Manager to file all necessary documents.

Alexandria has been experiencing an uptick in violent crime in recent years with some areas, like the area near the Braddock Road Metro station, experiencing multiple shootings. The staff report said the hope is to use the funding to help hire police for other units, like patrol, for areas of the city where Part I crimes — murders, burglaries, etc. — are being committed.

According to the staff report:

Staff proposes to use the FY 2023 JAG funds to hire back officers to replace those temporarily assigned to investigate Part I crimes, including, but not limited to: robberies, larcenies, burglaries, weapon violations, and homicide response/investigations. The City most recently applied for and received JAG funding for this purpose in September 2021.

When needed, officers will be able to sign up to work on specific details targeting a specific area of the city where Part I crimes are occurring. Officers can also be selected from various units (i.e., patrol and investigations) that may work a task force or special detail and JAG funds are used to hire back officers with overtime pay to fill their normal assignments in patrol.

Patrick Henry Recreation Center (image via City of Alexandria)

As the new Patrick Henry Recreation Center (4653 Taney Avenue) wraps up some of the final improvements, the city is putting together a new advisory council to shape what’s next for the rec center.

Recreation Parks and Cultural Activities (RPCA) is hosting a meeting early next month to determine interest in a new Council to shape the future of the Patrick Henry Rec Center.

“Join us for the Advisory Council Interest Meeting on Tuesday, 10/3, 6-7 p.m.,” RPCA wrote in a tweet. “Let’s shape the future of Patrick Henry Rec Center by sharing our insights, organizing events, and championing community needs. Together, we’ll build a better Alexandria!”

The recently rebuilt recreation center opened in 2019. A new turf field, playground and parking lot are scheduled to be completed sometime this fall.

2 Comment
The Franklin P. Backus Courthouse in Alexandria (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

For the last year, Alexandria Police Department Capt. Monica Lisle has been embroiled in a promotion controversy. 

Lisle, who is a white, gay woman, says that the hiring process for the open assistant police chief position was faulty from the start. After going through the city’s administrative procedures to contest her disqualification from promotion, a grievance panel determined that she’d been harmed in the hiring process and ordered her promotion.

Just as a grievance panel found she had been discriminated against in the promotional process, the city government changed its regulations to block the same panel from ordering the city manager to promote her, ALXnow found.

Lisle sued the city government and her case is now before the Circuit Court. Her case, and an investigation into the city’s promotional process, calls into question how the city picks officers to lead the police department, which has separately been accused of skipping over employees of color for promotions.

The city says that Lisle’s case is simpler than it seems. Last week, City Attorney Rob Porter told Circuit Court Judge Katie Uston that her decision boils down to whether a city grievance panel has the authority to force the city manager to promote an employee.

The three-person grievance panel — a deputy director of planning, construction and facilities, an APD lieutenant and a staffer with the Department of Planning and Zoning — unanimously found that Lisle was discriminated against in a deeply flawed promotional process.

In the summer of 2022, Lisle applied to be assistant police chief. Her efforts were “quickly undermined by a series of violations of City policy, violations of law, and violations of past practice that form the basis of unwritten policy,” according to the grievance panel’s findings.

Easton McDonald was eventually hired as assistant police chief in January. There are still two open assistant police chief positions, and whether Lisle is promoted to one of the open positions now lies with Uston.

The city contends that the grievance panel’s decision to promote Lisle “flouts the City’s organizational structure set out on its Charter and the law and policies governing the City’s grievance process,” according to court records.

“If enforced, the decision would install her as an Assistant Police Chief, overseeing a third of Alexandria’s Police Department and reporting directly to the Chief of Police, although neither the Chief nor the City Manager chose her for the job,” Porter wrote in a memo in opposition to Lisle’s petition.

But that process was changed by the city manager’s office while the panel was deciding on Lisle’s case. The grievance panel hearing was conducted on June 24, and on July 3 the grievance panel unanimously recommended that City Manager Jim Parajon promote her.

On July 1, however, two days before the grievance panel’s decision, the city’s administrative regulations on the subject changed. The city manager’s office says the change coincided with the city’s collective bargaining agreements with the police and fire departments.

“The City was (and remains) in the process of updating the Administrative Regulations (A.R.) with the aim of publishing them on July 1st to coincide with our two (Fire and Police) collective bargaining agreements taking effect,” Ebony Fleming, the city’s director of communications and public information, told ALXnow in an email. “We updated the language of the referenced A.R. to make clear the city is required to comply with the long-standing state law charter section that the city manager has the exclusive authority to appoint and remove any City employee.”

The old A.R. policy, enacted by City Manager Vola Lawson in 1991, stated that a city employee can eventually file an appeal by sending the city manager a letter and having an informal hearing with the manager serving as the administrative hearing officer.

Under the old policy:

When the grievant shows a failure by the City to follow policies or procedures, the grievant may be entitled to relief if he/she also shows, by a preponderance of the evidence, that he/she suffered harm as a direct result of the failure. In such a case, the panel may order such relief as it deems necessary to remedy the harm shown to have affected the grievant.

If the panel determines that the employee has not shown that he/she has been harmed as a direct result of the failure to follow policies or procedures, it may nonetheless inform the City Manager of the failure and recommend that steps be taken to ensure that the failure is not repeated.

The updated policy takes the city manager out of the equation, stating that the appeal will be heard by a department head and a representative from the city’s department of human resources. If, by that point, the issue is not resolved, city regulations now state that the grievant can contact the Supreme Court of Virginia to request the appointment of an administrative hearing officer.

The amended A.R. policy also removes the three-person grievance panel altogether.

The previous policy said that:

When the grievant shows a failure by the City to follow policies or procedures, the grievant may be entitled to relief if he/she shows by a preponderance of the evidence that he/she suffered harm as a direct result of the failure. In such a case, the panel may order such relief as it deems necessary to remedy the harm shown to have affected the grievant.

The new policy states that the decision of the administrative hearing officer shall be “final and binding,” and includes the following new language:

Upon a determination that the grievant is entitled to relief, the Hearing Officer may award such relief as he/she deems necessary to remedy the harm shown to have affected the grievant, provided that such relief shall be narrowly tailored to address only the specific grievance and harm proven.

Hearing officers have no authority to award punitive damages or to promote, assign, or transfer a grievant. Awards of relief shall not detract from, alter, amend, or modify in any way any written City or department policy or procedure.

This change in administrative regulations affects all city employees, who are now unable to file a grievance regarding the hiring process, no matter how faulty. Additionally, APD captains are not subject to the collective bargaining agreement due to their high rank, and, like Lisle, they must adhere to city policies.

The policy still states that failure to promote a city employee is a “non-grievable” offense, “except where the employee can show that established promotional policies or procedures were not followed or applied fairly.”

On July 6, Parajon wrote a letter to the chair of the grievance panel asking for a “modified decision” and said that the recommendation goes against the city’s administrative regulations.

“As you are aware, the panel award must be consistent with all laws and ordinances,” Parajon wrote. “In its July 3, 2023 decision, the panel awarded Cpt. Lisle a promotion to Assistant Chief. This award conflicts with the City’s administrative regulation on sworn promotions, which authorizes only the City Manager or a designee to make sworn promotion appointments.”

The grievance panel responded to Parajon in a July 18 letter, and stated that it felt its award was “consistent with all laws and ordinances.”

“Upon further review the panel recommends that the City Manager appoint Captain Monica Lisle to one of the currently open Assistant Chief positions within the Alexandria Police Department,” the panel wrote in the letter.

The grievance panel determined that Parajon and Hayes were aware that the promotional process for the assistant chief job was faulty and did not stop it. The panel found 10 violations in city policy, including improperly posting the job announcement, appointing under-qualified officers to question candidates, appointing an all-Black panel that “improperly” considered race, and torpedoing Lisle’s application with unfairly low scores.

Last Wednesday, Uston heard the case and told the city and Lisle to expect her decision within 48 hours. On Tuesday (Sept. 5), she requested more information from the city on or before Friday (Sept. 8).

The City did not respond to questions on whether the city employees union was notified of the administrative change. A representative of the city’s employees union did not return calls for comment.


Subscribe to our mailing list