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With packed boxes by the door, retiring Alexandria Sheriff Dana Lawhorne gets a little emotional in his office. After all, he’s been wearing a uniform for 43 years.

There’s a large framed poster of the classic 1950 film “Harvey” on the wall next to his desk — a gift from his deputies who share a fondness for nostalgic movies. In the film, Jimmy Stewart’s good-natured character is pressured against his philosophy of being “Oh, so pleasant,” rather than “Oh, so smart,” in life.

It takes plenty of smarts to be the sheriff for four consecutive terms, but the 64-year-old Lawhorne’s connection to the character of Elwood P. Dowd is more about an ability to empathize with people — a strength he honed from a rough childhood and for decades as an Alexandria Police officer.

“I’m not a degree snob,” Lawhorne said in a recent interview with ALXnow. “That’s always been my Kryptonite. I am not proud of this, but I stopped learning in the seventh grade. The wheels fell off in my life.”

Lawhorne was born in Fredericksburg, and moved to Alexandria’s Del Ray neighborhood when he was two years old. Lawhorne and his wife, Linda, have been married for more than 35 years. They have three children and two grandchildren.

His parents were raging alcoholics, and he spent much of his youth dealing with the police to handle his mother. He became a police officer when he turned 21, and spent the next 27 years as a cop. Lawhorne’s everyman style has come in handy on multiple occasions, as he founded the police department’s hostage negotiation team in the 1980s. He’s the officer they’d put on the front lines during emergency situations, like talking to jumpers on the Woodrow Wilson Bridge.

It’s expected that Lawhorne isn’t going quietly. He hasn’t shied from expressing his disapproval with city leadership throughout his tenure, most recently lambasting the city manager for Alexandria’s flooding issues.

Lawhorne says that a years-long effort to increase stoplight timing at King Street and Russell Road (changing to 30 seconds last year) is a prime example of his disapproval.

“A 22-second green light backs up Russell Road,” Lawhorne says. “We all suffered years of asking the city to change it. Why couldn’t we have a 30-second light like everybody else? One time I went to see a dear friend of mine who was dying. Her last few days on this earth and her sister said she couldn’t go pick her up some prescription drugs because of the traffic backup on Russell. I mean, come on.”

Lawhorne’s not going away anytime soon. He just started a new firm, Dana Lawhorne and Associates, with a focus on helping businesses, private citizens and neighborhoods cut through some of the red tape at City Hall.

ALXnow: How are you feeling these days? Forty-three years is a long time.

Lawhorne: It is. I have mixed emotions. I definitely feel like I’ve accomplished what I set out to do. Sixteen years ago, I ran for sheriff to do five things. I did that and more, which I feel really good about. I just feel sad that I won’t be doing something that I’ve dreamed about since I was 14 years old.

ALXnow: Are you going to miss the uniform? 

Lawhorne: Yes. It fills me with pride. It’s like armor. It’s the number one symbol of who we are and what we are about, which is protecting and serving everyone. I always have a uniform on in my mind, because it seems like I can never separate myself from a duty that I took an oath for and still believe in. I never feel like I’m not wearing the uniform, even when I’m not working, no matter where I am or what I’m doing.

ALXnow: Why did you start the police department’s hostage negotiations team?

Lawhorne: I did that about 22 years. It’s all about finding what’s missing. I could look at something or you could tell me a story and I would figure out, “Okay, there’s something missing from that story.” That came in very handy as a detective, and in 1984 our hostage negotiations team really didn’t exist. That’s what was missing. They didn’t train. They weren’t organized.

ALXnow: Can you talk a little bit about your philosophy toward emotional engagement with people in your staff, in the jail, even at City Council? 

Lawhorne: I can only trace it back to growing up and being a troublemaker understanding troublemakers and growing up in a household where my parents were alcoholics. My father was a nice man. When he drank he became nicer and very passive. My mom was a nice person, but when she drank it was a total opposite. It was Jekyll and Hyde. And you never knew what you were going to get on any given day. It was bad physically, emotionally and psychologically. My mom would tear up the house, throw what we had in the yard, run up and down the street in a bathrobe and bang on the neighbor’s door.

We had to call the police all the time. My other siblings moved out as soon as they could, and it was just my younger sister and me, sometimes holding her bedroom door shut to keep her from coming out and inflicting harm on us. Because of that I grew up totally disengaged, battling depression in school, full of insecurities and all the problems that come with growing up in that type of environment.

Where does the empathy come from? I’ve always put myself in that other person’s shoes because I’ve seen all walks of life, from the millionaire to the homeless person, and I’ve experienced the generosity of both. I just never ever taken myself out of being that kid who was calling the police and looking for somebody to step up and help. I feel like if I was ever in position to make things better for someone to try to take away a little bit of their pain, then I was going to do that.

ALXnow: How do you deal with depression? Do you still?

Lawhorne: One word — Linda. Since I met her in 1977, she has been the person who has kept me focused and helps navigate the things that keep me down. I am lucky to have married the perfect partner. It’s important to have that when you lead with your heart.

ALXnow: Do you lead with your heart? 

Lawhorne: Yes. It’s a lot harder than leading with your brain.

ALXnow: What do you mean?

Lawhorne: If you lead with your brain you’re a very linear thinker. You know, if you goof up once you’re out. That sort of thing. I’m more tolerant of my staff than most in my position. I believe in second and third chances, when warranted. I believe in giving people opportunities, proper training, and development coaching to make them successful, and even that process can be very painful.

I like to give people a chance, but if they don’t take the opportunity and do something again, they’re out. But that’s hard to do. One of the hardest things that I’ve had to do over the last 16 years is balance the person and who they are and what’s going on with them, especially on a personal level, with the responsibilities of their offices.

ALXnow: What’s the plan after you leave office?

Lawhorne: I actually formed an LLC. It’s called Dana Lawhorne and Associates. You like that?

ALXnow: What are you going to be doing?

Lawhorne: Just helping people and businesses navigate problems at City Hall. It can be a small business or a neighborhood that can’t quite figure out how to get something done because they’re caught up in red tape. You know, folks pay attorney lots of money for the services I’m going to be offering. I can do it for way less, for, let’s say a cheeseburger.

ALXnow: Don’t you want to get paid for your work?

Lawhorne: To me, making money is not my goal. I do not need to do that. I worked 43 years with the city government, and if I can’t retire comfortably then I’ve done something wrong.

ALXnow: How does the incoming city leadership look to you?

Lawhorne: I’m very encouraged by what I’ve seen so far, and I believe that with the new city manager and the energy from this new council is going to get us results. This status quo philosophy must change, and I believe now we’re going to move in a different direction, because the the priorities the residents, the priorities of our community will focused on, ahead of the priorities of others.

ALXnow: Would you be more effective as a problem solver outside of power?

Lawhorne: Yes. The biggest promise city hall has is loving to put labels on people. Dana is a troublemaker.

I go to the meetings and I listen to the community. Why does it take me 40 minutes to go from the 600 block of Russell Road to King Street, to go six blocks? It’s just the most frustrating thing I’ve ever seen in my life. In my office, I try to help people, not turn them away. I don’t get this. We’ll spend more time trying to figure out how not to do something.

A 22-second green light backed up Russell Road for years. We all suffered years of asking the city to change it, and nobody would put it up for discussion. I tried with the Traffic and Parking Board three times. Why couldn’t we have a 30-second light like everybody else? One time I went to see a dear friend of mine who was dying. Her last few days on this earth and her sister said she couldn’t go pick her up some prescription drugs because of the traffic backup on Russell. I mean, come on.

ALXnow: Are you going to miss the inmates of the jail?

Lawhorne: Yes. I grew up understanding what sobriety can do for an individual and their families. I always told them that crime isn’t just about them and their victims, it’s about their families. Their families are suffering as much as they are for their mistake.

I never had a foundation of education. That’s always been my Kryptonite. I am not proud of this, but I stopped learning in the seventh grade. The wheels fell off in my life. I’ve tried to teach them the importance of sobriety, education and transitioning to a better place.

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Alexandria Police Chief Michael Brown says that he’s on the level about his surprise retirement announcement, and that he and his wife will soon pulling up stakes for the West Coast in the near future to take care of urgent family business.

“This was a personal decision that my wife and I came to manifest in me having to retire,” Brown told ALXnow.

Brown has given a recommendation on who should be the acting chief until a permanent replacement is chosen at the conclusion of a national search. His last day is June 25. Right now he’s worried about summer crime, although says that crime levels are now returning to pre-pandemic levels.

The department is currently dealing with critical staffing issues, namely temporarily filling available street assignments for patrol officers by reassigning other officers.

“We’re meeting our staffing needs on the street,” Brown said. “We’re very concerned about what may happen this summer.”

APD is funded for 311 positions, and effective July 1 the department will have 305 officers on duty. Of those, six are on administrative duties pending the outcome of an investigation after a chase suspect died in D.C., and there are a number of officers on family medical leave and other various reasons, Brown said.

“In order to supplement provide some stability for those temporary shortages, we pulled other officers in to kind of fill the gaps for patrol,” he said. “And that’s normally customary in this business when you have these kinds of situations taking place.”

Brown added, “We’re seeing crime revert back to what was normal, with some minor suggestions to prior to the pandemic. We’re not seeing the same thing in terms of, for example, auto thefts, that we once saw. The shootings are also lower in number than we had last year, especially towards the summer.”

On the bright side, he said, three APD officers who were previously on administrative duties after a shootout in Old Town North have been cleared for duty by Commonwealth’s Attorney Bryan Porter. Additionally, APD will be reassigning six officers previously assigned to the School Resource Officer program, which Council eliminated last month.

As for the SROs, Brown said that he supported the program, but would not offer an opinion on Council’s decision.

“I thought there was value in the SRO program,” he said. “But then again, I don’t have the authority to make that decision. My job is to carry out the decision that was made by our elected officials.”

Brown also left six months before being vested in the city’s retirement system, although Brown says it doesn’t bother him and that the decision wasn’t about money. After a 46-year career in law enforcement, this isn’t his first retirement.

“The fact of the matter is, I’ve had several retirements,” he said. “I took this job because I cared about this police department.”

Brown started as a police officer in Los Angeles in 1977, and was the Commissioner of the California Highway Patrol from 2004-2008. He was later California’s deputy secretary for public safety from 2008 to 2009, and then for six years was the director of the Office of Impaired Driving and Occupant Protection at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration before being hired as Alexandria’s police chief in 2017.

Brown led the police department through a restructuring, as well as social unrest after the 2020 murder of George Floyd, the COVID-19 pandemic, and an uptick in shooting events and other crime throughout the city. He restructured the department from four to three divisions, and took away deputy chief of police positions and added an assistant chief. He also says that under his leadership the department made strides with its 21st Century Policing effort.

“Some would argue differently, but we became very transparent ,” Brown said. “We put all of our policies, we put all of our reports on use of force on our website so that people could see that information and be critical of it.”

Brown continued, “Policing is never stable. Policing will always change, and it will change based upon events; it will change upon public discourse; it will change because the community, or… the nation at large has other questions, or other expectations… The real challenge for the law enforcement community is to be able to listen and to be able to adapt in order to survive, because if we don’t survive the public will get rid of you.”

Brown’s tenure was punctuated by dramatic events, starting with the Simpson Field Shooting, and culminating with the pandemic and social unrest after the murder of George Floyd. He would later pen an op-ed saying that the video of Floyd’s death appalled him, and he spoke with city leaders to the public and later joined protestors at a demonstration outside police headquarters.

Brown said his laundry list of people to thank is long.

“I admire this department for what it does,” he said. “It’s a good department, filled with great people, and they are out there every day taking care of the citizens, the residents of this city. It was a blessing to have the opportunity to work with them.”

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What a week in Alexandria. Here’s the rundown.

Our top story was on President Joe Biden stopping by the Sportrock Climbing Center in Alexandria last Friday with First Lady Jill Biden and Governor Ralph Northam.

Seeing the president around town is getting to be a regular thing. The president, who also visited in April, discussed “the state’s progress against the coronavirus pandemic” and the celebration of “summer as Virginia lifts all COVID-19 distancing and capacity restrictions.”

This week, we also followed up on a New York Times report about the Virginia Theological Seminary making reparations payments to slavery descendants. The program was launched in 2019, and the school issued $2,100 in annual payments to 15 families in February.

On Wednesday, the Fire Department released its restructuring plan, which goes into effect June 12, and is intended to help emergency response times by shifting resources. AFD will conduct community conversations on the restructuring on Saturday, June 5, at 10 a.m.; Monday, June 7, at 2 p.m. and Thursday, June 10, at 7 p.m.

Closing the short workweek, on Friday Alexandria Police Chief Michael Brown announced that his retirement. Brown’s last day is June 25, and the City Manager is soon expected to name an acting chief to lead the department while the city’s undergoes a national search for a permanent replacement.

Election stories

Important stories

Top stories

  1. UPDATED: President Biden and Gov. Northam visited Alexandria this morning
  2. JUST IN: Virginia State Police chase U-Haul pickup truck through Alexandria
  3. Bennett-Parker says Levine mailer on Commonwealth of Virginia letterhead is ethics breach
  4. Goodie’s Frozen Custard & Treats opens in Old Town
  5. Hank & Mitzi’s Italian Kitchen closes for the foreseeable future in Old Town North
  6. Volunteers needed this weekend to help clear dangerous stretch of Mount Vernon Trail
  7. Wilson and Silberberg mayoral debate finale opens possibility of ‘tweaking’ Seminary Road Diet
  8. Homegrown Restaurant Group gives employees raise to $15 an hour, will ease COVID restrictions at 6 restaurants
  9. ‘Rock It Grill’ eyeing karaoke expansion, bringing back Halloween party
  10. Here’s the order that City Council candidates will appear on the ballot for the June 8 democratic primary
  11. Ownership of Landmark’s streets could make a big difference down the road

Photo via White House/Twitter

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Mark Jinks isn’t getting any younger, and the Alexandria city manager says he is closing in on the end of his career.

“I turn 70 in 2022,” Jinks told ALXnow. “I am closer to the end than the beginning, that’s for sure.”

Jinks said that things are slowly getting back to normal, as the city’s annual birthday celebration — held virtually last year — will be a limited attendance in-person event on the waterfront this time around. Additionally, starting Monday he said that City Hall’s treasury and tax collection windows will be open five days a week, and every office in the city will have at least two staffers working in person.

While Jinks has not made it official, rumors are swirling about his impending retirement. After six years as Alexandria’s City Manager and more than 20 years since he started work as the city’s budget director in 1999, Jinks and his wife are thinking about taking some time off in the near future to see their daughter who lives in Spain.

“Whenever I decide to make a decision and give Council notice, it would be with plenty of notice,” Jinks said. “Hiring a city manager is not putting an ad in the newspaper. The process can take six to nine months.”

Mayor Justin Wilson would not comment on personnel decisions or timing, but had kind words about Jinks’ performance throughout the pandemic.

“I don’t comment on personnel decisions and timing,” Wilson said. “That being said, the Manager’s leadership has been absolutely critical over the past year as we have worked to address the human, financial and economic impacts of the pandemic. Alexandrians are well-served by his leadership during this time.”

Jinks said it will take years for the city to get back to its pre-pandemic economy.

“I think tourism and business travel were the two pieces that got hit the most, as far as tax revenues are concerned,” he said. “International tourism is practically zero nowadays. Who knows when that will come back. I’d say it’ll be several years until we’re back to where we were.”

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It was another busy week in Alexandria. Here are some of the highlights.

This week, ALXnow profiled Mayor Justin Wilson and his opponent, former Mayor Allison Silberberg. The pair are facing off in the June 8 Democratic primary, and have vastly different ideas on city governance.

Alexandria Police released its 2020 crime data this week, revealing a 19% increase in Part 1 crime and 15% reduction in Nuisance crimes. ALXnow also reported a number of noteworthy crime stories, including the release of a video showing a chase suspect who died after his arrest in D.C. on April 12, and the indictment of a West End murder suspect.

This week also brought the unbelievable story of locals chasing down suspected shoplifters in Del Ray.

On the vaccine front, the Alexandria Health Department paused Johnson & Johnson vaccinations, following new concerns about potential side effects.

In school news, Alexandria City Public Schools will shift to three feet distancing in classrooms on April 26. Additionally, the School Board has started a conversation on reducing the number of members from nine to six.

Important stories

Top stories

  1. BREAKING: ‘Alexandria City High School’ chosen as replacement name for T.C. Williams High School
  2. JUST IN: Dr. Stephen Haering suddenly retires as director of Alexandria Health Department
  3. Southern Towers residents nervous as landlord steps up eviction proceedings
  4. Man stabbed at Old Town intersection
  5. NEW: Locals chase down suspected shoplifters in Del Ray
  6. JUST IN: T.C. Williams JV football team walks off field after alleged racial slur, spitting incident
  7. Man faces 10 years for DWI in horrific West End crash in Safeway parking lot
  8. Planning Commission approves controversial subdivision, plants potential loophole for future denial
  9. JUST IN: Video released of police arresting chase suspect who died in D.C.
  10. JUST IN: Six Alexandria Police officers put on administrative duties after chase suspect dies
  11. JUST IN: West End murder suspect faces life plus 13 years in prison

Have a safe weekend!

Photo via ACPS/Facebook

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Morning Notes

Alexandria health director reflects on sudden retirement, tenure with city — “When Dr. Stephen Haering, director of the Alexandria Health Department for the past 11 years, unexpectedly announced his retirement on April 9, he did so for what he called ‘deeply personal’ reasons. Haering, whose retirement was effective immediately according to a city news release, told the Times in an interview that his departure was ‘not associated with the pandemic response.'” [Alex Times]

Vaccination drive brings a dose of hope for restaurant workers — “More than 1,000 restaurant and small business employees have filed through the doors of the old Fireflies restaurant over the past few weeks with the same purpose: receiving COVID-19 vaccinations. The location’s current vacancy made this the perfect site to administer such a large number of shots, Bill Blackburn, restaurateur and co-owner of Homegrown Restaurant Group, said. Blackburn joined forces with community organizer Charlotte Hall and Scott Shaw of Alexandria Restaurant Partners – who donated the space – to orchestrate the Alexandria Restaurant Drive whereby restaurant workers could receive vaccinations in a streamlined way.” [Alex Times]

Bren Mar Park demolition project to begin — “Demolition work will begin at Bren Mar Park on Collier Lane and Edsall Road in Alexandria, Virginia, as the Fairfax County Park Authority (FCPA) removes a home on the property.” [Fairfax County]

Reimagined ‘Taste Of Old Town North’ to be held over 2 months — “The Reimagined Taste of Old Town North will start on April 21 and will continue through June 21. During the two-month period, residents can purchase a Taste Passport for $10 to use at participating businesses. These businesses will offer discounts to Passport holders.” [Patch]

Today’s weather — “Intervals of clouds and sunshine (during the day). High 63F. Winds WNW at 10 to 20 mph… A few clouds from time to time (in the evening). Low 44F. Winds NW at 10 to 20 mph.” [Weather.com]

New job: Taekwondo instructors and camp counselors — “Our growing company is currently seeking motivated and enthusiastic individuals who are GREAT with people to join our team at multiple locations. Our programs include martial arts classes for all ages, as well as After-school & Summer Camp programs for children 6-12 years old. Work hours tend to fall in the afternoons, evenings and Saturday mornings. This is a part-time position that can lead to a full-time position with excellent opportunity for advancement.” [Indeed]

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Morning Notes

Beyer Praises Biden’s Economic Relief Plan — “Soon we will have a president in the White House, and Democratic leaders controlling Congress, who understand what economists have told us from the beginning–that in order to recover and rebuild from this pandemic you must first control the coronavirus and that rent and food are not going to trickle down to millions of unemployed Americans.” [Beyer.house.gov]

COVID-19 Self-Testing Kiosks Closed Today — “Stay safe on January 20. To ensure the safety of the community and Curative employees, COVID-19 testing kiosks in Alexandria will be closed on Inauguration Day. Pre-register for testing on Tues, Jan 19 or Thurs, Jan 21.” [Twitter]

Polk Elementary Principal Announces Retirement — “James K. Polk Elementary School Principal PreeAnn Johnson will retire July 1, 2021… Johnson was honored last year by Alexandria City Public Schools (ACPS) Superintendent Dr. Gregory C. Hutchings Jr. as ACPS Principal of the Year.”[Zebra]

ACPS Minority and Special Needs Students Struggle With Virtual Learning — “The report, compiled by ACPS’ Department of Accountability and Research, shows that middle and high school students earned D’s and F’s in greater numbers across all demographic groups in the first quarter of the 2020-21 school year compared to first quarter of the 2019-20 school year.” [Alex Times]

Accessory Dwelling Unit Decision Coming Up In Alexandria — “Accessory dwelling units, defined as small apartment-style residences sharing a lot with a larger house, would be allowed citywide under the proposal from the Department of Planning and Zoning and Office of Housing. Units are considered accessory dwellings when they provide a separate kitchen, bathroom and bedroom from the main house. They could be located in an addition of an existing home or a within separate on a lot, such as a detached garage.” [Patch]

Former Mayor Recounts Taking Iconic Photo of Coretta Scott King — “Silberberg’s photo has been published extensively by many publications. The most memorable was after Mrs. King passed away in 2006, when the photo was used by Target for full-page ads the company took out in The Washington PostThe New York Times and other major metropolitan newspapers to commemorate King’s service to the country.” [Alexandria Living]

Today’s Weather — “A few clouds from time to time (during the day). High 44F. Winds NW at 15 to 25 mph… Clear skies (in the evening). Low 24F. Winds light and variable.” [Weather.com]

New Job: Experienced Tax Preparer — “The ideal candidate will have A MINIMUM of 5 years of Public Accounting experience, working in a tax environment. The ability to accurately prepare and review tax returns for various types of entities is a must! A desire to assist in expanding business growth and efficiency with fresh ideas is also highly desired.” [Indeed]

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Morning Notes

Rally for Rent Relief Today at Courthouse — “Join us to demand that Governor Northam stop evictions and redirect $1 billion for rent relief. Wednesday, July 1 at 11 am outside the Alexandria Courthouse.” [Facebook]

Longtime Alexandria Firefighter Retires — “AFD would like to congratulate Captain Sam Parker on his retirement after over 33 years of dedicated service to the citizens of Alexandria. We wish him all the best as he begins his next chapter!” [Twitter]

Le Refuge Restaurant Reopening — “🍴🍷BONJOUR🍷🍴!!!! We are very excited to announce that we are reopening MONDAY JULY 6TH!!! Thank you so much for your patience and understanding,We cannot wait to see everyone!!!” [Facebook]

Pedego Electric Bikes Closed Next Week — “Pedego Alexandria will be closed from July 5th through July 12th for a much needed and highly anticipated family vacation! Feel free to call and leave a message or send us an email and we will get back to you when we can.” [Facebook]

Kidcreate Studio Crafts New Approach — “Kidcreate Studio hosted its grand opening March 14 — the day after Alexandria and Fairfax County closed schools to slow the spread of coronavirus.” [Alexandria Living]

New Job: Experienced Sushi Chef — “Kaizen Tavern is looking for a Sushi Chef to join the team. We offer a great salary, benefits and the opportunity to grow a business together. The position is meant for a skilled, passionate chef. Work with a dedicated team of culinary and hospitality professionals, who are committed to providing the absolute best experience for their guests.” [Indeed]

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Morning Notes

Alexandria Among Top Cities Where Women Find Success — “Here in Alexandria, more than two-thirds of women have a Bachelor’s degree or higher. The median income of women is more than $75,800. In addition, almost one-third (31.3 percent) of local businesses are owned by women.” [Alexandria Living]

Mayor Supports Governor Extending Rent Moratorium — “The extraordinary financial pressure facing residents of Alexandria who are experiencing unemployment or loss of income continues.‬ ‪Today, I supported the Governor of Virginia’s efforts to extend the moratorium on evictions to allow state/local rent relief programs to assist.” ‬[Facebook]

Circuit Court Judge Nolan Dawkins Retires — “People in Alexandria turned out Friday to celebrate the retirement of the circuit court’s first Black judge. News4’s Northern Virginia bureau chief Julie Carey reports.” [News4]

Volunteer Alexandria Makes 7,000 Face Masks — “This week, Griffin, Jenelle, and Caroline helped bag masks. Griffin and Jenell even helped two days in a row! So far, volunteers have completed 17 orders totaling 7,000 masks that will be going to local nonprofits.” [Facebook]

Together We Bake is Taking Orders — “Orders are now available for contactless pick-up! You can pick up your orders Tuesday’s and Thursday’s between 10:30 and 3. Please allow 24 hours for your order to be processed.” [Facebook]

City Needs Employers for Job Fair — “WDC is seeking employers to participate in the Virginia Careerworks Alexandria/Arlington Virtual Job Fair on Wednesday, July 15, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Participation is free. Employers must register by July 6.” [Facebook]

New Job: Pet Care Specialist at Barkley Square — “We are looking for dedicated animal lovers to join our growing company! We offer a competitive benefits package including health insurance, supplemental insurance, IRA, and smartphone for full-time VIP client routes. Applicants MUST have a car, internet access, and basic computer skills to be considered for employment. We conduct a thorough background check before hiring.” [Indeed]

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After 34 years and no sick leave, James “JJ” Jackson wrapped up his last shift at Fire Station 203 yesterday (Tuesday).

Short of a little time in Del Ray and Old Town, Jackson said he’s spent every year of his career at the firehouse in Alexandria’s Beverly Hills neighborhood.

“I’m excited,” Jackson said. “I’m ready. I’m definitely going to miss my colleagues.”

Jackson said he quickly fell in love with the station and its coverage area. (The station is now in the process of being demolished and replaced with a new firehouse.)

“I like it up here,” Jackson said. “It’s a neighborhood feel, a little less city. That’s what I liked about it. The neighbors always take care of us and bring us stuff at Christmas.”

Jackson started on Oct. 1, 1984, and said he’s never taken a day of sick leave, but wasn’t sure if that was a record in the department.

Over those years, Jackson said the biggest changes were the incorporation of computers into firefighting and other new technologies.

“There’s a lot more EMS involvement too,” Jackson said. “The firefighting job is basically the same though.”

Jackson said his main plans once he retires are to travel and spoil his grandchildren.

Photo via Alexandria Fire-EMS/Twitter

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