The Richmond Region's Unsung Hero
Richmond Police Department
For Chief Alfred Durham, this designation is a sign that efforts to make Richmond safer through community policing and engagement are having an impact. “We express to our neighbors that we can’t do it alone — and they have responded by joining with us at town hall-style meetings, community walk-throughs and neighborhood gatherings,” he says in an emailed statement, adding that sworn officers, civilian employees and residents all deserve credit for the department’s success.
2. School teachers
3. Tie: Jack Berry, Venture Richmond; the Ukrops
Mayor Jones’ Best Legacy
2015 UCI Road World Championships
With the total economic impact pegged at $170 million, the cycling event that drew an estimated 645,000 spectators to Richmond is largely seen as a win. “Sometimes decisions that not everyone initially agrees with do work out for the best,” says Tammy Hawley, Jones’ press secretary. “The investment is paying off in worldwide attention that money can’t buy.”
3. His departure
Mayor Jones’ Worst Legacy
This was a battle worth having, says Tammy Hawley, Jones’ press secretary. “No one else offered a plan to keep the Squirrels here and generate new school funding, all while securing funding for a slavery heritage site,” she says of the mayor’s Shockoe Bottom proposal.
2. State of city schools
3. Church scandal
Pleasants Hardware (Photo by Justin Vaughan)
Saddest Business Closure
Plain awful. Just past its centennial and sold by one of the few remaining Richmond homegrown, family-owned businesses, Sauer’s. Customers knew the Broad and Allison location was closing to make way for Whole Foods, but thought the “most anything” hardware store was relocating to a former Lowe’s 1.5 miles west. But there was to be no relocation of the Broad Street store. Pleasant’s president James Hatcher III, whose grandfather and father worked there, said of his reaction to the sale: “You go through a lot of different emotions. It’s surprise, concern, apprehension. A lot of what I felt was what it was going to mean for the people here.”
2. Westhampton Theater
3. Southern Season
Biggest Local Government Boondoggle
Baseball stadium fight
The will-we-won’t-we loggerheads consumed four mayors and sacrificed forests for the pages of unproductive studies. In response to this reader pick, Tammy Hawley, Mayor Jones’ spokeswoman, says: “No one else offered a plan to keep the Squirrels here and generate new school funding. That’s an investment, not a boondoggle. Now our options have evolved, and we’re working with VCU to keep baseball in RVA forever!”
2. Redskins training camp
3. Mayor Jones’ church scandal
Biggest State Government Boondoggle
McDonnell’s corruption trial
“Our concern is not with tawdry tales of Ferraris, Rolexes, and ball gowns,” began U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts in a unanimous Supreme Court ruling issued in June that threw out former Gov. Bob McDonnell’s 2014 corruption conviction. What is tasteless is not necessarily illegal, the chief justice said. Score to the readers who argued that the time and money in prosecuting the McDonnells was a waste of taxpayer money.
2. U.S. 460 realignment
3. Failure to expand Medicaid
Worst New Law
Anti-smoking laws, including prohibiting smoking with children in the car
You’ll pry my cigarette from my nicotine-stained fingers — wait, you’re not old enough! This story is about the uncouth pursuing the unenforceable. The Virginia General Assembly took time out from its busy schedule of legislating about God, guns and gays to make an illegal act of smoking in your car if a child younger than 8 is present. No more leader of the pack. Our advice: Take the pipe.
Proudest Moment of UCI Richmond 2015
Final weekend events
Among those who shined was the local Richmond Cycling Corps. RCC, a group of inner city kids, led the opening ceremony procession, and later watched world-class athletes take on the cobblestoned climb at Libby Hill, which is part of their own training route. “Dude, they know that hill,” says Craig Dodson, founder of the cycling corps. “It mentally stitched those episodes of exertion together and made it all make sense.”
2. The scene at Libby Hill
3. National/international TV coverage
Worst Moment of UCI Richmond 2015
Theft of participant’s bicycle
This was no way to start our star turn in the international spotlight: A competitor’s $10,000 bike was stolen from a Richmond hotel the day before opening festivities. Fortunately, an arrest was made and the bike was recovered before the ceremonies were held. And its rider, Evelyn Stevens, had nothing but tweeted praise for police, the hotel and Richmond.
2. Impaired driver breaching the course barricades
3. Traffic/road closures
Best Place for a New Stadium
After more than a decade of this study and that forum, the readers of Richmond magazine have their say: Leave baseball on Boulevard. Of course, second place went to where the Diamond now stands. Perhaps, being faithful subscribers, they caught our August 2001 feature, “Bottom of the Ninth at the Diamond,” which reached the same conclusion.
2. Its current location at The Diamond
3. Shockoe Bottom
Richmond Trend That Should End
There’s been talk about “peak beard” for three years now, but lots of guys are still going all-out hillbilly with facial hair. That unkempt Tom Hanks in “Castaway” look can go, says David Foster of High Point Barbershop & Shave, but as a guy who “looks like a chubby baby” without facial hair, he’ll stand up for full facial follicles, as long as they’re well-groomed. “I just think you have to take care of it, man.” Now, as for the man bun...
Most Unusual or Funny Business Name
Tie: Elephant Insurance Services, L’Opossum
“Elephant” sounds quirky and whimsical but the insurance company’s CEO says they tested more than 1,000 possibilities in focus groups and customer surveys.
There’s nothing pretentious about L’Opossum, but owner and chef David Shannon says it has always appealed to his sense of humor that an “l’” or “la” in front of any word “makes it fancy.” Even a possum.
2. En Su Boca
3. Quirk Hotel
Best New Local Construction
This probably meant architecture — or development — they’re often confused; though for the sake of argument, you picked … a grocery store. Not just any store, but the apparent epitome of all grocery shopping, after which there shall be none other and none other shall compare. Or at least, that’s how shoppers acted when Wegmans moved into Midlothian. The Short Pump store will open Aug. 7.
2. Stone Brewing Co.
3. Libbie Mill
Worst New Local Construction
The Tiber, slated to open in late 2014 or early 2015, fell into difficulties when the partner-builder sued the owner-developers for wrongful termination. This April, three buyers brought an involuntary bankruptcy petition against the partnership to forestall foreclosure. Perhaps, like Gaul, the Tiber will ultimately get divided into three parts.
2. Roundabouts in the Fan/Museum District
3. Tie: Anything in Short Pump; Wegmans
Most Notorious Speed Trap
The soaring lanes that link Henrico County to Chesterfield County are infamous enough that on Foursquare and speedtrap.org, the span rates its own entries. The Chippenham run to the bridge is considered an expressway, but the posted speed limit drops from 55 to 45. As Sammy Hagar noted, 55 is tough and creeps to 60 and then, ‘You’re busted!’
2. Tie: 288/295 in Hopewell
3. Powhite Parkway
Broad Street and Pump/Pouncey Tract
“You’ll get no arguments around here about that intersection,” responds Steve Knockemus, assistant director of Henrico County Public Relations & Media Services. “However, we can’t claim the prize, as [Virginia Department of Transportation] is responsible for maintaining it (and the rest of Broad Street).” VDOT spokeswoman Lindsay LeGrand says that agency has been working on many improvements to relieve traffic pressure in the area.
2. Tie: Anything in Short Pump; Midlothian Turnpike and Huguenot/Courthouse Roads
3. Parham Road and Patterson Avenue
Worst Local Radio/TV Ad Jingle
Cobb Technologies? Oh, Cobbit. THOSE ads. You’d expect a lot of corn from a company named Cobb. This technology company delivers with its radio ads, featuring its president’s seemingly clueless alter ego scheming and dreaming up new ways to publicize his brand. “It’s just fun for us, obviously,” says Freddy Cobb, company president and radio ad instigator.
2. Michael & Son
3. Tie: Haley Auto Group; Joel Bieber
Best Local Radio/TV Ad Jingle
Michael & Son Services
This plumbing business punches above its weight class when it comes to its ads. For 2016, its knockout commercial featuring boxing champ Michael Tyson and his son Amir made a lasting impression. “We got a rare glimpse of father and son sharing some intimate moments in the ring,” says Christopher Thompson, marketing director for the business. “To have a commercial created in a week and be told that it was better than most of the national ads out there is very humbling.”
2. Agee’s Bicycles
Least Accessible Elected Official
Mayor Dwight C. Jones
After a school budget donnybrook, Mayor Jones insisted no money existed to maintain public green spaces and roads. Council after eight years chose to curtail his $500,000 security team — over the objections of the police chief Jones hired. Jones’ spokeswoman Tammy Hawley responded to this readers’ choice with a cheery: “Starting Jan. 1, former Mayor Jones will hold nightly office hours at the bar at Chili’s on Midlothian. Stop by!”
2. Gov. Terry McAuliffe
Worst Political Gaffe
Mayor Dwight C. Jones church controversy
Reports of the city’s director of public works devoting job time to work for Mayor Dwight Jones’ church, First Baptist Church of South Richmond, caused quite a stir at the start of the year. The furor led to Jones’ pre-emptive request for a Virginia State Police investigation of the department, and, in March, a grand jury obliged, clearing the way for a broader inquiry. The results are still out.
2. Joe Morrissey’s shenanigans
3. Donald Trump’s candidacy/Super Tuesday success in Virginia
The Ukrop family
The Ukrops, good folks doing great works for generations in Richmond, have created a legacy of goodwill in the community. The family has supported an array of causes over the years, and has helped make Richmond a better place to live in innumerable ways, from serving with the Greater Richmond Chamber of Commerce and developing Sports Backers to smaller, quieter work in the city’s communities of faith.
2. Tie: Andrew Freiden; Greg McQuade
3. Tim Kaine
Whether this category is understood to mean decibels or media coverage, isn’t clear. Morrissey, the pugilistic defense attorney and once jailed state delegate, had sex with his teenage receptionist, who both insisted was 18 when they began their relationship. They married this year. The now 20-year-old bride is mother of their 2-year-old son and month-old baby girl. Now, naturally, he seeks the mayor’s office.
2. Tie: Charlie Diradour; Dwight Jones; Doug Wilder
The NBC 12 anchor has been a perennial contender in the local anchor and reporter categories, but it turns out folks think he’s kind of funny, too. “If you can make them laugh, it also opens the door to make them cry — or better yet, think. I view that as a positive.”
2. Beau Cribbs
3. Andrew Freiden
Local TV Weather Team That Did the Best During the March Tornadoes
It was an all-hands-on-deck news event, says meteorologist Andrew Freiden. “Everybody participates, from the entire weather team being at the station, reporters, anchors, everyone being really vigilant, working without sleep.”
2. WTVR-CBS 6
3. WRIC-ABC 8
Local TV Personality Who Does Most for the Community
“I make a concerted effort to try and say ‘Yes’ whenever possible because it feels good to help out people and organizations,” says Freiden, WWBT-NBC 12’s morning meteorologist. He says he is inspired and refreshed by emceeing events for charitable causes and school visits. “It’s an honor and I love it.”
2. Curt Autry
3. Sabrina Squire
Local TV Anchor Who Could Go Toe to Toe with Charlie Rose
The Oklahoma City native came to Richmond 22 years ago via Raleigh and Dallas. “It’s flattering just to be mentioned in the same breath as a Southern gentleman like Charlie Rose,” he says. And, if he hosted a fantasy talk show? An Autry chat show might fare better on HBO than PBS, he says. “There would be fun nights, but also others where tempers flared and things got a little salty.”
2. Juan Conde
3. Sabrina Squire
Best Local Television Sports Anchor/Reporter
The biggest sports stories to follow, the WTVR-CBS 6 sports director and three-time Virginia Sportscaster of the Year tells us, involve the Flying Squirrels and the Washington Redskins. “The Squirrels have woven themselves so much into the fabric of Richmond that most everyone can agree that they should have a new place to play,” Casadonte says. As for the Redskins, “Their fans are anxiously hoping they can build on last year’s success.”
2. Marc Davis
3. Chip Brierre
Best Local TV News Reporter
The Maryland native confides how, as a teenager, on Friday nights she’d stay home to watch Hugh Downs and Barbara Walters on “20/20.” And she rarely missed “60 Minutes.” She joined WWBT-NBC 12 in 2008 and became its investigative reporter in 2011. Her reporting coups include tracking a former Henrico County police officer running a real estate Ponzi scheme that led to federal charges and jail. “I’m about holding leaders accountable and looking into places where people might not think to search.”
2. Tie: Sarah Bloom; Chris Thomas
3. Mark Holmberg
Local Radio Personality Who Does Most for the Community
“I learned a long time ago that you really do have to go out and meet folks,” says the perennial B&W honoree, who, with his co-host and producer, Shelly Perkins, is on the air at Star 100.9 FM. “It makes all the difference in the world and makes you better at the same time ... I enjoy getting out to meet people who are making things happen.”
2. Melissa Chase
3. Kat Simons
Best Locally Produced Radio Show
Melissa & Jack, 103.7 Play
The morning co-hosts start prepping for tomorrow’s show as soon as today’s ends. They write their own material, and they’re frequently in touch about news both serious and silly, so they can keep their listeners informed. “We send each other a lot of naked [celebrity] pictures, but it’s strictly for research purposes,” cracks Lauterback. “I asked Jack to stop sending them,” Chase interjects. “You love it,” he teases in response.
2. Bill & Shelly, 100.9
3. MIX 98.1
Best Local Morning Radio Show
Melissa & Jack, 103.7 Play
Spend a few minutes with Melissa Chase and Jack Lauterback, and it’s easy to see why they came out on top — they’re good company. They may also be each other’s biggest fans. “Jack says what people are thinking but won’t admit out loud,” says Chase. “Melissa is program director of four stations,” Lauterback counters. “The amount of work she does every day is mind-boggling.”
2. WCVE (NPR)
3. Bill & Shelly, Star 100.9
Best Local Radio Sports Personality/Reporter
The morning host of Fox Sports 910 started his radio career in sales — which he was good at, but hated. “When 9/11 happened, I realized life was short,” he says. A diagnosis of Crohn’s disease kept him out of the Air Force, so he proposed a sports program and worked in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Charlottesville before landing here. “We talk sports on the show, but we also talk life,” McElroy says.
2. Big Al Coleman
3. Greg Burton
Best Local Print or Web Reporter
Holmberg’s in his ninth year of TV filming and writing for CBS-6 News, but he’s been telling stories about Richmond for 31 years. Holmberg returned to column writing for the Richmond Times-Dispatch last September after management extended an offer “from out of the blue.” He adds, “I can’t believe I’ve been able to roam like this, to have people open their doors and neighborhoods and hearts, to trust me ...”
2. Ned Oliver
3. Tie: Michael Paul Williams and Jeff Shapiro
Regional Worst Problem
The state of public education
Quite a few readers specified Richmond’s system, which has fewer than half of its schools fully accredited and about 40 percent of students living in poverty. While acknowledging the challenges, School Board Chairman Jeff Bourne cites gains in SOL scores and an increase in accredited schools. Pointing to this spring’s rallies for increased funding, he adds, “I’ve talked to people who have never seen this level of engagement and support.”
2. Lack of cooperation among localities (city, counties)
Hardest-to-reach Government Office
“Did all of your readers call on the last day of the month?” wondered Pam Goheen, Virginia DMV’s assistant commissioner for communications. That’s the most clangorous time, when 65 employees daily answer 5,500 callers. “We encourage customers to plan ahead and to contact us midmonth, midweek, midday.” DMV also each day responds to 300 emails. “We assist through Facebook and Twitter, too.”
2. Richmond mayor’s office
3. Richmond Department of Public Utilities
Needs-improvement PR Person or Team
Tie: Tammy Hawley, spokeswoman for Mayor Dwight C. Jones; Mayor Jones’ Office; City of Richmond
“It sounds like you made up a new category just for us, and in an election year, too,” Hawley says. “Bless your heart!”
Best PR Person or Team
The Martin Agency
The people who brought you the Geico gecko, the sensitive cave man and the YouTube video commercial you don’t have time to skip are represented by Dean Jarrett, the ad agency’s chief communications officer. “Our communications team does a great job of telling our story and developing long-standing relationships with industry reporters, and we are particularly fortunate to have such a steady stream of interesting story lines,” he says.
2. Todd Parnell, Richmond Flying Squirrels
3. Tie: PadillaCRT; VCU
Worst Line to Wait In
Our friends at the DMV note that there’s no line per se, pointing out they have lots of comfy chairs. They’re just kidding, we think. Spokeswoman Brandy Brubaker, tongue-in-cheek offerer of the comfy-chair defense, recommends doing your business online at dmvNOW.com. It’s cheaper, easier and faster, and you may not have to actually visit a DMV office except once every 16 years, for a new license photo and vision screening.