I have a new neighbor in the City of Manassas, Yvette Soliz. She just moved here from Prince William County, where she has been a teacher at Neabsco Elementary School for one year. Before that, she lived in Texas.
Being new can be stressful. So what better introduction than to take Yvette with me to the quarterly Town Hall Meeting at Dean Elementary School on Monday night?
Yvette was impressed to walk into the school and immediately meet City Manager John A. Budesky, who was new five months ago, and Dr. Catherine B. Magouyrk, Manassas City Public Schools Superintendent, who was new five weeks ago. From there, she shook hands with everyone from Fire and Rescue Chief Brett Bowman to Mayor Harry J. “Hal” Parrish II.
You may think that was special – but every citizen received the same welcome from their public servants last night. We took our seats in the auditorium, and here’s some of what we learned from the presentations or citizens’ time:
City Manager John A. Budesky acknowledged the Romney campaign has chosen Manassas as one of its priority stops in Northern Virginia on August 11. He invited residents to join him in the city-wide Step Up with Walgreens campaign and emphasized that citizen input is needed this fall on a variety of improvement projects, from the Main Street expansion project to the widening of Prince William Street between Grant Avenue and Wellington. “It’s extremely important for us to hear from you,” he said.
Dr. Catherine B. Magouyrk explained she is gathering community input during her first 100 days. “I need to hear from everyone possible and get an idea of where this community sees its school system, the experiences you’ve had and where we want to see our children’s futures,” she said. She encouraged anyone who has not had an opportunity to sit down with her to do so. A survey will be posted on the district website later in August, also. And in October, she will present her findings to the School Board, along with a plan for their approval.
During citizens’ time, Gainesville resident and electric car owner Kayne Karnbach announced he is bringing National Plug In Day to The Manassas Museum on Sunday, Sept 23 from 10 am to 2 pm, partnering with local dealers to give people the opportunity to see and test drive electric vehicles, and ask questions of dealers and electric vehicle owners. “You’ve been very courageous putting in four public charging stations,” Karnbach told city leaders. “I want to show the city support and let everyone in the region see what Manassas is doing and how progressive you are in leading the way in this new kind of fuel.”
Arleen Green, Secretary/Treasurer of Point of Woods East Homeowners Association, which recently submitted their “Not Just Another Neighborhood!” community outreach program to the Virginia Statewide Neighborhood Conference’s Project of the Year award competition, asked the City Council to bring the AmeriCorps VISTA program into their community. “Our board has heard about the mentoring, reading and culinary arts programs and we believe our children and our community can benefit,” said Green. “The Point of Woods East HOA board is strong, we’re healthy and we’re interactive.”
A highlight of the evening were comments by Manassas businessman Jaz Mitchell of Jaz Cuts in Old Town Manassas and several of the young men he has mentored through his Shop Talk program, or support through the Boys & Girls Club and the AmeriCorps VISTA program.
Leslie Jones, a Georgetown South resident since 1984 and member of the HOA board, shared that on a recent trip to Six Flags with VISTA members, the youth from her community, demonstrated an improved level of communication, attitude and trust. “You have done a great job in Georgetown South,” she told city leaders. “I hope we can continue a relationship with [the VISTAs] because the kids really do trust them and that’s a big thing, for these children to trust somebody.”
As we left, I realized I not only got to know my new neighbor better, but I had the chance to see my community through her eyes. From the way we welcome everyone and care about our youth -- we're looking pretty darn good!
The schedule for Council meetings, quarterly Town Hall meetings, public hearings and work sessions, are posted on the City of Manassas website at www.manassascity.org.