When I was a kid, my grandfather told me, "The basis of my knowledge comes from reading the newspaper every day."
After a while, mine did too. In fact, I ended up majoring in journalism and spent the last 10.5 years reporting the news, including nine years in Prince William County, my lifelong home area as a resident of Manassas.
I was born at Prince William Hospital in Manassas, attended Loch Lomond Elementary School (K-3), All Saints School (4-8) and Paul VI (9-12) before heading to western New York for college at St. Bonaventure University - where my aunt and uncle graduated - for a total of 13 years of Catholic schooling.
I started working for the Gainesville Times a month after graduating college in 2006 and reported for the Prince William Times too once our paper expanded to the eastern side of the county. I started transitioning while working at the newspaper in 2012, began hormone replacement therapy Dec. 3, 2013, changed my name, gender and byline in 2015 and no one cared. It was great. I could just keep doing my job.
If you're from Prince William County, Manassas or Manassas Park, you might have seen me at high school sports games, debates, hearings or events, or at least recognized my hideous car in the parking lot.
I covered games at every public high school in the county. I saw the best in people tackling poverty and homelessness and the worst in people killing each other. I wrote stories about schools, business, development, and, of course, transportation. Lots and lots and lots of transportation: Bi-County Parkway. Tri-County Parkway. Sudley Manor. Vint Hill. Linton Hall. That little bridge in Nokesville (Aden Road). VRE. 15. 28. 29. 55. 66. 234.
If you ran for office in western Prince William, we talked transportation. My job was to know enough about the issues to hold elected officials accountable for what they did, or didn't do, about them.
As a reporter, I had to listen to what people were saying and understand their reasoning, regardless of my own opinions. That’s something I had reinforced to me as the news editor of the Montgomery County Sentinel in Rockville, Md., where I worked from August 2015 until the end of 2016, when I left my post to run for office. It's a lot easier to judge people than understand them. Anyone can just spout off stuff but what makes journalism special is you have to actually pay attention, vet your facts, receive an earful from your editor and improve your work while reporting the news as a neutral, disinterested, third-party observer. Likewise, I want to bring to bring a reporter's sensibility to Mr. Jefferson's Capitol.
I'm running for office to help improve our quality of life by working on the issues I spent nine years reporting about for the newspaper.
At the same time, my number one job for the campaign isn't to speak... it's to listen to the residents, write down their concerns, ideas and questions, follow-up with them, and work what they tell me into my policy platform. That's how I took notes and wrote news stories and that's how I'll craft public policy: Research. Question. Listen. Report.
When I was growing up, my legislative role models were Sen. Chuck Colgan (D-29) and Del. Harry Parrish (R-50), the independent-minded "dynamic duo" who represented Manassas in the General Assembly.
You didn't have to agree with them on every issue to see that they worked hard to build consensus, govern with a results-oriented approach and reach across the aisle to build a better Manassas, all while being among the most genial, well-respected and powerful members of the General Assembly. They weren't bomb-throwers or ideologues; they were effective committee chairmen who secured the money to develop our local infrastructure.