Tag Archives: Bob Stuart

Reporter Bob Stuart wins Virginia Press Awards

By Lynn R. Mitchell

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Bob Stuart (left) with Marshall Pattie (right) and Tracy Pyles in background.

Congratulations to local political reporter and friend Bob Stuart with the Waynesboro News-Virginian who was presented two Virginia Press Awards for 1st and 3rd place stories (see The News Virginian staff wins at awards ceremony).

Way back when, he and I sat in Mr. Witthoeff’s 7th grade class in Chesterfield County writing short stories with not a clue our paths would cross years later in the Shenandoah Valley, both still writing.

To quote Ernest Hemingway, “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” Bleed on, Bob!

 

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New bridge opens in Fishersville, named for Dennis Burnett

Augusta County mapBy Lynn R. Mitchell

There’s a new road in Fishersville that connects two main thoroughfares, and includes a bridge that is named for Dennis Burnett, the former economic development director for Augusta County who passed away last October (see Remembering Dennis Burnett 1964-2014) .

The dedication of the new road took place Friday morning, as described in a press release from the Augusta County Office of Economic Development:
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More backyard chickens? Augusta County supervisors say ‘no’

013_Cow

By Lynn R. Mitchell

Who knew backyard chickens would be such a controversial idea in rural Augusta County? I am not an expert on the policies nor have I read much on either side. However, for someone who is pretty plugged into the news, the chicken issue was under my radar until arriving at the supervisor meeting Wednesday night and seeing the partition open and extra seating set up for an overflow crowd.

Hmm.

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Augusta supervisors deliver resolution asking for more info, Dominion says 75% of landowners in pipeline path agree to surveying

Pipeline mapBy Lynn R. Mitchell

Hundreds of landowners turned out Monday night to attend an open house held by Dominion Virginia Resources at Fishersville’s Expoland. On hand were maps, information, and experts to talk with resident who turned out to learn more about the proposed natural gas pipeline.

Augusta County supervisors passed a resolution last week that was delivered to Dominion asking them “to submit to a mock rezoning in the county designed to minimize the impact on landowners, water supplies, schools and the county’s economic development plans.”

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Valley Republicans are needed to up the vote margin

By Lynn R. Mitchell

One longtime Valley Republican said the region could become pivotal in a close Warner-Gillespie race. “This will be a close election and the Valley may be important,” said Kurt Michael, the former chairman of the Augusta County Republican Committee. “If Staunton, Waynesboro and Augusta voters want to see Gillespie in there, they have to turn out.”

Michael recalls the 2005 state attorney general’s race between Republican Bob McDonnell and Democrat Creigh Deeds. “The turnout in the Valley put him (McDonnell) over,” Michael said.

Michael said divisions within the Republican Party locally may be contributing to a less effective ground game for Gillespie. “I’m not seeing the yard signs, the door knocking and I’m not seeing the literature dropped,” he said. “It’s a reflection of the party. We’re in a civil war now between the tea party and the mainstream party. They are so busy infighting they are not getting people elected.”

Political reporter Bob Stuart with the News-Virginian talked with political leaders in the central Shenandoah Valley about Tuesday’s election that has Republican Ed Gillespie and Democrat Mark Warner running for the U.S. Senate seat (see Senate race has meant for scant Valley visits). Turnout turnout turnout is the key.

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Augusta County’s Dennis Burnett passes away – updated with obit, memorial service

Dennis Burnett

Dennis Burnett (1964-2014)

By Lynn R. Mitchell

Dennis Burnett, the sunny, all-smiles, friendly and outgoing executive director of the Shenandoah Valley Partnership, a position he took over on September 1, 2013, and former Economic Director for Augusta County, Virginia, has passed away from a brain aneurysm. He was 49.

As news of his passing spread through the community on Tuesday, there was a shock to all who knew the gregarious man who worked at Shenandoah Valley Regional Airport in Weyers Cave before taking on the economic issues of the area.

In August he was appointed by Governor Terry McAuliffe to the Manufacturing Development Commission.

A fixture at Augusta County supervisor meetings and throughout the economic and tourism community, it’s hard to come to the realization that we will no longer see Dennis, reading glasses jauntily propped on top of his head, smiling and laughing at events in the area. What a loss.

Friends are leaving condolences and remembrances on his Facebook page. While all are poignant and touching, one written by Deona Landes Houff stood out:

At 4:30 p.m. today I realized I’d never had lunch. I had been too pre-occupied with Dennis. He was such a supporter when I published eightyone, and I know many a business person can say the same about Dennis’ help with their endeavors. What an amazing man. I have funny memories, too. Don’t we all?

When I got home from work, I headed to the basement and dug out the old eightyones. I first interviewed Dennis in 2000 for a story on the airport. Gerald Garber’s thoughts at the time: “Dennis reminds me of a wind-up toy that has a extra strong spring. It’s just a breath of fresh air to have someone that exuberant in their job. He just doesn’t give up. I think it’s easier to say yes to him than to say no.”

I also interviewed Dennis in 2005 when he left the airport for Colgan. I headlined that little story “Hot Air.” Ha! Get it? The first line was “Dennis Burnett can talk. Ask anyone who’s ever met him. Heck, ask him.”

Elsewhere in the piece, he shared these words of wisdom: “The impossible just takes a little longer.”

And here’s the last paragraph of that story:

“Does he like his new job? ‘I ab-so-lute-ly love it,’ he declares. When accused of loving everything, he cops to it. ‘I do love everything. I’d have a good time in a shoe box.’ ”

Dennis, to you tonight, I raise my a glass and eat a good supper, extra salty with tears. And worry not. I’ll have dessert. We all love you. We are better, as a community and as individuals, for having known you. Thanks, Dennis. For everything.

Our thoughts and prayers go to his family as they try to make some sense of this unexpected loss. As arrangements are announced, they will be posted here.

MORE ABOUT DENNIS in the articles Cherish sunsets, friends, and memories … ‘the moment might be gone too soon.’ and Remembering Dennis Burnett 1964-2014.

UPDATE #1: Among the dozens and dozens of comments left on Dennis’ Facebook page — all touching and remembering a man who radiated warmth and kindness, was this one from Tara Todd, photojournalist and reporter with NBC-29. Her retelling of Dennis’ anecdote about the “dash” in our lifelines really hit home for me:

I am so sad tonight… like so many of us who knew Dennis Burnett.

I got to know Dennis over years of interviews. A sharp dresser, always with a smile, boundless positive energy and for nearly a decade still offering to carry my tripod. Dennis was the kind of person that you just felt better being around.

I’ll never forget something Dennis told me. He said when you look at a headstone it always has a person’s birthdate, a dash, and then the day they died. He said the part that matters is the dash.

Dennis, your dash was entirely too short, but it was impressive!!! I will miss you!

“The part that matters is the dash.” What a reminder to make your dash count….

UPDATE #2: Valley Partnership director dies unexpectedly by Laura Peters at the News Leader.

UPDATE #3: From reporter Laura Peters: “His family has established a memorial fund with the Blue Ridge Community College Educational Foundation in his name. Burnett attended BRCC and was a member of the foundation’s board of directors. Contributions may be made to the Dennis Burnett Fund, c/o BRCC Educational Foundation, P.O. Box 80, Weyers Cave, Va., 24486.”

UPDATE #4: Political reporter Bob Stuart has a wonderful article about Dennis’ professional side in the News-Virginian (Local residents mourn loss of economic development leader) and how he brought badly-needed jobs to Augusta County. Talking with local leaders, Stuart included this from Supervisor David Karaffa:

There are stories about Burnett’s commitment to people. Beverley Manor District Supervisor David Karaffa said he first came to know Burnett when he was running for a supervisors seat in 2011.

Burnett introduced himself and “would answer my questions.” Once elected to the board Karaffa said he would bombard Burnett with questions. “I had a million questions. He would come over to my house after hours and go over something with me even if it wasn’t in my district,’’ he said.

UPDATE #5: Shenandoah Valley Partnership director dies at 49 by Sean Cudahy and Tara Todd, NBC-29.

UPDATE #6: Honored to have WHSV AM 550 use my post in their tribute of Dennis: Dennis Burnett Remembered.

UPDATE #7: Valley Economic Development Leader Dies, WHSV  TV-3

UPDATE #8: Chris Graham at Augusta Free Press has an endearing remembrance of Dennis that taps into the exuberant man whom we were lucky to have known (see Dennis Burnett: A bright light extinguished too soon): “Dennis Burnett cannot be gone. He would be a bright light on a star in the sky; he could serve as a source of energy power for a small town. People like that don’t die; they don’t even fade away.”

UPDATE #9: Staunton News Leader Editorial: Grief for a gifted man that began: “Dennis Burnett was gifted. Positive, solutions-oriented, generous and gregarious, he shared those gifts with this community in economic leadership roles that helped us survive the recession and recover.”

UPDATE #10: Obituary for Dennis….

Dennis O. Burnett

Dennis Owen Burnett, 49, of Staunton passed away unexpectedly Tuesday, Oct. 21, 2014, at the University of Virginia Medical Center.

Born Nov. 9, 1964 in Waynesboro, he is the son of Vernon M. Burnett and the late Mary (Mills) Burnett. On Nov. 7, 1987, he married the love of his life, Cynthia (Quick) Burnett. The two shared a blessed union of 26 years together.

Dennis was a graduate of Fort Defiance High School. Following high school, he attended Blue Ridge Community College and currently served on the Board of Directors of the BRCC Educational Foundation. He was currently serving as Executive Director of Shenandoah Valley Partnership. Being an active member of the community, Dennis was involved with the Greater Augusta United Way, Greater Augusta Chamber of Commerce, the Rotary Club of Staunton-Augusta, International Economic Developers Council, Virginia Economic Developers Association, Virginia Agricultural Directors Association, and the Virginia Manufacturing Development Commission.

In addition to his mother, he was preceded in death by his sister, Patsy Painter; father-in-law, Harry A. Quick III; nephew, Christopher Norene.

In addition to his loving wife and father, survivors include his sisters, Denise F. Brugler and husband, Tom, and Sandy Skillman Rooney and husband, Mike; brothers, Larry A. Skillman and Michael J. Skillman; mother-in-law, Charlotte Quick Hodge; brother-in-law, Jeremy Quick and wife, Teresa; sister-in-law, Brenda Norene and husband, Kevin; as well as a number of aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews and extended family.

A private service will be at 2 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 25, 2014, for family only at the Waynesboro Chapel of Reynolds Hamrick Funeral Homes, 618 W. Main St. A public memorial service for friends, colleagues, and the community will be at 2 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 26, 2014, at the Murphy Deming College of Health Sciences/Mary Baldwin College, 100 Baldwin Boulevard, Fishersville, VA.

In lieu of flowers, those desiring may make memorial contributions to the Dennis Burnett Fund, c/o BRCC Educational Foundation, P.O. Box 80, Weyers Cave, Va., 24486 or a charity of your choice.

Relatives and friends may share condolences and memories with the family online by visiting http://www.reynoldshamrickfuneralhomes.com.

UPDATE #11: Bob Stuart, political reporter with the News-Virginian, covered the memorial service (see Hundreds remember economic development leader Burnett).

UPDATE #12: Laura Peters with the News Leader also covered the memorial service (see Hundreds mourn Burnett’s death).

 

Cross-posted at SWAC Girl

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Augusta supervisors deliver resolution asking for more info, Dominion says 75% of landowners in pipeline path agree to surveying

Pipeline mapBy Lynn R. Mitchell

Hundreds of landowners turned out Monday night to attend an open house held by Dominion Virginia Resources at Fishersville’s Expoland. On hand were maps, information, and experts to talk with resident who turned out to learn more about the proposed natural gas pipeline.

Augusta County supervisors passed a resolution last week that was delivered to Dominion asking them “to submit to a mock rezoning in the county designed to minimize the impact on landowners, water supplies, schools and the county’s economic development plans.”

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Augusta County supervisors have Chapstick fun at board meeting

By Lynn R. Mitchell

Chapstick Augusta Co BOSPhoto by Bob Stuart, News-Virginian. Used with permission.

Augusta County’s supervisors showed a sense of humor at Wednesday night’s board meeting when the school superintendent walked to the podium to address them. On cue, all seven supervisors plus county administrator Pat Coffield pulled out tubes of Chapstick and applied it to their lips, eliciting laughter from the crowd.

Bob Stuart, political reporter with the News-Virginian, snapped a picture with his camera and posted it to the newspaper’s Facebook page, noting, “Members of the Augusta County Board of Supervisors put on Chapstick as Augusta County Schools superintendent Eric Bond comes to the podium. It was a joke in reference to the school district’s restrictions against students not being able to use Chapstick during the school day, unless applied by the school nurse.”

It’s been over a week since 10-year-old Grace Karaffa aka Chapstick Girl took her request to the Augusta County School Board asking that they reverse a ban forbidding students from having Chapstick lip balm at school (see Augusta County ‘Chapstick Girl’ has gone viral, AP, Fox News calling – Updated: School board responds).

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Augusta County’s ‘Chapstick Girl’ has gone viral, AP, Fox News calling – UPDATED: School board responds

Karaffa, GraceBy Lynn R. Mitchell

Ten-year-old Grace Karaffa’s common sense question asking why it is against Virginia’s Augusta County School Board rules to carry Chapstick to school has gone viral. Now Fox News has come calling.

Grace attended last week’s school board meeting armed with petitions that included over 200 signatures asking that they reconsider the rule prohibiting students from carrying lip balm to school. She has become the Shenandoah Valley’s “Chapstick Girl.”

I wrote earlier this week (see Grace Karaffa, 10, petitions Augusta School Board to allow Chapstick in schools):

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Augusta GOP Chair Dan Moxley calls it quits

By Lynn R. Mitchell

Perhaps signaling a seriousness in his challenge for the state senate seat currently held by Senator Emmett Hanger, Dan Moxley resigned Monday as chairman of the Augusta County Republican Committee.

Or his resignation could be from pressure from others brought about by his ill-advised challenge (see Rumor has it coup to take place tonight at Augusta County GOP meeting) to Supervisor Carolyn Bragg when he announced a last-minute cancellation of the mass meeting that resulted in confusion but brought out determined Bragg supporters who overwhelmingly voted her in as the GOP nominee for November (see Augusta County follow-up to rumor of coup attempt).

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Grace Karaffa, 10, petitions Augusta School Board to allow ChapStick in schools

Karaffa, Grace 2

Grace Karaffa

By Lynn R. Mitchell

Augusta County Supervisor David Karaffa, 30, had better watch his back. He has political competition from within the four walls of his own home. Karaffa’s ten-year-old daughter Grace petitioned the Augusta County School Board at their Thursday night meeting to have the school system’s ChapStick policy changed. ChapStick in Augusta County is categorized by the school system as a medication.

Armed with petitions that held more than 200 signatures, Grace attended the meeting to address representatives and presented her position asking school officials to allow students to have possession of the regular, non-medicated lip balm at school.

WHSV TV-3 was there and picked up her story for their broadcast (see video of school board meeting). Political reporter Bob Stuart was there for the News-Virginian (see Student’s chapped lips lead to policy change request).

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Military jet crash: Search continues through the night

By Lynn R. Mitchell

Local newspapers are covering the military fighter jet crash in western Augusta County with reporters on the scene interviewing and photographing events.

Reporter Bob Stuart spent most of the day in the crash area and filed this report with the News-Virginian (see Search continues for missing pilot):

As part of a program to upgrade earlier model aircraft, the plane was en route to New Orleans to get a new radar system when it went down.

At the Staunton News Leader, Brad Zinn, Laura Peters, Megan Williams, and Calvin Trice contributed to the continuing coverage (see Search for pilot to continue through the night):

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Photos and observations: 2014 VBA Warner-Gillespie debate

By Lynn R. Mitchell

??????????Virginia Bar Association (VBA) President John Walker, Republican candidate Ed Gillespie, Democratic Senator Mark Warner at the 2014 U.S. Senate debate at the Greenbrier Resort in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia. This is the annual summer gathering of the VBA which usually is held at Virginia’s Homestead Resort but rotates every few years to WVa.

??????????Ed Gillespie post-debate as candidates listened to closing remarks by Mr. Walker.

??????????Judy Woodruff from PBS’ “NewsHour” kept the debate moving.

??????????Pre-debate in the hallway with News-Virginian political reporter Bob Stuart, former McDonnell communications director Tucker Martin, and Ed Gillespie.

??????????Paul Logan, Chris Leavitt, Tucker Davis

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Unaccompanied Child Immigrants in Verona, Virginia

David KaraffaBy David Karaffa
Supervisor, Beverley Manor District, Augusta County

I was informed last Friday that there were Unaccompanied Child Immigrants (UCI) at the Shenandoah Juvenile Detention Center in Verona. Like most others, I had read the newspapers and heard the news reports about these children, but now they were here in my district. I called the detention center and set up an appointment to meet some of these children.

I arrived at the Juvenile Detention Center Monday morning at 8 am. I had the opportunity to meet five illegal immigrant children, look into their welfare, and hear their stories. It was a heart-breaking experience.

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Augusta supervisors discuss courthouse

Augusta County CourthouseBy Lynn R. Mitchell

“The county has shown considerable patience and due diligence” on the Courthouse issue. –Pat Coffield, Augusta County Manager

At Tuesday’s work session, Augusta County supervisors faced a packed agenda of items and reports from staff for everything from fire and emergency updates from the chief to VDOT report to economic update. Perhaps the most anticipated item, however, was discussion on the future of the Augusta County Courthouse and whether it would be renovated at its current Staunton location, or a new courthouse constructed at the government complex at Verona.

Supervisor David Karaffa (Beverley Manor District) provided a thoughtful perspective regarding the courthouse (see The Augusta County Courthouse decision).

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