Absentee Voting in Fairfax County Begins Tomorrow

Absentee voting in Fairfax County begins tomorrow (Sept. 20) for the Nov. 5 elections.

Eligible community members can register to vote for the upcoming elections online or at the Office of Elections (12000 Government Center Parkway) in conference rooms two and three. Voters may also receive their ballots through the mail or vote early at prearranged locations.

Absentee voters in Reston may also submit their registration or ballots to the North County Governmental Center (1801 Cameron Glen Drive) on Oct. 12- Nov. 2 from 3-7 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. on Saturdays.

All absentee voters will need a valid driver’s license or state-issued identification card and their social security number to register.

For those unfamiliar with the process of absentee voting, Fairfax County published a variety of resources to explain the procedure and help answer questions.

Ballots will be translated into English, Spanish, Korean and Vietnamese.

The last day to apply for an absentee ballot is seven days before the election, or Oct. 29 by 5 p.m., according to Fairfax County. All absentee ballots must be received by 7 p.m. on Nov. 5 in order to be counted.

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‘Lighted Letters’ at Kremlin Annex Protests Mark One-Year Anniversary

For the last year, local residents have held up large, lighted letters against the sky in front of the White House as part of the Kremlin Annex protests — a dramatic visual protest that has received national notoriety.

Protests began on July 16 last year when President Donald Trump met with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Protestors took issue with Trump’s acceptance of Putin’s assertions that he did not interfere with the 2016 presidential election.

Activists from Herndon-Reston Indivisible organized and sent teams of volunteers carrying lighted letters with key messages to the White House.  For the first four months of the initiative, protestors held up lighted letters every night. In mid-November, the initiative switched to three days per week. Following its one-year anniversary, letters light up the sky on Saturdays from 7:30-9 p.m.

Herndon-Reston Indivisible is a grassroots advocacy organization that aims to mobilize a progressive network to resist the Trump agenda, according to its website.

Organizers behind the visual protest said they were surprised by the attention received by their advocacy.  The visual appeal of their protest has earned a nod by the Grey Lady, the Washington Post, USA TODAY and Newsweek.

“In effect, they become our voice — and a loud voice at that,” said Nan Dearborn, a co-lead of the lighted letters initiative. “You just can’t miss the message when you have activists holding ‘treason’ or ‘corrupt’ or ‘racist’ in giant lighted letters right in front of the White House.”

The first night, volunteers held up letters spelling “liar” — a visual display that HRI co-founder Heidi Zollo said was “an instant hit.”

Since then, volunteers have made roughly 45 letters to spell out anything at short notice. The leaders of the initiative — Ginny Reed and Dearborn — scan the news and consider the number of volunteers to determine what word to hold up. On a typical night, the word of the night is unveiled when volunteers arrive at the White House.

One of the most memorable nights was when activists gathered for the “Close the Camps” protest. An energized crowd of protestors held up signs in the pouring rain in early July. The lighted letters also travel to other protests, including monthly vigils at the headquarters of the National Rifle Association.

Organizers expect to hold up the lighted letters every Saturday night so long as the Kremlin Annex protests continue.

Photo via Herndon-Reston Indivisible

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Del. Ken Plum: Threats to Our Government as We Know It

Del. Ken Plum/File photoThis is an opinion column by Del. Ken Plum (D), who represents Reston in Virginia’s House of Delegates. It does not reflect the opinion of Reston Now.

The threats to our democratic-republican form of government are more numerous than weeks of this column could enumerate. While I will not mention the more obvious ones brought on by the current administration in Washington, I do want to focus on two that have come about in the recent past — one just last week. They impact all levels of government and come about not from the executive branch of government or the dysfunctional Congress but rather from the judicial branch and its highest level, the Supreme Court! While I have always viewed the Supreme Court as a safety backstop that would save our republic from harm by the Congress or the president, in recent years it is the Court that has become one of the real threats to democratic governance.

One of the biggest inhibitors of advancement on progressive issues in Virginia has been the unrestrained ability of the members of the party in power at the time of the decennial census to choose the voters they want to represent for the next decade by gerrymandering district boundaries. For some of us there has been a struggle to put in place a non-partisan method of drawing district lines. With the great organization OneVirginia2021’s efforts there has been real progress towards meeting that goal. A Constitutional amendment passed the last session of the General Assembly that would establish what is described as a non-partisan and transparent process for redistricting. It must pass the 2020 session without change in order to be sent to the voters in a referendum before becoming part of the state constitution.

In the meantime lawsuits were successful in federal courts to have the Virginia Congressional and House of Delegates districts redrawn to eliminate discrimination based on race. The Supreme Court refused to review the new House of Delegates districts drawn by a lower federal court on a technicality that the current members bringing the suit did not have standing.

Of great concern, however, is the Supreme Court decision last week saying in effect that federal courts do not have the power to redraw politically gerrymandered district lines. The outcome could be more devastating to a republican form of government as the dominant party would be left free to establish itself in power without a way to challenge it.

The Supreme Court has historically sidestepped cases in the past that would have brought them into resolving partisan redistricting. I am fearful that the Court’s decision will result in rampant gerrymandering of legislative districts creating unparalleled control of legislatures. This unfortunate decision by the Supreme Court may have been exceeded in its partisan implications only by Citizens United that many people feel may have been the Court’s greatest mistake by bringing uncontrolled corporate influence into elections.

As usual the checks, although extremely limited to these kinds of bad decisions, continue to be voting the very best people into elective office.

File photo

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Del. Ken Plum: Renewing My Job Application

Del. Ken Plum/File photoThis is an opinion column by Del. Ken Plum (D), who represents Reston in Virginia’s House of Delegates. It does not reflect the opinion of Reston Now.

Later today I will be renewing my application with voters in the 36th legislative district to keep my job as their representative in the Virginia House of Delegates. My campaign kick-off reception will be from 6 p.m to 7:30 pm at The Lake House of Reston at 11450 Baron Cameron Avenue, across the street from the entrance to Lake Anne. All are welcome to attend this free event with special guests former Governor Terry McAuliffe and House Democratic Leader Del. Eileen Filler-Corn (D-41st).

A question I have gotten every odd-numbered year I have run for office since 1973 is what got me interested in working for the people as an elected representative in the House of Delegates of the Virginia General Assembly. As clear an answer I can give is to explain that history was always my favorite subject in school. A field trip to Jamestown when I was in fourth grade really piqued my interest. I came to learn that otherwise ordinary people we studied about shaped our history through their service in government and in the community. At that very young age I started dreaming about serving in the legislature and went on to study history through graduate school to prepare myself to serve. Since my election in 1981 I have been in office continuously making me now the longest serving member in the House of Delegates.

We hear calls for “term limits,” but Virginia has a very definitive term limit system. To be a member of the House of Delegates one must stand for election every two years and win a plurality of votes in the district to stay in office. This is my 20th such re-application to continue the work I have been doing. While I clearly have a lot of experience, I offer an informed vision for the future of the Commonwealth as my strongest asset.

It is not certain yet if I will have an opponent in this year’s election. Even if I run unopposed, I still intend to campaign in a way that takes advantage of voter interest to talk about the advances we have made in the Commonwealth and the miles we still need to go. My efforts will not be confined to my district as I will be campaigning in other districts on behalf of level-headed, socially progressive, and morally strong candidates who can contribute to a majority in the House of Delegates to accomplish needed changes that I write about almost weekly in this column.

Join me this evening if you can. I want to be able to tell you directly how honored I am to work for you and how earnest I am in reapplying for the job. Please be in touch with me at [email protected] with your questions and concerns.

File photo

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JUST IN: Comstock’s Maggie Parker Running for Hunter Mill Supervisor

Maggie Parker, an executive with Comstock Companies who played a role in helping to bring the Silver Line to Reston, is joining the increasingly crowded Democratic field for Hunter Mill Supervisor.

Parker, who last month was honored with a Cornerstones of Our Community Best of Reston award, has lived in Fairfax County since 1986. She says she’s running on a sense of civic duty and a “passion for responsible, collaborative dialogue.”

As a vice president for Comstock, the Reston-based real estate developer, she handles areas including communications, government relations and community relations.

“She has been helping Comstock integrate its new neighborhoods, Reston Station and Loudoun Sta­tion, into our regional community since 2010,” according to a press release. “She has spent her time listening to and engaging with regional authorities, jurisdictions and citizens to find thoughtful connections and integration.”

She stands out from the current field of contenders for Cathy Hudgins’ Hunter Mill District Supervisor seat by being a real estate developer in a field that has expressed varying degrees of opposition to or concern about continuing development in Reston and Vienna.

“Maggie believes in quality development in appropriate places and diligence in providing timely and multi-modal transportation solutions,” the press release said. “She strives to protect an environment that is sustain­able, and that allows all in our community to live, work and prosper.”

She also “supports sustainable growth in the right places, economic development, continued pursuit of transportation solutions — all things that work in concert to improve equity opportunities for our community.”

Four other Democrats have entered the race for her seat on the county’s Board of Supervisors, including:

The Reston Citizens Association plans to hold a Hunter Mill District Supervisor forum on Tuesday, April 23, at the Jo Ann Rose Gallery (1609-A Washington Plaza N.) from 7-9 p.m.

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Friday Morning Notes

Meet the RA candidates: The Reston Association recently uploaded a video that introduces the five unopposed candidates. [YouTube]

Save the date — Founder’s Day is set for April 6 at Lake Anne Plaza. The annual event celebrates Reston’s founding. [Reston Historic Trust and Musuem]

Rolling in the money — Reston-based GoCanvas recently secured an investment of more than $150 million from K1 Investment Management. “With the investment, GoCanvas will accelerate enhancements to the platform, scale global operations to meet increasing customer demand, increase brand awareness, and grow worldwide sales.” [Business Wire]

File photo

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Former Planning Commissioner Joins Democrats Vying for Hunter Mill District Supervisor’s Seat

Former Fairfax County Planning Commissioner Walter Alcorn is the latest Democrat to join a crowded race to replace Cathy Hudgins as the Hunter Mill District Supervisor.

Hudgins revealed late in January that she won’t seek re-election to theFairfax County Board of Supervisors, joining a growing list of board members retiring, including current Chairman Sharon Bulova.

Alcorn, a self-described environmental professional, announced his campaign last Monday (Feb. 11). He is running on a broad platform that ranges from supporting revisions to Reston’s comprehensive plan in 2020 to reviewing school funding.

His top issues on his campaign website are the following:

  • growth
  • schools
  • community
  • environment
  • public safety
  • affordable housing
  • transportation

Alcorn has a mix of experience in the private sector and county government.

He is currently the vice president for environmental affairs and industry sustainability at the Consumer Electronics Association, according to his LinkedIn profile. Prior to that, he worked at Alcorn Consulting and at SAIC for about 10 years.

In 2015 Alcorn was appointed by Bulova to the county’s Park Authority Board. His term expired at the end of 2017. Prior to that, he had served on the county’s Planning Commission and worked as a policy aide in the Providence District supervisor’s office, Reston Now previously reported.

On the community level, he was a former president of the Herndon High School PTSA.

Alcorn has received endorsements from Bulova; Democratic State Sen. Jennifer Boysko, who used to represent Herndon in the Virginia House of Delegates; and U.S. Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), who was the county board chairman before Bulova.

Alcorn plans to hold a campaign kickoff event on Saturday (Feb. 23) at 2 p.m. in the new community room at the YMCA Fairfax County Reston (12196 Sunset Hills Road).

Alcorn will face the three other Democrats — Parker Messick, Laurie Dodd and Shyamali Hauth — vying for the seat at the June 11 Democratic primary.

Photo via Walter Alcorn/Facebook

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Democrat Ibraheem Samirah Wins 86th District Seat

Democrat Ibraheem Samirah, a dentist from Herndon, was sworn into the Virginia House of Delegates this morning after winning the election for the 86th District Seat.

He joins Del. Sam Rasoul as the second Muslim — they are both Democrats — in Virginia’s General Assembly, according to a press release from his campaign.

Samirah, who is the son of Palestinian refugees, was separated from his father in middle school when his father was barred from re-entering the U.S.

The special election yesterday (Feb. 19) to fill now-State Sen. Jennifer Boysko’s former seat was the first time Virginia voters took to the polls after a series of scandals erupted in the state, starting with unearthed racist photos on Gov. Ralph Northam’s medical school yearbook.

The scandals continued with sexual assault allegations against Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax and with Attorney General Mark Herring’s admission that he wore blackface. News reports revealed that Virginia Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment (R-James City County) was a top editor of a yearbook that included photos of people in blackface and racial slurs.

Before the special election, Samirah faced attacks after a conservative website published two of his social media posts from five years ago, including one where he said sending money to Israel was worse than sending it to the Ku Klux Klan, according to news reports.

Samirah apologized for the posts, which he said were used in “a slander campaign questioning my views on Israel and my Jewish friends,” in a two-page statement posted on Facebook.

“I am so sorry that my ill-chosen words added to the pain of the Jewish community and I seek your understanding and compassion as I prove to you our common humanity,” the statement said.

Samirah was just shy of receiving 60 percent of the votes, according to unofficial results from Virginia’s Department of Elections.

Republican Gregg Nelson, a U.S. Air Force veteran, received 34 percent of the votes and Connie Haines Hutchinson, a former vice mayor of the Herndon Town Council who ran as an Independent, received almost 6 percent of the votes.

In total, 6,283 people voted in the special election.

Boysko took to Twitter to congratulate Samirah on his win.

Samirah ran a campaign focused on healthcare, transportation and education.

Now in office, Samirah is planning “to build on the 2018 Virginia Medicaid expansion and bringing healthcare costs down across the state by ensuring that the healthcare marketplace is competitive and accessible to all,” according to the press release.

Photos from the Virginia House Democrats on Twitter show Samirah being sworn in today.

Photo via Samirah for Delegate/Facebook

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Tuesday Morning Notes

Fatal Herndon car crash on Saturday — “Detectives are asking for the public’s help in identifying two victims from this morning’s [Feb. 16] fatal single vehicle crash.  Officers responded to the crash around 4:26 a.m. on southbound Route 28 near the McLearen Road exit.” [Fairfax County Police Department]

Winter storm on its way — Heads up for tomorrow: expect sleet, ice and several inches of snow. The National Weather Service’s Winter Storm Warning will be in effect from 1 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Wednesday (Feb. 20). [National Weather Service]

Bus meeting tonight — The rescheduled meeting for public input on local bus service provided by Fairfax Connector in the Herndon-Reston area will take place from 6-8 p.m. tonight at the Herndon Senior Center (873 Grace Street). [DC Commute Times]

Election for 86th District seat — Voting today will decide the replacement for now-State Sen. Jennifer Boysko’s former seat in the Virginia House of Delegates. The county has information about where, when and how to vote in the special election. [Fairfax County]

Interactive show at Great Falls Senior Center — The Great Falls Senior Center welcomes back Mary Ann Jung’s interactive show today. Jung, who has been recreating historical women for more than 30 years, will portray Margaret Brent, a colonial woman who was America’s first female landowner, lawyer and first to demand the vote in the 1640s. Lunch will be provided. [Great Falls Senior Center]

Rolling in the money — “[Reston-based] Sequoia Holdings Inc., a leading provider of software and cloud engineering services for the U.S. intelligence community, has received an equity investment from Chart National, L.P., a New York-based private equity fund with deep relationships within the intelligence community and the U.S. Department of Defense.” [Business Wire]

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Wednesday Morning Notes

Wine Wednesday — Discuss our favorite books while sipping wine starting at 6 p.m. at the Tasting Room in Reston Town Center. [Scrawl Books]

Hunter Mill seat contenders — “In the Hunter Mill District, home to both Reston and Vienna, current member Cathy Hudgins is retiring. The three declared candidates, thus far, all have platforms which argue the county has been too favorable to development in Reston.” [Greater Greater Washington]

Silver Line train tests — “There were no passengers, of course, but Metrorail trains made their first pass of the Silver Line extension between Reston and Ashburn early Wednesday morning.” [Washington Business Journal]

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Reston Association Elections Committee Unveils Five Candidates

The Reston Association announced yesterday (Jan. 29) the five candidates certified by the Elections Committee to run for the open seats on RA’s Board of Directors.

The five seats up for election this year are uncontested. At least 10 percent of eligible voters are needed to make the results official.

Three candidates are incumbents. They are:

  • Catherine Baum for a one-year term as the Apartment Owners Representative
  • Caren Anton for a one-year term as the Hunters Woods/Dogwood Representative
  • John Mooney for a three-year term as the North Point Representative

Tom Mulkerin, a residential real estate agent, is running for a three-year-term At-Large seat. Mulkerin has served on the board of the Lakewinds II Cluster Association, according to his election statement of candidacy.

Aaron Webb, who has served on the board of the Lakeside Cluster, is running for a three-year term for the Lake Anne/Tall Oaks Representative, which is currently filled by Sherri Herbert.

Herbert said at the Board of Directors meeting last Thursday (Jan. 24 ) that she will not seek re-election.

Association members will receive ballots before the voting period begins. Voting starts March 4 and ends April 1.

The election results will be announced at the Annual Members’ Meeting in April.

Images via Reston Association/YouTube

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Reston Lawyer Vies for Hunter Mill District Supervisor’s Seat

Laurie Tyler Dodd, a lawyer in Reston, is the third Democratic candidate to enter the race for the Hunter Mill District seat on the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors.

Dodd is running on a campaign to maintain low density outside the Reston transit corridor, according to a Facebook post she wrote on Jan. 17. Reston’s density has recently been the focus of a contentious zoning proposal that would increase the maximum allowed population per acre in the Planned Residential Community district from 13 persons to any number up to 15.

Other major issues she wants to address include:

  • preserving Vienna’s “small town feeling”
  • protecting the environment
  • ensuring the district is “welcoming to all and supportive of its families and business”

The Washington Post reported that Dodd joined the race as a Democrat before Hunter Mill District Supervisor Cathy Hudgins announced on Jan. 22 that she won’t seek re-election this year.

Dodd currently is an attorney primarily practicing in Loudoun and Fairfax counties, according to her LinkedIn. She represents the best interests of children, addressing issues such as custody, visitation and foster care planning.

She has lived in Reston for 23 years.

Two Democratic candidates have already joined the race for her seat, Reston Now previously reported.

Shyamali Hauth, a United States Air Force veteran and community advocate, has her campaign focused on transportation, affordable housing, construction practices, budgets, security and education systems. Parker Messick, a recent graduate of Roanoke College, is running on a platform to “stop big development.”

The election for the county’s Board of Supervisors will take place on Nov. 5.

Photo via Laurie Tyler Dodd/Facebook

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Independent Candidate Jumps Into Race for 86th District Seat

Connie Haines Hutchinson, a former vice mayor of the Herndon Town Council, is joining the race for the 86th District seat, which represents Herndon and parts of Fairfax and Loudoun counties.

Hutchinson is running on a campaign to improve education, revamp transportation, lower medical costs and ensure Northern Virginia gets support from the Commonwealth.

Ever since she ran for the Herndon Town Council in 1990, Hutchinson said she is dedicated to “give my time and talents to improve the quality of life in my hometown,” according to her website, adding that her seven terms on the council gave her the background and knowledge to represent the area in the Virginia House of Delegates.

Hutchinson, who claims that her main issues are nonpartisan, decided to run as an Independent for the 86th District seat because elected officials in Herndon run as Independents “in order to allow cooperation and collaboration without divisive party politics,” her website says.

Currently, Hutchinson is the general manager at The Borenstein Group, according to her LinkedIn. She is also the treasurer of the Herndon Hospitality Association, a nonprofit she founded to assist Herndon’s hospitality industry.

Previously, she has served on the Virginia Municipal League’s Legislative Committee and was the president of the Dulles Area Transportation Association.

In 1992, she became a member of the Herndon Town Council, and she served as vice mayor during the 2008-2010 term and again in 2012-2014. Prior to that, Hutchinson served on the town’s architectural and heritage preservation review boards.

She has also been involved with the Optimist Club of Herndon, Herndon Recreation, Inc., Herndon Youth Soccer and the parent-teacher associations for Herndon Elementary School and Herndon Middle School.

Hutchinson is a Herndon native, and her four children attended Herndon schools, according to her website.

Hutchinson will face Republican Gregg Nelson and Democrat Ibraheem Samirah in the special election set for Feb. 19.

Photo via Connie Haines Hutchinson/website

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GOP Candidate Enters the Race for the 86th District Seat

The Fairfax County Republican Committee nominated Gregg Nelson for the now-State Sen. Jennifer Boysko’s vacated seat, which represents Herndon and parts of Fairfax and Loudoun counties.

The announcement followed the committee’s meeting on Saturday (Jan. 19) to nominate a candidate, nearly one month away from the special election for the 86th District seat.

Nelson, a U.S. Air Force veteran, worked in the federal government. Currently, he runs a small business focused on natural disaster damage assessment.

“For too long, the rights and interests of ordinary citizens have been ignored. I’m running to give the hardworking men and women of our district a voice in Richmond,” Nelson said.

Nelson lives in Fox Mill with his wife.

“He’s exactly the right man for the job,” Tim Hannigan, the committee’s chairman, said in a statement. “He’s a small business owner and a real-world problem-solver. If voters want someone who’s ready and willing to get things done, Gregg Nelson is their candidate.”

Nelson will face Democrat Ibraheem Samirah in the special election set for Feb. 19.

Images via Fairfax County Republican Committee

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Two Candidates Enter Race for Hunter Mill District School Board Seat

With the incumbent stepping down, two candidates are running for the Hunter Mill District seat on the Fairfax County School Board.

Earlier in January, Hunter Mill District Representative Pat Hynes said that she won’t seek re-election. Her term expires at the end of 2019.

Laura Ramirez Drain’s campaign is focused on the Family Life Education curriculum, school boundaries and the FCPS budget. Melanie Meren, a self-described “Fairfax County parent leader,” wants to promote “strong education.”

Both Meren and Drain point to their experiences as parents of children who are either currently attending or went to Fairfax County public schools as one of the reasons why they are running for the seat.

Drain said on her website that “running for school board means for her protecting the children and the community while also guiding them to stand up and speak out for what they believe in.”

Meren’s website says that “after years of advocating as a parent and professional in education policy and communications, she believes she can accomplish more as an elected leader. She wants to advance solutions that evolve our system to meet the needs of our students and communities now — and plan for future expected needs.”

Meren’s career has focused on education public policy and programming. She worked at the U.S. Department of Education and as an independent communications consultant at MKM Strategies.

Meren has also been involved with advocacy and community organizations.

She began co-leading the #IamFCPS grassroots campaign after a $75 million budget cut hit FCPS in 2015. The campaign secured $60 million of the proposed cuts, resulting in educator pay increases and measures to help address growing class sizes, according to her website. She is also currently a member of the Fairfax County School Board’s Human Resources Advisory Committee.

Drain has more than 20 years of sales experience with information technology products and solution-based services, including with Verizon and AT&T. She is also the chief executive officer and founder of Random Words Marketing Group. She relocated from Mexico to the U.S. in 1999 with the Hewlett-Packard Corp. and became a U.S. citizen in 2008, according to her website.

Since 2011, she has produced and hosted “Cafe Latino Radio,” a bilingual talk radio show, and in 2015, she launched Cafe Latino TV — both shows focused on sharing success stories from small business owners and people from local nonprofits over a cup of coffee.

This Saturday (Jan. 26) she plans to host a “meet and greet” from 3-5 p.m. at Glory Days Grill (1400 North Point Village Center).

Photos via Melanie Meren and Laura 4 School Board/Facebook

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