When Phil Pietras arrived at the voting precinct at the Great Falls Library where he was to oversee an election last fall, he did the circumspect thing that he’d been trained to do.
“The county has an extensive checklist telling us the things we are supposed to do,” said Pietras, who had just taken over a voluntary, non-partisan position as judge of election.
One of the points on the list required that “The flag should be prominently displayed at the polling place, or in front of the building.”
Pietras found neither one: no flag in the community room where voting would take place, and outside, not even a flag pole.
“Where is your flag?” he asked library employees.
“They just gave me a strange look,” Pietras said. So he brought one from home and placed it in the room during the voting.
Later, Pietras said, when he asked Dranesville Supervisor Stuart Mendelsohn (R) about the flag, he was told it had not been in the budget when the library opened last year.
“That wasn’t a good answer,” said Pietras, whose wife, Deborah, is a member of the Greater McLean Republican Women’s Club.
But the situation quickly changed.
Mendelsohn, who doesn’t plan to seek re-election next year, donated money from his campaign fund to buy a flag pole. U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf (R-10th) arranged for a flag that had been flown over the U.S. Capitol to be donated.
In a brief ceremony on Sept. 30, America’s colors were raised at the library for the first time.
Susan Blakely, Mendelsohn’s chief of staff, said the flag will be dedicated to the memory of six community members who were lost in the crash of American Airlines Flight 77 at the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001: Richard Gabriel, Ann Campana Judge, Barbara Olson, Lisa J. Raines, and Diane and George Simmons.
Sgt. Ken Baine, Fairfax County Police officer from the Reston District Station, raised the flag along with his station commander, Capt. Mike Vencak.
Volunteer paramedic Joan Bliss, also a member of the Great Falls Republican Women’s Club, represented Company 12 of the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department.
Pietras, wearing a red, white and blue tie, attended with his wife, Deborah.
Mendelsohn, Wolf, Library Director Sam Clay, and Great Falls Library Branch Manager Allison Mulligan also attended.
Pietras, who took the voluntary position as election judge after he retired from positions as the chief financial officer for two high-tech companies in the Washington D.C. area, said he couldn’t understand the glitch. “It’s the same county,” he said. “You’d think they would have coordinated things.
“I didn’t run around looking for things to do. I just followed the county checklist,” he said.