PLP Class of 2006

Political Leaders 2006 Profile: Mike Taylor
Dec 8 2006 - 9:22am

Name: Michael W. Taylor
Age: 53
Born: I was born in Winston-Salem, North Carolina and grew up in Ringgold, Virginia
Occupation: Law Enforcement
Favorite part about the job? The diversity in assignments
First job? Worked in a general store
Whom do you admire and why? My parents. Both are in their late 80’s, and they just celebrated 64 years of marriage. They always take time to listen, give great advice, and have a tremendous work ethic. My Dad just announced his retirement!
Favorite book? The Grapes of Wrath
Favorite movie? The Christmas Story  
Must-see TV? Day Break
Comfort food? Chocolate Chip Cookies
What’s in your car CD player right now? The Christmas Song
Next journey? Kodiak Island, Alaska  
Last gift you received? Our Granddaughter!
Best advice you ever got?  Be patient.
One thing most people might be surprised to learn about you? I’m a muscle car enthusiast.
If you could have dinner with anyone currently living, who would it be and why? Billy Graham. I would like to hear his thoughts on religious doctrines and politics.
Describe a perfect day? With family, traveling, no phone, no pager, and no blackberry
Ambition, political or otherwise? To be a candidate for the office of Sheriff in 2007.   

Political Leaders 2006 Profile: Tarina Keene
Nov 30 2006 - 11:00am

Name:   Tarina Keene
Age: 34
Born: Elkton, Maryland (father in military). I spent my early years spent in eastern Kentucky and Southwestern Virginia. We moved to Hampton when I was 13.
Current Digs: Norfolk, Va.
Occupation: Director of Development, Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Virginia
Favorite part about the job: I get to meet a lot of people that I normally would not have the opportunity to meet. There are some really wonderful and passionate people out there who are extremely inspiring and incredibly giving.
First job ever?  Embarrassingly, Chick-fil-a. I started at age 15. Six months later I was a vegetarian. I have never looked back!
Favorite book?  Tough one! I have three: Johnny Got His Gun (war is senseless), Love in the Time of Cholera (patience is a virtue), and The Unbearable Lightness of Being (perception is everything, yet nothing).
Favorite movie?  Classics: Gone with the Wind and Casablanca. Current: Ferris Bueller’s Day, The Shawshank Redemption, and Syriana
Must See TV?  The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, The Colbert Report, Law & Order (all of them) & 24 (can’t wait till the new season!)
Comfort food?  Chocolate, Chocolate, Chocolate! And my mom’s soup, beans, and cornbread. (You can take the girl out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the girl.)
What's in your car CD player right now? Just in time for CD’s to be obsolete, my new car has a 7 disk player! 1) The Dixie Chicks' Wide Open Spaces (a little bit of country, and little bit of rock-n-roll!) 2) Prince’s Greatest Hits (Great driving music!) 3) Jill Scott, Who is Jill Scott? 4) Natalie Merchant, Tigerlily  5) U2, How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb 6) Wilco, Summerteeth 7) Coldplay, X&Y
Next journey? A trip to Wintergreen for a girls’ weekend with my college roomies and a do the spa thing!
One thing people might be surprised to learn about you?  In 1999 I quit my career in journalism and hiked the Appalachian Trail end to end (2200 miles).
Last gift you received?  A bottle of Dom Perignon Vintage Champagne for graduation from my friends and a porch swing from my dad for my birthday.
Best advice you ever got?  "Stand for something, or you’ll fall for anything." (My republican dad) "Never judge a book by its cover. The good stuff is always on the inside." (My democratic mom)
Whom do you admire and why? I admire people who work to make positive change in the lives of others and who speak up during difficult situations even if it is to their own detriment.  
If you could have dinner with any one currently living, whom would it be and why? Bill Clinton. I became quite a fan of Mr. Clinton’s while in college. I share his idealism, his dream for global peace and his goal to bring aid and healthcare to third world nations not to mention our own country. I find him enormously inspiring, intelligent and one of the world’s great statesmen. No one quite compares to him.           
Ambition, political or otherwise? I see myself as an advocate, whether that be fundraising or lobbying for a small nonprofit or working on legislation for a government entity or official. I hope to see a day when no one is hungry, or living on the street. I hope to see universal healthcare, and jobs that are plentiful and pay a living wage. I hope laws are drafted to ensure justice and equality, not based on one group’s idea of morality. I hope that there is enough money in the government’s coffers for education, Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. Also, I hope to see our budget balanced with a reserve to cover market shortfalls.  I hope to do my small part to make this a reality and not just a dream.
Describe a perfect day. 82 degrees, no humidity, wind slightly blowing, sitting on the beach with my feet buried in the sand and reading a good book or magazine while catching up with friends or family or whoever shows up that day. Cell phone is off and there’s no WIFI—therefore I am disconnected… for the day. Oh… there’s a bottle of Chardonnay in the cooler!

Political Leaders 2006 Profile: Jay James
Nov 27 2006 - 10:00am


Name:  Jay James     
Age:     27
Born: Fairfax VA, grew up in Burke Va
Current Digs: Charlottesville
Occupation:  Radio Management
Favorite part about the job:   Working with people
First job ever?  Flipping burgers at Burger King when I was 15. It lasted six months, then I worked at Hechinger's Home Improvement.
Favorite book?  Waking The Dead by John Eldridge
Favorite movie? The Golden Child starring Eddie Murphy
Must-see TV?  Lost and Grey's Anatomy!
Comfort food?  Celery—just kidding, pizza
What's in your car CD player right now?  Warren G and Nate Dogg, early 90's rap, plus Whitney Houston's first album
Next journey? Probably Puerto Rico
Last gift you received?  A book, Virginia in the Vanguard by Frank Atkinson
Whom do you admire and why? Jesus
Christ, because He told it like it is, how it was, and how it should
be; and He showed people unconditional love.
Best advice you ever got? People are looking for a leader, so why not be one? Quitters never win, and winners never quit. My father told me that.
If you could have dinner with any one currently living, whom would it be and why? Beyonce Knowles, because outside of my Mom she is the most incredible woman on the planet.
Describe a perfect day.  I wake up, eat a huge pancake breakfast in Hawaii, take a nap, go for a hike, then go snorkeling, watch the ocean, play basketball in the afternoon, and enjoy a candle-lit dinner by the beach in the evening with my special lady (Beyonce)
One thing most people might be surprised to learn about you? I like Country music, and I used to be overweight when I was a kid.
Ambition, political or otherwise? To serve the people of my community and my state.

Political Leaders 2006 Profile: Carter Phillips
Nov 23 2006 - 10:00am

Name: Carter Phillips
Age: 46
Born: Ashland, Virginia
Current Digs: Hampton
Occupation: Lawyer
Favorite part about the job: I’m living my childhood dream.
First job ever? Sold merchandise at Kings Dominion
Favorite book? The Once and Future King by T. H. White
Favorite movie? Rocky, Patton, It’s a Wonderful Life
Must-see TV? Lost, The Shield and Charlie Rose
Comfort food? Cheeseburger and Fries
What's in your car CD player right now? All American Rejects
Next journey? Cruise to the Caribbean
Last gift you received? Clothing
Whom do you admire and why? George Washington, without his unbelievable and incredible faith we would not be a nation now.
Best advice you ever got? The only difference between a winner and a loser is the winner gets off the canvass one more time then the looser.
If you could have dinner with any one currently living, whom would it be and why?  I would really like to talk about winning at sports with the Detroit Tiger’s manager, Jim Leyland.
Describe a perfect day.  My wife, my son and other family and friends together at the beach; sunny skies, a book in one hand and something good to drink nearby.
One thing most people might be surprised to learn about you? I love all kinds of music, anything from rock & roll, rap and country.
Ambition, political or otherwise? Timing is everything in politics, but there is nothing available now.  I would like to work for the General Assembly, House of Delegates or the Hampton City Counsel.

Political Leaders 2006 Profile: Marc Cheatham
Nov 20 2006 - 10:00am

Name: Marc W. Cheatham
Age: 28 on December 28th
Born: Richmond, VA (Broad Meadows, USA)
Current Digs: Glen Allen
Occupation: Office of the Governor, Constituent Services
Favorite part about the job: I work with a really fun and talented CS team.  
First job ever: Semper Fi
Favorite book: Fab Five by Mitch Albom  
Favorite movie:  Let’s Do it Again (1975)    
Must-see TV: NBC’s The Office, Repeats of the West Wing and Martin, Knicks Basketball, Duke Basketball,       
Comfort food: I really like food…Seafood, Pasta, Gumbo, Pizza, I’ll stop there but I really like it all.    
What's in your car CD player right now: Ghostface!  
Next journey:  I’m not planning a vacation out of town but I did buy an NBA League Pass so I am prepared for the journey that is the upcoming New York Knicks season.  Wish me luck.
Best advice you ever got: "I play this game for bread and meat...If I don’t win I don’t eat…That’s why I have to dunk it in you eye sucka!!!"  (said to me while playing hoops at the legendary Hungry Creek)           
Whom do you admire and why: Honestly, there are so many people that fit this category, from the people I work with every day to public leaders. Dr. King, Tim Kaine, Bill Clinton and my Mom are high on my list.  So is the 360 crew. (You know who you are)   
If you could have dinner with any one currently living, whom would it be and why:  Former Governor and current Mayor of Richmond Doug Wilder.  Outside of the obvious, he is one of the most entertaining people I have ever met.  I think dinner with him would be a lot of fun.  If the Governor was not available, I would then chose Steven P. Gould (man, that guy can eat!)       
Describe a perfect day:  So far today, but I’m really looking forward to tomorrow.
One thing most people might be surprised to learn about you:  My shoe collection is a serious problem.   
Ambition, political or otherwise:  I plan to spend the rest of my career phone banking to elect my Sorensen classmates to public office. I am also secretly training to take on Jay James in a game of one-on-one basketball.

Political Leaders 2006 Profile: Steven Gould
Nov 16 2006 - 10:00am

Name:  Steven Gould
Age:  25
Born: May 24, 1981 in Danville
Current Digs: Richmond
Occupation: Senior Special Assistant to the Governor for Policy
Favorite part about the job:   Directing our summer Governor’s Fellows Program, which was how I got my start in state government.  It’s incredibly rewarding to help others have that same experience.
First job ever?  Working as a referee for youth soccer games when I was a sophomore in high school.
Favorite book?  Probably a tie between The Shad Treatment by Garrett Epps and The Emperor of Ocean Park by Stephen Carter
Favorite movie?  Dumb and Dumber, hands down.  It’s the Citizen Kane of my generation.
Must See TV?  Any UNC basketball game, Grey’s Anatomy, How I Met Your Mother, Entourage, Best Week Ever, and Seinfeld and West Wing reruns.
Comfort food?  Without a doubt, it’s sweet tea.  Burritos and ice cream are right there, too.
What's in your car CD player right now?  Oh No, the new album by OK Go.
Next journey?  Most likely home to Danville to see my family.
One thing most people might be surprised to learn about you?  I was a serious mathlete in high school, although somehow I don’t think people will be surprised.  A safer bet is that I love hip hop.  It’s what I grew up listening to.
Last gift you received?  A copy of David Sedaris’ Me Talk Pretty One Day from my girlfriend.
Best advice you ever got?  Don’t do anything your mom wouldn’t be proud of.
Whom do you admire and why?  All the teachers I’ve had in my life, from the Danville school system to my colleagues in the Governor’s Office over the last few years, who’ve taught me everything I know about state government.  I wouldn’t have achieved anything without all of them.  And my mom is the best teacher I ever could have asked for.
If you could have dinner with any one currently living, whom would it be and why?  Bill Clinton; he was the first political figure that I was drawn to growing up.  If he’s not free, then Justin Timberlake.  That kid can dance.
Ambition, political or otherwise?  Hopefully to attend law school and practice somewhere in Virginia.  I’d also love to move back home eventually and help to make it so that others can do the same.
Describe a perfect day.  Sleep in until around 8:30 or 9, grab a quick, light breakfast from Biscuitville before playing tennis for an hour or two.  Turkey sandwich for lunch before reading by the pool or on the beach all afternoon.  Follow that up with a great dinner, probably Mexican, with good friends, excessive amounts of ice cream, and a new movie in the theater.

Political Leaders 2006 Profile: Margaret Vanderhye
Nov 13 2006 - 10:00am

Name: Margaret Grant Vanderhye (Margi)
Born: In Chicago and grew up in Park Ridge, Illinois
Current Digs: Live in McLean and work in Washington D.C.
Occupation: Part-time government relations consultant.
Favorite part about the job: Helping innovative people turn great ideas into programs.
First job ever? Selling school supplies and bus passes in my high school bookstore.
Favorite book? Fiction: Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. Non-fiction: Barbara Tuchman's The March of Folly. Poetry: Tennyson's Ulysses.
Favorite movie? Drama: "Witness" with Harrison Ford and Kelly McGillis (passions collide in the Amish countryside). Comedy: "My Cousin Vinny" (even their outfits make me laugh).
Must-see TV? The original CSI, if I'm home.
Comfort food? My homemade double-chocolate brownies.
What's in your car CD player right now? U2
Next journey? I'm hoping for anywhere in Italy!
Last gift you received? A new laptop computer for my campaign.
Best advice you ever got? From the Old Testament prophet, Micah: "Do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God."
Whom do you admire and why? William Wallace, Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, the soldiers of Normandy: different outcomes, same honor and courage.
If you could have dinner with any one currently living, whom would it be and why? My former boss and mentor, Brent Scowcroft: brilliant, dedicated, self-effacing, and wise. He is the consummate public servant.
Describe a perfect day. Sunshine, exercise, gardens, music, good wine, great conversation.
One thing most people might be surprised to learn about you? I have almost no mechanical ability whatsoever. Appliances and office equipment have been known to shut down in defense when I approach.
Ambition, political or otherwise? Let's start with the General Assembly and see where it goes!

Political Leaders 2006 Profile: Andy Block
Nov 9 2006 - 10:00am

Name:  Andrew Block
Age:  41
Born: July 13, 1965.  I was born and grew up in Chicago.
Current Digs: I live and work in Charlottesville, VA.
Occupation: Legal Director of the JustChildren Program of the Legal Aid Justice Center.
Favorite part about the job: It is a privilege to be able to work on issues about which I care deeply, to help children and families obtain new opportunities and resources, and to work with so many amazing people and advocates from across the Commonwealth.
First job ever? In high school I interned in the Chicago office of Governor Jim Thompson.
Favorite book?  Their Eyes Were Watching God and Moby Dick.
Favorite movie? High Fidelity comes to mind first.
Must-see TV? Nothing since the West Wing went off the air.
Comfort food? Mexican.
What's in your car CD player right now? A kid's hip-hop CD, Bob Dylan, Dusty Springfield and others.
Next journey? To Chicago for a conference on the education of children in foster care and to watch my sister run a marathon.
Last gift you received? A shirt from my wife.
Best advice you ever got? Never give up.
Whom do you admire and why? Nelson Mandela.  He fought for equality, freedom and justice without any kind of safety net.  He quite literally put his life on the line every day for what he believed.  And when he succeeded, when the walls of apartheid came tumbling down, he did not act with vengeance but led and governed with integrity, compassion, and vision.  He did not, in other words, become what he fought against.
If you could have dinner with any one currently living, whom would it be and why? Nelson Mandela. For the reasons described above.  
Describe a perfect day. What John Lawrence said.
One thing most people might be surprised to learn about you? That I am not the guy on Law and Order.
Ambition, political or otherwise? To strike the right balance between making substantial contributions to the lives of those in Virginia who too often get overlooked and overrun, and being an energetic and fun-loving husband, father, friend and son.

Political Leaders 2006 Profile: Muneer Baig
Nov 1 2006 - 3:00pm


Name:
Muneer A. Baig
Age: 38
Born: Kashmir, Northern India.
Current Digs: Resident of Manassas, Prince William County
Occupation: Independent IT Consultant
Favorite part about the job: Being an independent consultant and trying to capture the business in a very competitive market, keeps me active.
First job ever: Security Guard
Favorite book: Life of the Prophet Muhammad by Yusuf Haykal
Favorite movie: Gladiator
Must-see TV: Stargate-SG1 and Stargate-Atlantis
Comfort food: Bread, Kabobs and Rice
What's in your car CD player right now: The Life Hereafter
Next journey: I have been on the road quiet a bit for the last few months. I have no plans, but there is a possibility of travel to Kashmir.
Last best gift you received: Suit from my wife.
Best advice you ever got: Treat others the way you want to be treated.
Whom do you admire and why: My parents as they taught me what I am able to practice today.
If you could have dinner with any one currently living, whom would it be and why: My family.
Describe a perfect day: Get up in the morning, do my prayers, and help my wife get the kids ready for school. After the kids, I get myself ready and start my day filled with the challenges of troubled IT systems.
One thing most people might be surprised to learn about you: I am a Republican.
Ambition, political or otherwise: Provide for my family and make sure they have everything they want to have. I would like to run for office someday and help make our communities a better place for everyone. As long as I live, I want to serve humanity and leave behind good memories for everyone I touch in my life.

Political Leaders 2006 Profile: Sindy Benvavides
Oct 24 2006 - 11:03am

Name: Sindy M. Benavides
Age:  Adult, under 25 years
Born: I was born in San Pedro Sula, Honduras. I was raised in Los Angeles, California and Alexandria, Virginia.  
Current Digs: Richmond, Virginia
Occupation: Director of Gubernatorial Appointments & Latino Liaison for Governor Tim Kaine
Favorite part about the job: Talking with Constituents and possible Board candidates; being able to help. The people of Virginia inspire me in various ways to work hard every day and challenge myself.  
First job ever?  Dairy Queen.  Before that, I was a babysitter in my neighborhood and helped my mom clean houses.
Whom do you admire and why? My mother, Norma D. Benavides Villeda.  Although she was raised in extreme poverty in the small town of Florida in Honduras, she was the first and one of the few to overcome the cycle of extreme poverty, educate herself by her own academic merits, and immigrate to the United States with her 1-year old baby [me] and 2-year old toddler [my older brother David].  She helped her 9 brothers and sisters get on their feet, built her parents a home, established her own house cleaning business, put her two older children through college, and raised my older brother, two teenage boys and me to believe that our dreams can be a reality if we work hard and do it an honest way. I can’t is not part of her vocabulary, it’s just not an option.    
Favorite book?  I really can’t say. I love reading about different topics, different authors, and in different languages.  Books have always been a part of my life.   
Comfort food?  I love ice cream!
What's in your car CD player right now?  La oreja de Van Gogh (contemporary).  
Next journey?  Honduras & Costa Rica.  My Ya-ya (grandma) asked me to come visit her before the end of the year. Costa Rica is for exploring, rest, and relaxing.
Last gift you received?  A subscription to Foreign Affairs.
Best advice you ever got?  Be humble in your journey through life, and remember that absolutely nothing is impossible.  
If you could have dinner with any one currently living, whom would it be and why?  Senator Barack Obama.  His background is impressive and his style of leadership is exemplary. Most importantly, he has dedicated his life to public service through community organizing. He recognizes where he comes from, who he is, and where he’s going.  
Describe a perfect day. Wake up in the morning and have breakfast with my family. Play chess.  Go swimming.  Hear from my friends and family and know that they are happy.  Stop and smell the roses.  End the day by reading a chapter in my book on the porch.  Go to bed with a smile and thank God, aka “Papi Dios”, for blessing me in every single way.  
One thing most people might be surprised to learn about you?  There’s a few that fit in this category. I am learning Arabic. I enjoy reading in French even though I have to keep the French/English dictionary by my side.  I had to minor in Spanish to get it to the level that I have it now. Lastly, I may be joining the other side in the future—the lawyer side that is.  
Ambition, political or otherwise?  Know that I have lived a fulfilling life and have given it my 200% all the time. Politically, Virginia has many "firsts"—we  shall see. 

Featured Alumni

  • Kelly Porell.jpg

    Kelly Cannon

    Political Leaders Program

    Class of 2007

    Kelly is the past Executive Director for Virginia21, the nation's first political action committee for college students. She is Director of the Run for the Dream road race weekend in Williamsburg, benefitting An Achievable Dream and Wounded Warrior programs.