PLP Class of 2009

PLP 09 Profile: Kelly Eplee
Jul 14 2009 - 8:49am

 

Name: Gordon Kelly Eplee
Age: 50
Born: Berea, Kentucky,   grew up in North Carolina, Charlotte and Marion.
Current Digs: I live in North Garden, Albemarle County and work in Charlottesville.
Occupation: Executive Director of Madison House, Student Volunteer Center for the University of Virginia
Favorite part about the job: Supporting and mentoring the next generation of community activists / volunteers.
Your first job ever? Bagging groceries and working in my dad’s lumber business.
Favorite book? Barbara Kingsolver, Prodigal Summer
Favorite movie? Forest Gump
Comfort food? Blackberry Cobbler, mashed potatoes, West African ground nut stew, Thai straight off the wok.
What's in your car CD player right now (or favorites on your iPod)? Nickel Creek,
Next journey? Guatemala with my wife and two teenage girls.
Favorite Virginia vacation spot? Eastern Shore, Assateague
First political memory? When Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, merged with the civil rights movement, and being bussed as a 10-year old in the Charlotte N.C. school system…. Immediate and overnight integration.
Whom do you admire and why? Jimmy Carter
Best advice you ever got? Those that push your personal buttons are the ones you need to listen to the most.
If you could have dinner with any one currently living, whom would it be and why?  Jimmy Carter.  Wisdom of a life well-lived, on a global level especially since being in office.
Describe a perfect day.  A good trail-run through the field and forest first thing.  Big breakfast with the family.  A dabble in my garden before watching my daughters play softball.  Building something out of rocks.  A good book, nice wine, and a great dinner with close friends.
One thing most people might be surprised to learn about you?  I speak three languages fluently and lived in an African mud-hut for two years.
Ambition, political or otherwise? Shape and strengthen community organizations that do the greatest good on a grass-roots level.

PLP 09 Profile: Nick Kessler
Jul 7 2009 - 11:30pm

 

Name: Nick Kessler
Age: 35
Born: Cincinnati, OH
Current Digs: Richmond
Occupation: Deputy Commissioner of the Virginia Employment Commission
Favorite part about the job? Take a management role working with every part of a large and important organization.
Your first job ever? Sold popcorn and candy in a small movie theater in the Adirondacks in upstate New York.
Favorite book? The Power Broker
Favorite movie? It’s a Wonderful Life
Comfort food? Chocolate ice cream with peanut butter
What's in your car CD player right now (or favorites on your iPod)? Audio books. Music ranges from new rock to oldies to classical.
Next journey? All across Virginia: Richmond, Hampton Roads, Northern Virginia, the Valley, Southside, and Southwest.
Favorite Virginia vacation spot? I’ve always liked beaches and mountains. Virginia has both, and even has them together in a few places.
First political memory? My mom bringing me with her when she went to vote on election day.
Whom do you admire and why? People who use their time and skills to improve their community, nation, and the world.
Best advice you ever got? Figure out what you enjoy, and do that for a living.
If you could have dinner with any one currently living, whom would it be and why? President Barack Obama, you can’t get more influential and interesting than that.
Describe a perfect day. Sleep late, take a scenic drive, enjoy time with friends and family, eat well, have drinks outdoors, talk politics.
One thing most people might be surprised to learn about you? When the White House responded to the get-well notes my elementary school sent to Ronald Reagan in 1981, it gave my letter special recognition.
Ambition, political or otherwise? Live a happy and meaningful life.

PLP 09 Profile: Scott Robinson
Jul 7 2009 - 2:04pm

 

Name:  T. Scott Robinson
Age:  48
Born:  Leakesville, Mississippi; grew up in Heathsville, Virginia
Occupation:  U.S. Army Officer
Favorite Part of the Job?  Serving the American people and protecting our way of life. 
Your first job ever?  Waterman; served as a deck hand on a fish trapping boat on the Potomac River. 
Favorite Books?  The Bible, For Whom the Bell Tolls (Hemingway), Emotional Intelligence (Goldwein), and The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership (Maxwell)
Favorite Movies?  The Godfather, Animal House, and We Were Soldiers Once…and Young
Comfort Food?  Fried Shrimp, Fried Oysters, Fried Fish, Fried Clams, did I mention fried seafood? 
Next Journey?  Costa Rica and a 1,000 pound Marlin. 
Favorite Virginia Vacation Spot:? The Tides Inn, Irvington
First Political Memory?  Nixon Impeachment
Whom do you admire and why?  I admire any young person who raises his or her right hand to join the military in a time of war.  Any person that is willing to put his or her life on the line so that others can live in freedom has my admiration.   
Best advice you ever got?  Talent is a gift from God, you either have it or you don’t, but your character is a choice.  
If you could have dinner with any one currently living, whom would it be and why?  Osama Bin Laden.  After dinner, I would introduce him and his friends to some of my friends.     
Describe the perfect day. Fishing at the break of dawn with a surf rod on the Outer Banks, NC.  After filling the cooler with the croaker, bluefish and spot, I would slip back to the house and enjoy a small low-calorie southern breakfast (fried eggs, hash browns, bacon and a stack of pancakes). After breakfast, I would slip over to the golf course and play 18 holes followed by lunch at the 19th green. The afternoon would be spent at the movie theatre and the evening at a very nice restaurant overlooking the ocean with my wife.  We would finish the night with a midnight walk on the beach. 
One thing most people might be surprised to learn about you?  I love to cook, especially Cajun recipes.    
Ambition, political or otherwise?  Continue serving this wonderful country.

PLP 09 Profile: John Hedges
May 5 2009 - 12:11pm

 

Name: John W. Hedges
Age: 53
Born: San Angelo, TX but grew up moving around in a military family
Current Digs: Albemarle County
Occupation: Owner, 1-800-GOT-JUNK?
Favorite part about the job? Assembling numerous moveable parts in a mobile enterprise
Your first job ever? Stable hand in Anchorage, Alaska. It doesn’t smell in the winter, but you have to chip it off the floor.
Favorite book? The Bible—source document for the moral foundation of the world.
Favorite movie? The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly
Comfort food? Onion rings and amber ale.
What's in your car CD player right now? Johnny Cash-Unearthed
Next journey? Galax--Old Fiddler’s Convention
Favorite Virginia vacation spot? Spring Hill Farm
First political memory? Report of the assassination of President Kennedy over the shortwave radio in Okinawa where we were residing.
Whom do you admire and why? Milton Friedman, who had a better understanding of economics than any one who has ever served in a public capacity.
Best advice you ever got? If you play with s---, you get it on ya.
If you could have dinner with any one currently living, whom would it be and why? Robert Bork. Probably the most taut, disciplined legal mind of our generation who respects the Constitutional role of the judiciary in a free society more so than most sitting judges.
Describe a perfect day. One without wants or cares. Oh, wait, since Obama was elected I have that now.
One thing most people might be surprised to learn about you? Former Mayor of Newport Beach, California
Ambition, political or otherwise? Serve again in an as-yet-undefined public capacity.

PLP 09 Profile: Jaime Areizaga
Apr 23 2009 - 3:23pm

Name: Jaime Areizaga
Age: 39
Born: Grew up in Puerto Rico.
Current Digs: Live in Arlington County and work as White House Fellow to the Secretary of Treasury.
Occupation: Attorney & Army National Guard Officer
Favorite part about the job? Using in the public sector what I have learned in school, university, law school, life and in the private sector.
Your first job ever? Was a paperboy from 5th grade to junior year in high school.
Favorite book?  The Road Less Travelled by M. Scott Peck.  The first two chapters (Discipline and Love) are superb!
Favorite movie?  A Place in the World (it is an Argentine movie about our search for our place in the world; for me, after living in a number of states and countries, that place is Virginia!)
Comfort food?  A good glass of red wine (Malbec or Chianti are preferred) with some good prosciutto, cheese, and olives (always in the company of loved ones).
What's in your car CD player right now (or favorites on your iPod)?  Listen to lively dancing music and romantic songs in English, Spanish, Portuguese and French from a variety of singers.  Favorite voices are Andrea Bocelli, Sarah Brightman, Danny Rivera and Marisa Monte.
Next journey?  Although I have been in Hong Kong, I look forward to visiting China.
Favorite Virginia vacation spot?  Monticello: the feeling of being at Monticello is an amazing experience in so many ways (the person, the history, the architect, the farmer, the politician, the thinker and the contradictions).
First political memory?  Being at the White House with President Reagan for the state visit of President Napoleon Duarte of El Salvador.
Whom do you admire and why?  Although I can say Colin Powell (he is the epitome of a modern-day leader), I must say Roberto Clemente (Pirates #21).  I admire how this poor black Puerto Rican excelled as a baseball player, led the way for Latino players in the Major Leagues, while always remembering the common people.  Indeed, he died on a humanitarian mission to Nicaragua after the 1972 earthquake.
Best advice you ever got?  Keep reaching for the stars, but keep your feet on the ground!
If you could have dinner with any one currently living, whom would it be and why?  President Barack Obama because he is leading our country in dealing with the most difficult domestic challenges since the Depression.
Describe a perfect day. One in which I can make our great Commonwealth, Nation and World a better place, i.e., every day is a perfect day!  Otherwise, try to miss one.
One thing most people might be surprised to learn about you?  I founded a baseball team for low-income Brazilian teenagers and ended up being the captain/pitcher of the team (although I was twice their age!).
Ambition, political or otherwise?  Other than being a good husband and a good father, I want to improve our society by serving in the executive or legislative branches of our Commonwealth or Nation.

PLP 09 Profile: Janet Oleszek
Apr 15 2009 - 9:20am

Name:  Janet Sloate Oleszek               
Age:   61
Born:  Sacramento, California
Current Digs: Fairfax County
Occupation: Former Fairfax County School Board Member
Favorite part about the job? Crafting educational policies that correlate directly to student success.
Your first job ever? Legislative Aide to Democratic Congressman John E. Moss (Calif-3).
Favorite books? Congress and It’s Members;  Congressional Procedures and the Policy Process;  Governing;  Interest Group Ratings.
Favorite movie?  Monty Python and the Holy Grail
Comfort food?  Grits
What's in your car CD player right now (or favorites on your iPod)?  Modern Times by Bob Dylan.
Next journey?  Paris
Favorite Virginia vacation spot?  The Northern Neck
First political memory? Watching my parents watch the McCarthy hearings on television.
Whom do you admire and why?  Hillary Clinton, because she not only cracked but also broke the glass ceiling.
Best advice you ever got?  Listen carefully and bear witness judiciously.
If you could have dinner with any one currently living, whom would it be and why?
  Rahm Emmanuel – enough said!
Describe a perfect day. 75 degrees, sunny, sandy beach, scuba diving and volley ball during the day, and clam bake over a bonfire in the evening.
One thing most people might be surprised to learn about you?   I raced cars in college and was the first woman to win a trophy in the men’s division.
Ambition, political or otherwise?  To win election to public office again.

PLP 09 Profile: Bree Raum
Apr 15 2009 - 9:13am

Name: Bree Raum
Age: 30
Born: Knoxville, MD
Current Digs: Arlington
Occupation: Government Relations, American Wind Energy Association
Favorite part about the job? My job involves traveling the nation and teaching the wind energy industry about the inner workings of Congress and briefing them about legislation.  I enjoy talking to industry employees from all over the nation about how they can make a difference by getting involved and talking to their elected officials.
Your first job ever? I was a lifeguard at a pool when I was 15. It was a great job - sitting by a pool, getting tan and getting paid for it!
Favorite book? To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Favorite movie? The Lord of the Rings trilogy.  They are also three great books.
Comfort food? Pizza.
What's in your car CD player right now (or favorites on your iPod)?  I am not afraid to admit that I have Dan Fogelberg and Christopher Cross’ Greatest Hits in my car and I listen to them often.
Next journey? This summer, I plan to travel around New England and Nova Scotia to see the sites.
Favorite Virginia vacation spot?  I like hiking in the Shenandoah Valley. 

First political memory? My mother came back from voting in a Presidential election in the mid 80s.  I asked her how she voted and she said that she had voted for Mondale.  I remember being glad that she voted for him and was disappointed when she told me later that day that he had lost.
Whom do you admire and why? I admire any candidate that gets in a race because he or she truly believes that they can make a difference.
Best advice you ever got?  I was once told that there are two types of leaders - the leader that you follow over the cliff and the leader that you throw over the cliff. Don’t be the latter.
If you could have dinner with any one currently living, whom would it be and why?  I would have dinner with President Obama. I would love to talk to him about the issues facing the nation. Also, he seems like a cool guy that would be fun to hang out with.
Describe a perfect day. I always have a very full schedule, so my perfect day would be hanging out at the beach with absolutely no agenda for the day.
One thing most people might be surprised to learn about you? I love to go fishing.
Ambition, political or otherwise? I just want to contribute to making the world a better place.

PLP 09 Profile: Steve Cochran
Apr 15 2009 - 9:01am

Name:  Steven Curtis Cochran
Age:  54
Born:  I was born in Radford, VA and grew up in Hillsville, VA.  Radford was the closest real hospital (45 miles).
Current Digs:  Blacksburg; I came to Virginia Tech in 1975 and never left.
Occupation:  Human Resources Professional
Favorite part about the job:  Watching people grow and develop in their jobs.
Your first job ever?  I spent my summers as a boy putting up hay on neighborhood farms.  I believe I may have made seventy-five cents an hour.  This was long before the big round bales you see today.  It was in the days of the old square bales and involved walking through the hay fields behind the pickup truck, throwing the bales up onto the truck and then unloading them from the truck into the loft in the barn.  At the end of the day, you knew you had been working!
Favorite book?  The Sneetches and Other Stories, by Dr. Seuss; and in particular, the story The Sneetches.  It taught me a lesson I’ve never forgotten.
Favorite movie?  Young Frankenstein.  I’ve seen it so many times I can recite most of the lines – and I still laugh!  Only now, I begin laughing when the scene first starts.
Comfort food?  Mexican
What's in your car CD player right now (or favorites on your iPod)?  John Mayer – Where the Light Is
Next journey?  My wife and I are going to New Orleans with two other couples to the Jazz Festival in May.  One couple is originally from New Orleans, so we’re looking forward to seeing the festival – and the city – from an insiders’ point of view!
Favorite Virginia vacation spot?  Our house in the mountains, just outside of Blacksburg.
First political memory?  Sitting around the dinner table listening to my parents talk about the issues of the day. In particular, I remember my father’s fierce dislike of the Byrd Machine, which controlled the Democratic Party for decades.  I can still recall him railing about the $1.50/year poll tax because he knew it kept poor people, and particularly blacks, from voting.
Whom do you admire and why?  Cabell Brand. Cabell is a World War II veteran who was a pioneer in the mail order catalog business. In 1965, he founded Total Action Against Poverty in the Roanoke Valley to address the needs of those less fortunate than himself.  Since then, he has dedicated a tremendous amount of his personal fortune and personal time to correcting some of the inequalities between the haves and have-nots and working to improve race relations.
Best advice you ever got?  A mentor and dear friend of mine used to send every letter I wrote on behalf of the party back to me, all marked up in red, with a good number of the words stricken. He taught me “Less is more.”
If you could have dinner with any one currently living, whom would it be and why? Cabell Brand. I’d like to have a frank discussion about his life, which has been dedicated to giving, and get his advice on how I can make the most out of my life.
Describe a perfect day. It starts out with a cup of coffee in the hot tub with my wife, watching the sun come up over the mountains. Then, off to work, where instead of fighting fires or practicing crisis management, I have the time to execute a well-thought-out plan of action.  When it’s time to go home, I leave with a true feeling of accomplishment.  At home, there’s time to do some work in the garden before drinks and dinner on the deck with Victoria and a few close friends.

One thing most people might be surprised to learn about you?  During high school, I briefly considered studying to be a lawyer.  I gave up the thought because I knew lawyers had to speak in court in front of people, and I didn’t think I could do that.
Ambition, political or otherwise?  I want to make a positive difference in the world and leave it a better place than I found it.

PLP 09 Profile: Matt Conrad
Apr 9 2009 - 11:04pm

Name: Matt Conrad
Age: 30
Born: I was born in Lynchburg, Virginia and grew up down the road in Appomattox.
Current Digs: I live and work in the City of Richmond.  Specifically, I live in the neighborhood of Union Hill.  
Occupation: Attorney/Lobbyist
Favorite part about the job: I'm always learning something new.  One day I'm studying the business practices of Virginia wineries, the next day I'm researching intra-state switched access fees for a rural telecommunications client. I love the contrast.
Your first job ever? My first paid job was briefly stocking and cleaning shelves at Rexall Drugstore in Appomattox.  My favorite part of the job was when Mr. Pack let me open and restock the drink machines. After that, I was a lifeguard at Holliday Lake State Park.
Favorite book? I don't much care for fiction, generally, but I do love short stories, particularly those of Welty and O'Connor.  Mornings On Horseback by McCullough is a favorite.  I usually travel with a small collection of T.S. Eliot's poems called The Wasteland and Other Poems; I read it over and over. Ditto for Sister Wendy's The Story of Painting.
Favorite movie? I don't have one.
Comfort food? A way of life for me. Depending on the season, I love fried chicken, hot cornbread, blue crabs by the bushel, oysters, and majudarrah (a big pot of spiced lentils).
What's in your car CD player right now? Being a literalist, I just went to check and it's empty.  There's a Hank, Sr. CD on the floorboard along with Ricky Skaggs and Vanessa Paradis.  The last song I purchased on iTunes was My Savior My God by Aaron Shust.
Next journey? Maybe Curacao or Brittany.
Favorite Virginia vacation spot? Bent Creek.
First political memory? President Reagan's address after the Challenger disaster.
Whom do you admire and why? I know it's common to say, but I admire Thomas Jefferson because of the purposeful and diverse way he used his time. 
Best advice you ever got? Don't sweat the small stuff (Matthew 6:25-34).
If you could have dinner with any one currently living, whom would it be and why? One choice that comes to mind quickly is May-Lily Lee.  I'm a huge fan.
Describe a perfect day. Saturday, sunny, 80 degrees. I'd get up and go for a run, then come back and accomplish something tangible, like in the garden.  Then a mix of all my favorite friends, family, and neighbors would get together for a crab picking or cookout.  When everyone left, we'd sit on the porch with a glass of wine. 
One thing most people might be surprised to learn about you? I'd love to own a farm.
Ambition, political or otherwise? Cultivate discipline, patience, and humility.

PLP 09: Mike Coker
Apr 9 2009 - 10:51pm

Name: Michael J. Coker
Age: 44
Born:  Portsmouth
Current Digs:  Portsmouth
Occupation:  Police Trainer/Consultant/Motivational Speaker
Favorite part about the job?  Inspiring people to focus on creating a positive work environment starting with them.
Your first job ever?  Print Circulation Engineer (aka) paperboy.  I had a blast learning people in the neighborhood.
Favorite Book?  The Holy Bible, A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle, The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch, and Hope on a Tightrope by Dr. Cornel West
Favorite Movie?  Crimson Tide
Comfort Food?  Salmon, Chicken Wings (mild)
What’s in your car CD player right now (or favorites on your ipod)?  Gospel Mix, Beyonce, The Cathedrals, Yanni, Earth Wind and Fire, Michael Buble’
Next Journey?  Hawaii, San Francisco, Las Vegas
Favorite Virginia vacation spot? Ford’s Colony in Williamsburg, VA
First Political memory?  Dr. King’s Assassination
Whom do you admire and why?  Delores Coker my mother.  She taught me how to be a man, and how to love your children unconditionally.
Best advice you ever got?  A setback is a setup for a comeback (Willie Jolley)
If you could have dinner with any one currently living, whom would it be and why?  President Barack Obama.  I would love to ask him 3 questions:  Mr. President, What made you think that you could be President?  What prepared you?  What would you like for your legacy to be?
Describe a perfect day.  Listening to music, working on my presentation, or sitting in my office collecting my thoughts while my 7-year-old son is practicing his music lessons on his piano and drums.
One thing most people might be surprised to learn about you?  Probably that I love to read, especially poetry.
Ambition Political or otherwise?  My personal ambition is to speak before thousands; and become Chairman of the School Board in the City of Portsmouth. Perhaps most of all, attending my son’s first Concert in Carnegie Hall. You see, when Barack Obama won the Presidency, for the first time in many years, we can now dream again.

Featured Alumni

  • Robert Hurt.jpg

    Robert Hurt

    Political Leaders Program

    Class of 2000

    In 2010, Robert was elected to the U.S. Congress, representing Virginia's 5th District. Robert previously served in the Virginia House of Delegates and the Virginia Senate.