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Governor hosts cookout at VMNH
Thanks state employees for service
Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (right) gestures while speaking to a crowd gathered at an appreciation cookout for about 300 state employees Monday at the Virginia Museum of Natural History. (Bulletin photo by Mike Wray)
Gov. Bob McDonnell’s visit to the Virginia Museum of Natural History on Monday was unlike his previous visits there.
McDonnell said he had been to the museum on Starling Avenue in Martinsville several times for community and political events. However, he said his latest visit was the first in which he was able to look at exhibits up close.
He said he was impressed by what he saw.
However, “I need to come back,” McDonnell said in an interview, when he has more time to study the exhibits in more depth.
This time, McDonnell came to the museum to host a cookout for about 300 state employees and their family members from the region to thank the employees for their service.
A barbecue meal prepared by a local catering firm was served.
VMNH is the only state-operated museum overseen by the Department of Natural Resources. Doug Domenech, secretary of natural resources, said he persuaded McDonnell to hold the cookout at the museum because “it would be a great opportunity to expose the museum to other state employees” besides those who work there.
McDonnell’s remarks to the crowd were brief. In voicing his appreciation to the employees for their service, he noted that they will see a 2 percent pay raise implemented by the state take effect later this week.
“You could probably make a lot more money in the private sector,” he told the workers, commending them for their interest in state government.
A long line of state employees formed to meet, shake hands and, in some cases, have a photo taken with the governor. That was why his time studying exhibits was limited.
Melanie Ingram, executive assistant to the director of the New College Institute (NCI) , stood in line to meet McDonnell and invite him to ride by and see progress being made toward construction of the institute’s new building on the Baldwin Block uptown. According to her, he said he would.
“He was very nice and personable,” Ingram said. “He took the time to talk to people” in the line, not merely exchange pleasantries.
Other state agencies with employees at the cookout included Patrick Henry Community College, Department of Motor Vehicles, Department of Game & Inland Fisheries and Department of Transportation.
Joe Keiper, executive director of the museum, said the museum, governor’s office and secretary of natural resources office will split the cost of the cookout, which he estimated would be a “couple thousand dollars.”