Prince William County has no documented cases of deaths from runaway stationery. County Executive Robert S. Noe Jr. thanks secretary Ann DeMasi for saving him from becoming the first.
Noe recently wrote a letter welcoming the newly elected Board of County Supervisors using official county stationery -- official, that is, before voters elected four new supervisors last fall. The letter was on last year's letterhead, instead of the crisp new stationery with the names of the seven current supervisors emblazoned at the top.
Given the sensitive egos of politicians, Noe's blunder might have been a bureaucratic disaster if DeMasi hadn't noticed the error just as the letter was being sent to the printer. "She literally saved my life," Noe said. "That would have been a catastrophic beginning."
Noe's faux pas was all the more humbling, he said, because he is well known for lecturing his staff to avoid precisely the same mistake. Said Noe: "There's nothing that smells worse than dead stationery."
The public debate between Del. David G. Brickley (D-Prince William) and the county's bar association concerning the association's method of selecting judicial candidates and the lack of women and blacks on the bench may have spawned grass-roots support for a lawyer overlooked by her peers.
The 160-member bar recently selected two candidates for a possible additional seat on the General District Court. Sally Hook Merchak was not one of the two, but perhaps she should have been, according to those who sent letters last week to Brickley, Sen. Charles J. Colgan (D-Manassas) and The Washington Post.
"As a member of a growing segment of Prince William County's professional women's workforce, I find it very difficult to believe that there are no qualified women who can be appointed to serve as a judge," one person wrote. "I recall a year or so ago that Sally Merchak, a local Woodbridge attorney, was not only up for a judge's position, but was recommended by the bar at that time."
Another person wrote that some professional women think that "female representation is sadly lacking in the court system of Prince William County . . . . An excellent candidate would be Sally Hook Merchak, who has been practicing law in the county since 1977 and is highly qualified for this position."
Merchak, 36, said she had significant support from professional women when she was nominated by the bar in January 1985 for another General District judgeship. She said she was unaware of the recent support, and that it makes her feel "very good" and "proud that people have recognized my work."
Brickley, who will play a crucial role in the selection if another General District judgeship is approved by the Virginia General Assembly, which began a two-month session yesterday, has said he may look beyond the bar's two choices because he would rather the group submit at least three names, with no ranking. He also has expressed concern that there are no women or blacks among the 10 judges in the county.