On a chilly, overcast afternoon last week, Alexandria Sheriff James H. Dunning stood before a throng of microphones and announced that he was supporting the Republican candidate vying for his job, former council member and vice mayor William C. Cleveland.

Dunning, a Democrat who has held the post since 1985, crossed party lines with his endorsement. But Cleveland's opponent, Alexandria police Detective Dana A. Lawhorne -- who has racked up impressive endorsements himself -- was unfazed.

In fact, he showed up.

Lawhorne took his place behind the assemblage of reporters near the red caboose landmark in front of the Mount Vernon Recreation Center in Del Ray. He said he was there to dispute much of what Dunning and Cleveland said, including their thoughts on a 1997 dispute with police officers over pay parity for sheriff's deputies.

Dunning, who has rarely appeared in public since his wife was killed in December 2003, has been supported by Democrats since his first campaign 20 years ago. But he said last Monday that his endorsement of Cleveland had nothing to do with party lines.

"I happen to be Democrat, and I'm very proud to be so," he said. "I don't consider the sheriff . . . as a partisan office."

A Good Talker

Arlington County Board member Paul Ferguson (D) studied piano a little as a child, but he will be the first to tell you he inherited little of the musical chops of his mother, Lora Ferguson, an Arlington resident who plays clarinet in the Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra.

That's not preventing him from taking the stage Nov. 13 as narrator for Prokofiev's "Peter and the Wolf" when his mom's classical ensemble, the Capitol Woodwind Quintet, comes to Arlington for a matinee performance at the Rosslyn Spectrum Theatre. Ferguson will get in at least one rehearsal with the ensemble before the speaking performance.

"Being the narrator doesn't take any musical talent, or so I'm told," Ferguson said.

So does this mean he has acting talent?

"No, but I'm a good reader," he said.

Ferguson joins a long line of prominent locals -- the famous and the infamous -- who have played the narrator part for various orchestras over the years. Among them: boxing impresario Rock Newman and Oliver North.

The Place

You know that custard place in Del Ray? The Del Ray Dreamery. Only you can't call it that anymore.

Now it's known -- both literally and figuratively -- as That Custard Place in Del Ray.

Why the name change? A lawsuit.

Owner Liz Davis -- who opened the Alexandria shop 41/2 years ago, creating custard junkies where once there were none -- was forced to make a change after a corporation that makes ice cream under the Dreamery label filed suit in September.

"I am so not into the confrontation aspect," Davis said. "So I just decided to change the name."

Davis opened the process of selecting a new moniker to her customers, offering the winner a year's worth of free Wisconsin-style custard.

For those who don't know about frozen custard, the authentic stuff must be made with 10 percent butterfat and 1.4 percent egg yolk solids (so says the USDA). Needless to say, it is best consumed near a treadmill.

Davis received hundreds of entries. (We liked honorable mention winner Dairy Readiness Emergency Aid Management/Early Response Yurt, an acronym for Dreamery.)

The winner was Stephani Locket of Alexandria, who decided that no name summed it up better for locals than, well, That Custard Place.

By whatever name, the shop, at 2310 Mount Vernon Ave., is still selling the sweets that have made it a local favorite.

Its offerings include "puppy pops" for pooches (made from peanut butter, banana and plain yogurt) and our personal fave, strawberry balsamico sorbet.