I sat down with Manassas Mayor Harry “Hal” Parrish II to discuss a life well lived and reminisce a bit. Parrish decided not to seek re-election this year. That was pretty big news.
A second-generation public servant, Parrish was first elected to city council in 1996. He went on to be chosen by the council as vice-mayor in 1999 and was elected mayor in 2008. He was re-elected in 2012 and 2016.
Parrish was following in the footsteps of his father, Harry Parrish Sr. The elder Parrish was elected to the town council of Manassas in 1951. He served on that body until 1963, when he was elected mayor. He served in that capacity until 1981 and then became a member of the Virginia House of Delegates in 1982. He served in the General Assembly until his death in 2006. The old Manassas City Hall building is named after him. That’s almost three quarters of a century of Parrish family elected service.
Hal Parrish shared that he was born in Manassas, then a town, watched it become a city in 1975 and witnessed its evolution into the city it is today. He attended the original Baldwin Elementary School (three iterations ago) and Marsteller Middle School and was a Yellow Jacket at the old Osbourn High School.
That’s right, a Yellow Jacket. A new Osbourn High School adopted the Eagle as a mascot while the new Osbourn Park High School kept the Yellow Jacket tradition alive. Parrish then graduated from the University of Virginia and followed the family tradition of military service as an officer in the United States Air Force.
Parrish remembers when what is now the Monza Restaurant in Old Town was the Cocke’s Pharmacy. You could buy an old-time soda there. He remembers when Manassas didn’t have a hospital. It relied on the Manassas Medical Center for health care. The community decided it needed to fix that and worked together to build Prince William Hospital in 1964. He gave a “shout out” to the Merchant family for their leadership in this effort.
When the conversation moved to what he remembers most, Parrish reflected on the economic downturn and gloom that affected the community after 9/11 and extending into the late 2000s. He knew something needed to be done to demonstrate that things were back to normal and that local government was moving forward.
The need to replace Baldwin Elementary School stood out. Rebuilding Baldwin had been discussed but not acted upon for years. In collaboration with then city manager John Budesky and the Manassas School Board, plans were made to replace this aging city school. The project lifted spirits, gave the community a focus on the future, restored its faith in local government, and demonstrated a return to normal.
One theme resonated in my conversation with the mayor. He gave credit to the many people who contribute to the success of the city. Parrish particularly gave a “shout out” to the current city manager, Patrick Pate, city staff, and members of the council. He shared particular affection for the people who live in Manassas. “They make the job enjoyable.”
Seventeen years of service as an elected official is a long tenure. The obvious question was, “What’s next?” Parrish shared that he has no future political ambitions and no plans to move.
“Manassas is my home,” he said.
In retirement, Parrish looks forward to watching golf and hockey and running the family business, Manassas Ice and Fuel. It may be the end of a political era; however, the next chapter for Hal Parrish II is about to be written.
Al Alborn is a political and social activist in Prince William County. His column appears every other week. You can learn more about Al at www.alborn.net.