–How About Right Here–
So here I am, sitting in my office, up against a deadline, contemplating how to begin telling a story that I have lived, but never really sought to explain. The story itself is quite simple, really. If I had to describe the summation of my life, in one phrase, I would have to say that I have been blessed.
Let’s just get this out of the way right now (and you WILL hear me say this again), I have married well above my station and have two wonderful children. Growing up, while having lofty goals, I never could have imagined achieving the level of happiness I possess in my personal and professional life.
Coming from a town in southeastern Michigan, “thirty miles north of Detroit and thirty miles south of Flint, just off I-75″ (should anyone ever ask you), “suburbia” (aka Clarkston) for all intents and purposes, I knew pretty early on that I wanted to call another place home. Not that my experiences there were bad, in any way, I just simply knew that I didn’t align with rat-race mentality that is so pervasive there. Good people, absolutely…misaligned priorities (IMO), probably. So at the age of 12, I drew a circle around my hometown, roughly 200 miles in circumference and decided that, if given the opportunity, I would not live anywhere within that area.
As I traveled across the country playing tennis tournaments, I found myself looking more and more toward the Mid-Atlantic region. Eventually, I would be accepted to attend college and play tennis for the University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG). In retrospect, I wasn’t ready for the freedom going to college afforded me in my life and should have deferred my enrollment at least a year. For example, one of my main reasons for picking UNCG was the fact that the female to male ratio was approximately 3:1. Foolish, I know. If I’m being honest with myself, while tennis had been the equivalent of a full-time job for me from the age of 12 onward, I never really understood the sacrifices my parents had made to help me achieve my dream of playing Division I tennis. When some of that responsibility was placed on my shoulders, I, quite candidly, wasn’t ready to bear the weight and failed. After my 4th semester at UNCG, I decided to leave. If you would have asked me why, then, I would have said it was because the coach that recruited me left, I had a severe knee injury, and any number of other excuses…while all these circumstances would have been factually accurate, they weren’t the cause for my departure…simply put, I wasn’t ready.
So, after over a year of traveling back and forth between Michigan and a small town in North Carolina where my parents lived at the time, I ended up working third shift at a grocery store. I’ll never forget the day I made the decision to turn my life around…I was working one night and distinctly remember looking to my left and my right – up and down the isle I had been working – I thought to myself…there HAS to be more to this life for me than this. Then and there I made the decision to return to school and finish what I had started. So, that next semester, I applied for admission at Guilford College; fortunately, I was accepted. The experience at Guilford changed my life for the positive. I had a professor there named Nicky who guided me through my tenure at the school…I am eternally grateful to her for all of the support she provided to me during that time in my life.
When I said my experience at Guilford changed my life I wasn’t joking. During an internship with a Delegate in Virginia during a legislative session in Richmond, I met my future wife. At the time, she was working for a lobbyist and had no idea that I was secretly infatuated with her. We had mutual friends and eventually, I was able to arrange an “accidental” meeting between ourselves. I won’t say that we have been together ever since, but we certainly haven’t spent much time apart, either. I am the husband and father I am today because of her influence.
Around the same time all of this was going on, my dad and mother completed their “mid-life evaluations”, determining that they should purchase a fresh water marina in the foothills of NC. In 2001, they closed on the deal and operated the business until selling it in 2017. They are now happily retired, living at Lake Anna (“never far from the water” seems to be their motto). At the time the business was operating, even when being fully employed, I often found myself traveling between Salem (I had picked up full-time employment with the Delegate I had started working for in 2000), the marina, and Richmond. It was a lot!!
Late in 2004, I made the decision to move to Richmond full-time. In looking back, it was one of the best decisions I have ever made. During the 2005 General Assembly session, I began working for another Delegate from York County. It was the first time that I had “managed” a legislative office on my own and the experience served me well. While the work was “part-time” in the sense that it was only during session that I was employed, I was able to secure work coming out of the GA with the Office of the Attorney General. Then AG Jadgmann asked me to come on board and be a part of her team as she sought to fill the seat vacated when Jerry Kilgore began his run for Governor. Working for General Jadgmann was fantastic and more rewarding than I could have even imagined. Honestly, my tenure in her office lead me to where I am today. Before becoming AG, Jadgmann was in charge of the Civil Division within the office, meaning that she handled all utility related matters. There isn’t a day that goes by where I don’t recall some bit of knowledge she bestowed on me. Ironic that she is now a State Corporation Commission (SCC) Judge and I find myself, in my current role, dealing with the SCC quite frequently.
Despite all of that, Jenni Hasty and I managed to make our relationship not only work, but thrive.
Jennifer (now Aulgur…we are traditional in that way, I guess) and I were married in May of 2006 in a wonderful ceremony at the War Memorial Chapel at Virginia Tech. Jennifer is a 2000 graduate of VT with a BS in Political Science. Often referred to as “crazy fan” by her friends, it seemed only fitting that we would have our celebration in a place we both love so much. I fell in love with Blackburg even before Jenni and I became friends, having passed through the area during some of my travels. To this day, Blacksburg remains one of our favorite places to visit.
For the record, going to graduate school full-time and working full-time is foolish and I do not recommend anyone try it. With that said, I did it twice between 2006-2013. First for a Masters in Public Administration; second, for a Masters in Business Administration.
As I finished up my first graduate degree, I was fortunate enough to be selected for a position at the Virginia, Maryland, Delaware Association of Electric Cooperatives as their director of legislative and regulatory affairs. I quickly discovered that I had found a home within the cooperative community. In 2009, just prior to Shenandoah Valley Electric Cooperative’s (SVEC) purchase of Potomac Edison’s VA distribution assets, I was asked to join their team. I accepted and began my career at SVEC in September of that year. Of course, in an effort to not make things too easy, my wife Jenni had stayed in Richmond, continuing her career in state government as the Deputy Secretary of the Commonwealth. Her service continued through the birth of our first son, Jonathan Michael Aulgur, Jr. in September of 2013.
Just a little note about our first-born…he may, in fact, actually be forty! Certainly, he is an “old sole” with an infectious sense of humor, a great smile, and a wonderful propensity for being eager to please. I am thankful, everyday, that he takes after his mother.
Over the next several years, our life became even more rewarding, as Jennifer was able to find employment in the Valley and we purchased our second and third homes (selling one before purchasing the other, BTW). Most importantly, in 2017, we welcomed our second son into the world, William Herndon Aulgur.
A note about William…our character…he is fiercely independent, strong-willed, and posseses a wild sense of humor. Some would say that he takes after his father and I fear there may be some truth to that fact. We love him deeply.
In closing, I’d like to believe that many of us will get to know each other well over the next two years. Thank you for taking a bit of time to read my blather and get to know me a bit better. While I don’t talk about it often, I have a strong belief in God and that he as a plan for all of us. I am so thankful, humbled and grateful for the many blessings he as bestowed upon me in my life, including VALOR. No doubt we will talk more about what has motivated each of us to participate in this program and what we hope to achieve during our time together, so I’ll leave that for another day…
I started with a question “Where To Begin?!”
I answer the same way…”How About Right Here”!