The political class, which Harp knew intimately, having worked it assiduously since landing at the state Capitol two decades earlier as a newly minted lawyer, was outraged.
The Democrats who controlled the legislature viewed the dismissal as a partisan affront. Even Republicans were alarmed, believing it sent the wrong signal to a state work force long defined by stability.
A side gig in the attorney general’s office as counsel to the Judicial Inquiry and Review Commission quickly became full time. And for the next 20 years, until his retirement in 1997, Harp would investigate complaints about judges, quietly telling some to straighten up and others to get out.
The commission, to the annoyance of the public and the press, operated in legally protected secrecy. And Harp was known to bristle when reporters — because it was their job — pried into the commission’s proceedings, which — because it was his job — he cloaked in mystery.
Mabry joined VDOT when it wasn’t as much led as ruled by the legendary Douglas Fugate, who believed there was little that a lot of asphalt couldn’t fix. Fugate also transformed the department into a graduate program, of sorts, for Virginia Military Institute (VMI). As an alumnus, Fugate favored those with VMI degrees — Mabry, among them.
Mabry would become the agency’s chief planner, balancing its erratic cash flow with the constant demands of construction and maintenance. Mabry, with a quiet manner that could disarm agitated lawmakers, reprised that role during a punishing recession as Gov. Doug Wilder’s deputy transportation secretary.