PRINCE GEORGE COUNTY, Va. (WTVR) – President Barack Obama opened his speech inside the Rolls Royce facility last Friday by saying “hello Virginia.”
For some in the crowd and at home, what happened over the course of the speech left them pondering what went wrong.
“We’ve got your Mayor, Brian Moore,” the President said less than a minute into his speech followed by “It is great to be back in Petersburg.”
In fact, six times during the 20-minute speech, Obama referenced Petersburg instead of Prince George County.
“Everybody is talking about it… [and] that’s all they’re talking about,” said Tony Wesson.
The flub was also a commented on by Prince George County’s Board of Supervisors Tuesday night.
The supervisors said many constituents called to point out the mistake, since the national spotlight was on the county’s economic development, which included the new Rolls-Royce plant.
“I didn’t think it was Petersburg’s fault, but… we had the opportunity to put Prince George on the map, and that’s what I’m thinking should have happened,” said Vickie Ripley, a business owner in Prince George.
For county leaders like Board of Supervisors Chairman Henry Parker, the questions just keep coming in.
“I believe the constituency is very upset, the fact that Prince George was never mentioned,” said Parker.
However, most people said they just want to know what went wrong — and who told the president he was in Petersburg and not Prince George County.
“I don’t really blame the President, I blame the person that wrote his speech,” said Reginald Milken, who cuts hair near the County Administration building.
Even the official invitation from the White House got it wrong, using Petersburg as the locality but with a Prince George Zip code.
Jerry Skalsky, who has sat on the Board of Supervisors for 13 years, is the only one who got to personally meet the president, if only for a few seconds.
“I just extended my hand, to shake hands, in which he was a very cordial person, and I said ‘welcome to Prince George County,’” said Skalsky.
Additionally, Prince George residents said the county spent money for police, fire and EMS services during the presidential visit, and to not have the county mentioned once, is tough to understand.
Tuesday night at the Board of Supervisors meeting, Obama’s speech was also a topic of conversation.
“To end in that kind of bitter disappointment, because not only did he not mention Prince George, but he highlighted the efforts of others, when really they had very little to do with the Rolls Royce Facility and all the excitement in that economic development,” said County Administrator Percy Ashcraft.