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Political Blogger Comes In From The Cold

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City Hall now houses not one, but two former residents of the Governor's Mansion. Jonathan Baliles, son of former-governor Gerald L. Baliles, has accepted a position as public information manger in the city's press office.

Baliles, 37, is known around town for his blog, RiverCityRapids, where Richmond-centric topics like downtown development, the Braves and the School Board get plenty of pixels -- and the mayor gets plenty of sympathy.

"I support a lot, but not all, of what the mayor does," Baliles says. "I know he was a reader [of the blog]. He told me."

Although this appears to be Richmond's first conversion from blogger to bureaucrat, blogs have proven useful launching pads for several careers nationally. Ana Marie Cox, who ran the popular Washington D.C. gossip blog Wonkette, has since moved to Time Magazine. George Allen's re-election campaign brought on Jon Henke from the conservative blog QandO to help with the web end of his bid for re-election to the U.S. Senate.

"Why shouldn't we be fashion forward?" asks Linwood Norman, the mayor's press secretary.

As for the blog, it will keep on ticking. Baliles plans to keep posting, although he says he will avoid city-related issues. (Nevertheless a post dated Feb. 13 wades into the debate surrounding the downtown masterplan.)

Office life will be a shift for Baliles who has worked as an insurance broker for the last 10 years out of his Museum District home. He also publishes the Weekly Rant, a popular e-mail newsletter that lists city events and activities.

"I'm not used to putting a tie on," he says.

Baliles current contract is a provisional 90-day agreement. He points out that with the Mayor's re-election aspirations still unconfirmed the job may only last until November.

Bill Farrar, L. Douglas Wilder's first press secretary at the city, says he doesn't have much guidance for his successor.

"I don't have any advice for anybody about to work there," Farrar says, "except think twice about it."

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