Access 2020: Panelists

Alan Gernardt  

Alan Gernhardt is the executive director of the Virginia Freedom of Information Advisory Council. He began working with the Council as a staff attorney in 2004, was promoted to senior attorney in 2008, and became executive director of the Council in 2017. He earned a B.S. degree from Indiana University and a J.D. from the University of Richmond, T.C. Williams School of Law. The Council issues formal and informal advisory opinions, publishes educational materials, provides training presentations, and serves as a legislative forum regarding access to public records and meetings under the Virginia Freedom of Information Act.

Sara Gregory  

Sara Gregory is a reporter at The Virginian-Pilot where she cover K-12 education. Before that, she covered education for The Roanoke Times and was a McCormick fellow at the Student Press Law Center, where she served as an editor overseeing the center’s publications about issues affecting student media.



Joshua Heslinga  
Heslinga_086.jpg Joshua Heslinga is the Director of Legal and Legislative Services at VITA and has been VITA's FOIA officer for the past year. Prior to joining VITA in 2019, Joshua was an Assistant Attorney General in the Office of the Attorney General of Virginia for eight years, during which he represented and advised agencies on e-discovery, FOIA, and other records matters. More information about him is available at
Brad Jenkins  
Amanda Kastl  
akastl.jpg Amanda Kastl is the Fairfax County’s Countywide FOIA Officer responsible for managing Fairfax County’s Countywide FOIA Office and overseeing Fairfax County’s FOIA response process. During her tenure as FOIA Officer, Amanda and her team, in close partnership with Fairfax County’s Department of Information Technology, developed and deployed a countywide FOIA request tracking application, standardized policies and best practices, and established countywide FOIA training. Prior to working for Fairfax County, she worked as a paralegal for over 10 years in the legal industry—both for private law firms and large corporations. She has extensive experience advocating for technology as an efficiency driver across public and private sectors. Amanda earned a Bachelor of Arts in Administration of Justice and a Master of Science in Public Policy from George Mason University.
Ruth Larson  
Larson.jpg Ruth Larson has been the Berkeley Representative on the James City County Board of Supervisors since January 2016, prior to that she served on the WJCC School Board for 10 years. She currently serves on the Virginia Peninsula Regional Jail Board and is the Treasurer of the Tourism Council. She is also the Region 2 Representative on the Board of Directors for the Virginia Association of Counties. In her outside of public service life, she is a Regional Sales Director for Cornerstone Hospitality and is currently working on opening properties in Indiana & Virginia.
Mel Leanor  
leonor-mel.jpg Mel Leonor Barclay is a politics reporter with the Richmond Times-Dispatch. Prior to joining the Times-Dispatch, Mel covered education policy for POLITICO and local government for the Naples Daily News.
Leo Rogers  
Rogers.jpg Mr. Rogers received his undergraduate degree from Rutgers College and his law degree from William & Mary. He was an Adjunct Professor at William & Mary Law School from 1990 to 2006. Mr. Rogers served as the Deputy and County Attorney for James City County from 1990 to 2014. Since 2014 he has served as the Loudoun County Attorney.
Glenn Smith  
Laura Vozzella  
Vozella.png Laura Vozzella covers Virginia politics for The Washington Post. Before joining The Post, she was a political columnist and food writer at the Baltimore Sun. She dutifully recorded hockey sums and breaking news for the Associated Press in Boston, covered federal court for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and chronicled everything that moved in a small Connecticut town for her hometown newspaper, the Hartford Courant. She received the 2014 George Polk Award for political reporting for investigation of relationship between Virginia governor and wealthy supporter.
Carah Ong Whaley