Beach woman given three minutes to change her future

Katie Anderson sat nervously through 90 minutes of budget squabbles and complaints about tax increases. Looking back at it, she thinks it was probably the worst night to ask the Virginia Beach City Council for a favor.

Near the end of the meeting, the mayor gave Katie three minutes to change her future. To do that, she had to tell them about her past.

“I took my mother’s car without permission and she called the Virginia Beach Police Department,” she told them from the podium. “The responding officer called me on my cell phone and told me I had 20 minutes to get the car back or my mom would press charges.”

To make that deadline, she didn’t just break traffic rules. She shattered them. When it was over, she faced a pile of charges, including a felony for eluding police.

“I served 90 days in the Virginia Beach Correctional Center,” she confessed to City Council.

She was 19 then, a new mother going through an awful divorce. A friend had just died in a car crash. She’d reached her breaking point when she took the car in 2010. While in jail, she lost custody of her son, now 5. She’s still trying to fix that. When she was released, she found a felony blocked job offers. It was “a mark on my record that doesn’t ever go away, ever,” she told NewsChannel 3 Wednesday. “And a huge lid on the possibilities.”

She said she felt alone, and worse, hopeless.

Jeff Craddock, owner of four local pawn shops, took a chance on her. Soon, Craddock and his daughter Nina Perkins saw Anderson’s potential.

“She’s a great person,” Perkins said.

“I can’t imagine where I would be if I hadn’t gotten this job,” said Anderson, now 23. “And I don’t want to. It would probably be really bad.”

Craddock wants to put Anderson in management training, but she needed a precious-metals permit to buy and sell valuable jewelry in the Virginia Beach store. The police, noting her felony, denied the permit. And without that paper, she’d have a limited future in the company. Tuesday night, she appealed to City Council.

“I am asking you to grant my precious-metals permit so that I might continue to put this part of my life behind me, and move forward as a more productive citizen,” she told the Council.

But Councilman Jim Wood, a former cop, said her driving that night was too dangerous to overlook. The mayor agreed. With a vote moments away, Councilman Bobby Dyer spoke up.

“I just feel, and this is my focus group of one, certain people who do make mistakes should be allowed to show redemption,” Dyer said.

A day later, Anderson called Dyer “my angel.” She’s never met him, but believes his words swayed colleagues. They voted 8-3 to give her the permit.

Mayor Will Sessoms, who voted against her, wished her good luck.

“I couldn’t be more grateful,” she said Wednesday. Now she’ll be able to do more for her son.

“I can give him the things that he wants, instead of just the things that he needs,” she said. “I can take care of him. Money doesn’t buy happiness, but it helps when you want to go on vacations. And take him out to the movies. And take him out to a baseball game.”

And she wanted to say to Councilman Dyer: “Thank you, for speaking up for me.”