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Harry Covert, Alexandria Jail's Dynamic PIO, Retires

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Harry Covert, left, who is retiring from his role as public information officer at the Alexandria jail.

The Alexandria sheriff's office is celebrating the retirement of Harry Covert, a man who transformed the city jail into a focus of international attention. 

Most jails don't usually have Russian TV crews and British journalists conducting regular visits. But this is the Alexandria jail, where Zacharias Moussaoui -- one of the terrorists convicted after 9/11 -- was incarcerated, and where New York Times reporter Judith Miller spent three months in jail while she refused to reveal her source in the Valerie Plame case.

In addition, no other jail has Harry Covert, a longtime newspaperman turned bail bondsman turned public information officer. Covert served as the Alexandria jail's PIO for five years, and has worked for more than half a century in the news and information business. 

"Harry has single-handedly in the past five years put the agency back on the map," says Sheriff Dana Lawhorne.

While most jails shun publicity, Covert actively attracted it, holding inmate graduation ceremonies, motivational speakers, and inviting international media. 

Covert was one-of-a-kind, says James Gordon Meek, a former journalist who is now a congressional investigator. 

"Harry Covert is, even amongst the public affairs people I've dealt with in a long 17-year journalism career, an extremely unusual guy, probably owing to the fact that he is a newspaperman, originally and to the heart," Meek says. 

Covert says putting the jail on the map was a highlight in his career. "Most people are afraid when they go to a jail to visit, but it's really not a place to be afraid of," he says. 

Covert officially retires this week.

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