With red hair, red dress and red heels to match her fiery personality, Lorna Virgili checks her reflection in her iPhone before taping her bilingual radio show, which will hit not only the airwaves, but also a YouTube audience.
Virgili hosts "Montgomery al Dia," a weekly half-hour Spanish-language segment on all things Montgomery County, which is broadcast every Tuesday at 2 p.m. on Radio America's 1540 AM channel. The studio is located in what is known as the Computer Building in Wheaton, at 11141 Georgia Avenue.
Since its launch on April 3, full episodes of all of Virgili's broadcasts are now available on Montgomery County's YouTube channel.
Virgili works as a Montgomery County public information officer and the principal Spanish-media specialist of the National Hispanic Communications group.
Some parts of the show are spoken entirely in Spanish, but when English-speaking guests visit, Virgili transitions seamlessly between the languages, simply asking her guests to provide shorter answers. Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, last week’s surprise visitor, joked that he followed “about 30 percent” of Virgili’s introduction.
Virgili's May 8 guests included Brown and two Montgomery County regional service directors--Ana Lopez van Balen from Mid-County, and Reemberto Rodriguez from Silver Spring.
Virgili and Brown discussed his support of the Dream Act, his efforts to solve health care discrepancies in the county and the tax and pension debates in the General Assembly’s budget special session in Annapolis.
Brown congratulated the efforts of state Del. Ana Sol Gutierrez and State Sen. Victor Ramirez campaigning for the Dream Act in Annapolis, and he answered questions surrounding the budget for proposed health programs. He also expressed his hopes to educate voters on the realities of the act’s design and to dispel rumors surrounding the possibility of unbalanced enrollment in the state’s colleges under its provisions.
Virgili is confident in the show’s ability draw to listeners and high-profile guests. “Every time we open the phone lines, they get flooded with people trying to get information about county services,” Virgili said.
“Also, we have seen a slight uptick in the use of 311 by Spanish-speakers, 311 being the operations center for the county,” she said. The hotline is about to receive its millionth call, which will be the topic of the May 15 broadcast.
On the show, Rodriguez and van Balen explained the differences in their service centers, the assets of their towns and Wheaton redevelopment. Virgili also helped plug upcoming events in the area, such as the Taste of Wheaton Festival on May 20.
"One of my immediate questions will be, 'Did people listen, are they coming out?’" van Balen said in a phone interview afterward. "It is a hard task to keep the audience engaged while giving information, and making it something that is interesting to listeners. I think she is doing a great job."
Do you listen to Montgomery El Día? Tell us in the comments.