PETERSBURG, VA (WWBT) - Petersburg is preparing for a big race that will attract thousands into town Saturday, but the event follows controversy. NBC 12 was first to break the news the city's former Public Information Officer tried to redeem a travel voucher for a trip to Jamaica.
The voucher was issued by the organizer of Petersburg's half marathon. For the first time, he is opening up about the controversy.
Jason Miller, a North Carolina race organizer, had big plans to bring major excitement to Petersburg. It's why he says he gave former City Spokesperson Jay Ell Alexander a travel voucher to Florida to check out one of his events.
"To tap into a race that we're getting 40,000 people walking through the expo doors, to educate people about Petersburg and it was just a missed opportunity. I was personally hurt," Miller said.
He says, Jet Blue, one of his corporate sponsors contacted him questioning why that voucher was used for a country not connected with the races – Jamaica.
"Has something like that happened before for you?" NBC 12 asked.
"No, never…I was hurt because my thing is trying to build this city," Miller said.
Following the controversy, Alexander is no longer employed with Petersburg. Miller says, fortunately, Jet Blue did not penalize his company and remains one of his sponsors. Now he's bringing the Half Marathon and 5K back to Petersburg on Saturday for the second year.
"We've been blessed with beautiful weather. We will be educating everybody as they're running. It's a wonderful course. We have 10 water stations along the 13 miles," said Miller.
It will also include a live re-enactment of the Revolutionary War for spectators.
The big event is attracting some 3,000 runners from 40 states and even Canada who are now preparing to hit the pavement for a day of family-friendly fun.
"My highlight is watching the runners finish the race. I love being at the finish line just watching their facial expressions as they come across the finish line," Miller said.
There's still time to sign up for Saturday's race. It begins at 7 AM. Staff will be at the Union Train Station to begin registering people at 5:30 a.m. The race begins at 7 a.m.
NBC 12 reached out to Alexander via social media for a response but has yet to hear back.
Copyright 2016 WWBT NBC12. All rights reserved.