WOODSTOCK — Doing things differently to address basic needs of constituents is what Emily Scott, the Democratic candidate for the House of Delegates in the 15th District, is looking to accomplish if she is elected this November.
The district includes Shenandoah and Page counties and parts of Warren County. She'll face incumbent House Minority Leader Todd Gilbert, R-Mount Jackson, who has held the seat for 15 years, in the Nov. 2 election.
“I just feel that there's opportunities to do things in a different way than we’ve been doing them the past 15 years,” Scott said, questioning what has been brought to the district through its past state representation.
A Shenandoah County native, Scott graduated from Central High School before completing college in 1977 at Randolph Macon Women’s College where she majored in politics.
Her father was John F. Kennedy’s campaign manager in the Shenandoah Valley and politics resonated with her growing up, she said.
Starting out her professional life in the county’s parks and recreation department, Scott went on to work in advertising for local newspapers, where she said she felt a sense of pride in helping the community and learned how to express herself in a diplomatic way.
She now works as an archivist for the Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen, based in Front Royal.
Among issues that Scott would like to address is fixing the congestion on Interstate 81. That could come by way of adding a designated truck lane or using EZ-pass technology, Scott said. Establishing public transportation, such as a commuter rail for the western part of the state, could also help, Scott said.
“Change is going to come to this region,” Scott said, referring to the number of people moving west because they don't want to live in the city anymore. “And if we aren’t careful about planning for it, it’s just gonna come and it's gonna be a giant mess.”
Another topic she feels is important and could use more funding is mental health services, including addiction.
Also among her plans is helping families who get free and reduced lunches, which is nearly 50 percent of students in Shenandoah County, Scott said.
Water and sewer infrastructure needs to be upgraded to address the current situation of Woodstock having to truck water into Edinburg, Scott said.
Infrastructure also needs to be expanded to the 1.2 million square feet of industrial space that is vacant throughout the county to better attract businesses to the area, Scott said. In turn, that will provide good-paying jobs, which could help alleviate mental health issues and attract more tax-paying residents.
But at the same time, the interests of farmers need to be balanced with business growth, as well as a smart approach to introducing new technologies to workplaces that will produce actual efficiencies.
“I think that there’s possibilities,” Scott said, adding that reallocating funds, such as the over $2 billion budget surplus the state has, and not necessarily raising taxes can provide solutions. “I don’t think that the solutions have to be either-or. We just need to devote some creative thoughts.”
For jobs, education can be looked at for ways of earning degrees that don't require everyone to go to college, Scott said. Trade schools and providing local jobs for those graduates could be emphasized more, Scott said.
By repealing the state's right to work law and making it easier to sustain labor unions, healthcare and other good employee benefits can be made more widely available, Scott said. Right to work laws allow workers to refuse to pay union dues, even if they receive wages and benefits comparable to union members in their workplace.
Retraining workers for more environmentally friendly jobs that respond to the threat of climate change while balancing the needs of all interested parties, could also be considered, Scott said.
Republican criticism of critical race theory has made it a wedge issue intended to divide people, Scott said, but it is just an academic hypothesis that needs to be understood more before being banned.
Scott said she supported the $4.3 billion from President Biden's American Rescue Plan Act allocation that provided funding to expand broadband, mental health services and more. Things needed to get done, she added in response to criticisms from state Republicans that they were left out of the planning process when it came time for the General Assembly to decide what to do with the money.
As part of the current majority party in the General Assembly, Scott said she could get things accomplished for the district more easily than her Republican counterpart if the Democrats can maintain their control in Richmond during the November election. She previously ran for the Shenandoah County Board of Supervisors, losing in 2013 to Cynthia Bailey.
The state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic was handled about as well as expected, Scott said.
“Smallpox vaccines [were] was mandated for everyone and we got rid of smallpox," Scott said on the topic of vaccine mandates. "So it would go a long way to containing the disease.”
People should follow the guidance on preventing the spread of the disease and follow advice from all types of experts, while using common sense, she said.
“You have the right [to do what you want] but you also have the responsibility to be a good citizen,” Scott said.
For those who don't take precautions she had an admonition: “[That] doesn’t mean the rest of the world is going to accommodate you. That's true about just about everything we do.”
On the topic of police reform, Scott said that if anything, law enforcement members need more resources.
While decrying the label, “defund the police,” and advocating against quick change, Scott stated the government should be giving officers mental health training, rather than military-style equipment.
"Then again some things that changed should've been changed yesterday and it took this long to get here," Scott said of the reforms that took place last year.
Decriminalizing substance abuse could lead to treatment instead of running up court resources, Scott said.
Although she is concerned about gun violence, Scott said she had no plans to do anything with gun rights. She said she didn’t know enough about assault weapons to say if banning them would lead to a reduction of gun violence and maybe addressing mental health could help with alleviating gun violence.
The right to an abortion is established law, and women do not seek abortions without thinking, Scott said.
Scott supported recent voting expansion efforts approved by the General Assembly, including early voting, she said.
“The function of government is to bring out policies that bring out our better natures,” said Scott, adding not everything needs to be a law and change can be made at the grassroots level. “It is to protect us from our worst natures and bring out our better natures.”