Note to readers: This is one in a series of question and answer articles about local candidates running for office in the Nov. 5 election. The Northern Virginia Daily asked candidates for the 15th House District to answer three questions. Their unedited responses are below.
Democratic Party candidate Beverly Harrison is challenging Del. C. Todd Gilbert, R-Mount Jackson, for the 15th House District seat. The 15th House District covers Page and Shenandoah counties and parts of Rockingham and Warren counties.
What state legislators do to help improve the economy in Shenandoah County?
We will only improve our local economy by talking openly and honestly about the challenges we face so we can develop solutions from the ground up.
In Shenandoah County, eight out of 10 single-mother households live near or below the official US poverty level. Significant portions of our region lack access to high-speed internet, an essential tool for any business. And it's becoming more and more common for grandparents to raise their grandchildren after losing a child to opioid addiction. These issues are all interconnected and affect whether businesses can grow here.
It is vital that our legislator supports systems that work and adapts to meet the needs of our ever-changing economy. We need to protect our agricultural heritage while also recognizing new residents and businesses will benefit us all.
As your delegate, I will work with local business and government leaders as well as residents to support new ways to grow the economy whether that’s a niche dairy farm, a new call center, or a newly available crop like hemp. Communication between the legislator, local leaders, and the public is key to make sure we all know what's going on in Richmond. Annual town halls in each county are a must.
We need to invest in our infrastructure like broadband and public schools and our greatest asset, our people, through education, job training, and affordable housing. We must support technical education, which prepares students to meet the needs of existing and potential employers, so our neighbors and family can stay here to live and work. We should strike a balance between supporting businesses and workers, so one does not benefit at the expense of the other.
Legislators must be willing to hold fast to the best interests of the 15th District above all else. Practically speaking, my opponent’s job as majority leader is to perpetuate partisanship in Richmond. A good bill is a good bill, no matter who wrote it, and I'm prepared to vote outside party lines to achieve local goals.
Where should the General Assembly spend most of the state's revenue?
When we talk about Virginia’s budget and revenue, we have to consider the overall health and well-being of the entire commonwealth. Just like a family or business budget, there are priorities we must address first, such as education and healthcare. Many district residents spend considerable time dealing with the dangers and delays on I-81 and recognize that transportation is another budget priority.
As rural Virginians, it is vital that we have representatives who are willing to work for our unique priorities and help other legislators understand how they fit into the overall state budget.
Like many residents, I have to work outside the county to be able to support my family. I have also seen firsthand the disparities between northern Virginia and rural public school systems. Many Virginians don’t know that people across rural Virginia do not have access to reliable high-speed internet service. They cannot conceive of the challenges our farmers are facing.
The time has come to build a bridge between our rural community and more affluent areas of the Commonwealth. I’ll go to Richmond to make our district a priority and to open up that conversation, which doesn’t seem to be happening now.
It is vital that we have a delegate who understands this disconnect and actively works to address it, so that legislators across the Commonwealth understand and are willing to vote for budget items that serve the district.
How and when should legislators who represent Shenandoah County meet with its elected leaders and discuss local concerns with state spending?
One of the primary duties of state representatives is to partner with locally elected officials. The representative must be proactive as the conduit to exchange information and ideas between our region, Richmond, and the rest of the commonwealth.
At a minimum, state representatives should schedule meetings with locally elected leaders twice a year, before and after the General Assembly session.
A delegate is responsible to their locality above all other concerns and regular communication with local leadership is vital. In order to properly serve the community, delegates should be willing to meet with leaders on an as-needed basis as well and be available to discuss critical issues as they arise.
In addition to meeting regularly with local officials, I would hold an annual town hall in Shenandoah County and every other county in the 15th District to make sure everyone has their chance to speak and be heard.