Virginia Legislature

Virginia House of Delegates speaker, Del. Todd Gilbert, R-Shenandoah, center, beckons the clerk to proceed during opening ceremonies in the Virginia House chambers at the Capitol on Wednesday in Richmond.

Todd Gilbert, who has represented Shenandoah County and parts of Warren County in the House of Delegates since 2006, was unanimously elected Speaker of the House on Wednesday, the first day of the new General Assembly session.

“This is the honor of my life,” said Gilbert, a Republican, as he took the podium.

Nominating Gilbert was Del. Rob Bell, R-Charlottesville, a close friend. Bell spoke of Gilbert’s legislative experience, including serving as General Laws Committee chairman, House Majority leader in 2017, and the House Minority Leader in 2020.

Del. Kathleen Murphy, D-Fairfax, seconded the motion of Gilbert’s appointment in a spirit of bipartisanship.

In attendance on Wednesday were Gilbert’s wife, Jennifer, a reporter he met at the state Capitol, and their two sons, Grant and Jack. Grant walked up to the lectern to join his father as he addressed all the members.

Also in attendance were Gilbert’s parents, his in-laws and William B. Allen III, a local lawyer and the great-grandson of Henry Clay Allen, the first Speaker of the House from Shenandoah County, who held office in 1877.

Pastor Paige Bowman of Oakland Baptist Church in King George, Gilbert’s former pastor, opened the session with a prayer. Gilbert then gave thanks to his constituents in the 15th district and to his predecessors.

His speech also wasn’t without its quips, as Gilbert stated his friend William B. Allen III was a progressive Democrat.

“I brought him not only for the historical significance of this, but to vouch for me that I’m not as bad as y’all think I am, OK?” Gilbert said looking to the Democratic side of the chamber.

Gilbert spoke of plans to address educational issues, the higher cost of living, and public safety. He also said he hopes to return spirited debate to the floor.

“I would hope all want the same things: A better future for our children, more prosperous families and communities, and a commonwealth where everyone can live in relative safety,” Gilbert said. “We just often disagree on how best to get there.”

In a press conference before the session, the Republican leadership outlined their initiatives, which included providing school choice and combating inflation by giving a tax rebate of $300 per individual or $600 for joint filers. Other goals are to implement Project Ceasefire to fight violent crime and address legislation passed last session that gives early release for good behavior to 481 people identified as likely to commit violent crimes again, Courts of Justice Committee Chairman Bell said.

State Senate Democrats, in a virtual press conference held prior to the session opening, stated their initiatives — lowering childcare costs, addressing children’s mental health issues, enabling employers to offer paid family leave and reforming employment barriers that follow criminal convictions.

Contact Charles Paullin at cpaullin@nvdaily.com

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