RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today (August 20, 2019) addressed a Joint Meeting of the Senate Finance, House Appropriations, and House Finance Committees where he discussed the state of the Commonwealth’s finances and the Virginia economy.
“Over the last year we have worked together to maintain Virginia’s triple-A bond rating, put more money in our reserves, and made smart investments in our long-term growth,” Governor Northam said. “But as the global economy changes, we must be both cautious and strategic. During the next budget cycle we will continue laying a strong foundation for Virginia—preparing for a rainy day while investing responsibility in our long-term growth.”
Virginia ended the fiscal year with a surplus of $797 million, with much of that money already obligated for items such as water quality and taxpayer relief. The Commonwealth put $344.4 million into our reserves, which will bring total reserve funding to $1.6 billion—the highest amount ever—by 2021.
Governor Northam highlighted another important milestone for economic development in Virginia, announcing that his administration has secured $20 billion in investment since taking office in January 2018—more than any previous administration has announced in a full four-year term. This economic development has created over 51,000 new jobs across the Commonwealth.
Here is the Governor’s full remarks:
Good morning, Chairman Norment, Chairman Hanger, Chairman Jones, Chairman Ware, Speaker Cox, Members of the General Assembly, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for the privilege of speaking with you this morning.
I would like to recognize Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax, First Lady Pam Northam, and members of my Cabinet.
I am here today to update you on the Commonwealth’s revenues for the just-ended fiscal year, as we look forward to our next budget cycle and the choices we will make to ensure Virginia remains a strong and diverse place to live and work.
We start out this new budget cycle in a good place, and we all can, and should, take credit for that. We have accomplished a great deal working together.
We have maintained our triple-A bond rating, put more money in our reserves for a rainy day, and made smart investments in Virginia’s long-term growth.
We approved dedicated transportation funding this year, which will make I-81 safer and more reliable while providing much-needed revenue for transportation projects in other parts of the state as well.
We worked together to attract new business to the state—notably Amazon, which is ahead of schedule in hiring, and has submitted its development plans for its National Landing campus. Virginia Tech will offer courses in their new Alexandria location next fall. I want to thank Delegate Rush for his work with Tech, and thank all of you for the bipartisan work that went into this project.
We took a huge step to reduce the criminalization of poverty by ending the practice of suspending driver’s licenses for unpaid court costs and fees. As I have traveled the state to bring awareness to this issue, people have told me how much this means to them.
We found agreement on how to pay for a long overdue rebuilding of Central State Hospital.
We gave our teachers the largest single-year pay raise in 15 years.
We found a bipartisan resolution to the environmental challenge of what to do with 27 million cubic yards of toxic coal ash lying in unlined ponds near our waterways.
And we have now enrolled more than 306,000 additional Virginians in Medicaid through the expansion of that program. These people can now access the kind of health care many of us take for granted, helping them lead more productive lives. They can get treatment for chronic conditions.
They can get preventive care to help head off health problems before they become serious. And they can access treatment for addiction or other behavioral health issues. This access is saving lives, and we made this happen together.
We did all of these things together, working across the aisle, and put our differences aside to serve the people of Virginia.
We have opportunities to continue this good work in the session, and budget, ahead.
But first, let me update you on the financial health of the Commonwealth for the budget year that recently ended.
By and large, our financial health is good. We ended the year with a surplus of $797.7 million. But, as is often the case, much of that surplus is already obligated, for items like water quality and taxpayer relief. We also are putting $344.4 million into reserves, which means by 2021, we’ll have $1.6 billion in our reserves—approximately seven percent of our general fund revenue, the highest amount we have ever put in reserves.
This is something we all should be proud of. Last year I mentioned that putting 8 percent of our revenues into reserves is a goal of our administration, and we’re on the path to do so.
We expect revenues to grow in the coming year. I want to thank all of the economists, business leaders, and General Assembly members who volunteer to help provide our consensus revenue forecast. This is important work, and I thank Secretary Layne for his steady guidance.
While our revenues are positive, we also must plan for mandatory expenditures.
For example, we are due to rebenchmark our Standards of Quality in the coming biennium.
This is critical to ensure that our schools, and school funding, keep pace with our students’ needs, so every child receives a quality education. But it comes with a price tag.
We also know that our Medicaid program is likely to be more costly next year, as healthcare costs across the board continue to rise. Our administration is keenly aware of the issue of rising health costs, and will continue to work with you on solutions.
We also continue the work to build up our community-based behavioral health services, which provide critical support to many Virginians and their families, and we know there are costs to that work.
Over the past few years, we have invested, and will continue to invest, in strengthening our community service boards and ensuring that the services they provide are the same across the state. I want to take a moment to thank Dr. Hughes Melton for his work at our Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services.
That work must and will continue. I ask that we have a moment of silence in memory of Dr. Melton and of Hailey Green, who lost their lives in a tragic accident.
As we go into this new budget cycle, we must be both cautious and strategic.
Our unemployment rate remains at 2.9 percent. Our employers continue to add jobs. But because we are close to full employment, our job growth has slowed.
And though we are in the 12th year of economic expansion, we know that can’t last forever.
Federal policies continue to affect us. For example, the trade war with China and its resulting tariffs have already led to drastic cutbacks on purchases of American agricultural products, which hurt our farmers in Virginia.
China used to be the number one destination for Virginia’s agricultural and forestry exports, such as soybeans. In 2016, we exported nearly $700 million in those products to China.
But because of the trade war, our agricultural exports to China have lost nearly two-thirds of their value, resulting in hundreds of millions of dollars of lost revenue for Virginia farmers. Sales of soybeans are now just $235 million, and China has dropped to our number two agricultural trading partner.
Personally, we have soybeans growing on our family farm this year, and they may very well stay in the fields if we can’t sell them. The farmers I grew up with would much rather sell at a profit than rely on federal subsidies.
We live in a global economy these days, and that means what happens on a global scale also happens at the local level. As the national economy slows, Virginia’s economy is expected to slow as well.
We’re fortunate that Congress has resolved the issue of sequestration—for now.
But federal fiscal policy and the accumulation of significant federal debt—now over $22 trillion and growing—will continue to be a drag on consumers and the economy.
To best prepare the Commonwealth for the future, we must continue to protect our AAA bond rating, diversify our economy, and make strategic investments in our long-term success. We must ensure that Virginia has the strongest foundation possible.
In the 21st century, broadband is like electricity—it is a necessity of modern life.
The projects we have supported are bringing broadband connections to nearly 70,000 homes and businesses so far across the Commonwealth, and we will continue to work on this important issue.
I thank you all for the additional dollars we put into the Housing Trust Fund in the last budget. But we can, and must, do more for affordable housing.
We must continue our investment in education, from early childhood through higher education and skills training. Every Virginian deserves access to a high quality and affordable education.
Making sure that every child has access to opportunity means starting early.
Last month, I signed Executive Directive 4, establishing the Executive Leadership Team on School Readiness.
That team will work to ensure that all at-risk three and four year olds have access to quality, affordable early childhood education options. I want to thank the First Lady for her work and leadership on this issue.
There is an obvious overlap between investments in education and investments in our workforce.
My administration continues to work with our community colleges and the entire higher education system, to build bridges between education, skills training, and the high-demand jobs we need to fill and want to continue to attract.
We want Virginians to be able to get the skills they need for good jobs.
This fall, I’ll be having conversations about these workforce pathways in our communities, talking to our higher education partners, our businesses, and our local leaders to see what our communities need.
We want to make absolutely sure we continue to support our world-class workforce and educational systems—both of which helped make Virginia the best state in the nation in which to do business.
One of my proudest days as Governor was to be at Shenandoah River State Park for the announcement that CNBC had named the Commonwealth the best state for business.
Over the years, we have moved steadily from 13th, to 7th, to 4th, and we are now back to our rightful place at number one.
This is an achievement for every one of us, and it comes because we have all worked together.
My top priority as Governor is making sure that every Virginian—no matter who you are or where you live—is able to fully participate in our economic growth.
By diversifying our economy, investing in our workforce, and keeping a stable and open business climate, I am proud to report that my administration has secured extensive new investment and jobs across the Commonwealth.
That includes Premier Tech, in your district, Chairman Norment—20 jobs and almost $2 million of investment in King and Queen County.
It includes Merck in Chairman Hanger’s district—152 jobs and a billion dollars of investment in Rockingham County.
In an area of Suffolk represented by Chairman Jones, Target is investing $2.8 million to expand its distribution center, bringing 225 new jobs.
Volvo Trucks, in Delegate Rush’s district, plans to invest $400 million and create 777 new jobs in Pulaski.
In Senator Howell’s district, Appian invested $28 million to expand its headquarters to McLean, bringing 600 jobs. Senator Howell couldn’t be here today, but we wish her a speedy recovery.
In Chesapeake, in Delegate Hayes’ district, Cloverleaf Cold Storage invested $21 million to create 33 jobs.
In Senator Ruff’s district, in Dinwiddie, Richlands Creamery is investing $1.7 million and creating 17 new jobs.
And in Portsmouth, in Senator Lucas’ district, Preferred Freezer has invested $60 million to create 60 new jobs.
There are similar stories across the state. From a large company like Amazon, to a small-town Main Street shop with five employees, every business contributes to the fabric of Virginia.
Every dollar of investment, and every job created, means more Virginians can put a roof over their head, put food on their table, and sleep soundly at night knowing they are able to support themselves and their families.
That’s why I am thrilled to announce today that over the last 20 months, we have secured 378 new economic development projects that will bring over $20.3 billion in investment.
This is a record. The $20 billion of investment is more than any previous administration has announced in a full four-year term, and we have achieved this significant milestone in less than half that time.
I am proud of what this means for Virginia, and I am equally proud that $2.7 billion of this investment is in distressed communities around the Commonwealth that have often been overlooked by these types of investments.
These economic development projects will create more than 51,000 new jobs, including over 8,700 in distressed communities.
We couldn’t do this without our local, legislative, and state economic development partners.
I want to particularly thank Secretary Brian Ball and his Commerce and Trade team, as well as Stephen Moret and his team at VEDP, for their efforts to promote the Commonwealth and its communities as ideal locations for business.
And I want to thank all of you. We have done strong work to attract business and jobs, and ensure that we have a diverse economy that is strong enough to weather headwinds. As I travel the Commonwealth, businesses are excited about locating or expanding in Virginia.
We also must continue to do the work needed to make Virginia a more welcoming and inclusive place, ensuring that a person’s race, income level, or place of birth doesn’t keep them from accessing a world-class education, quality health care, or business opportunities.
I have spent the past several months traveling the Commonwealth listening to leaders and everyday Virginians share the daily inequities they face.
As we prepare this budget, I will prioritize initiatives that level the playing field for small-, women-, and minority-owned businesses, reduce the unacceptable racial disparity in Virginia’s maternal mortality rate, and ensure equal access to a world-class education.
Ensuring that Virginia is a welcoming place to live also means continuing to work to make sure this is a safe place.
As we meet here this morning, the Virginia Crime Commission has also been meeting to take up gun safety legislation that we have proposed for years, and introduced again for the special session I called earlier this summer, after the tragic mass shooting in Virginia Beach.
Universal background checks, extreme risk protective orders, one gun a month laws, and tougher penalties for people who leave loaded guns around children, are a few of the commonsense proposals that we have made.
I know where many of you stand on these issues. But I also know that we have an opportunity to come together to save lives. I hope we will seize that opportunity.
As we look to this next budget, we’re seeing larger requests for security funding, for state buildings and from outside groups. Already, for fiscal year 2020, we doubled the money in our School Security Equipment Fund. And we’ve had 133 state employees spend 4 hours each in active shooter training since July 1.
Those are resources we’d rather spend on other priorities, but our refusal to address gun violence requires us to instead prioritize self-protection.
We have made good choices together that led CNBC to award us that number one ranking.
And we have made good choices together, to invest in our infrastructure and our educational systems.
We can continue to make good choices.
From economic development to our spending priorities, we have seen that when we work together, we can build a better Virginia. When we invest in our people and our places, our roads, and the education and training people need to get good jobs, we thrive.
No matter what happens in the coming months and years, we are laying a strong foundation for Virginia to weather stormy days and prosper on sunny ones. I look forward to continuing to build upon that foundation in the upcoming session.
Governor Northam announces expansion of cloud computing degree programs with Amazon Web Services
WOODBRIDGE—Governor Ralph Northam announced a new collaboration between Amazon Web Services (AWS) and select K-12 school divisions, the Virginia Community College System (VCCS), and leading four-year universities. This collaboration will create opportunities and build pathways to high-skilled and high-wage cloud computing careers for students in all regions of the Commonwealth.
As part of the collaboration, participating academic institutions will use AWS Educate, an initiative to support cloud technology learning for students and faculty. AWS Educate will allow schools to incorporate cloud skills into high school STEM curriculum as well as associate and bachelor degree programs. This collaboration will also help employers throughout Virginia who have a growing need for workers with cloud computing skills.
“The field of cloud computing is growing and dynamic, and we know that for our Commonwealth to reach new heights and remain a national leader in tech talent, we must build seamless pathways from classrooms to careers at all education levels,” said Governor Northam. “This initiative represents exactly the kind of cooperation we need to ensure that Virginians have access to the skills they need for 21st-century jobs, while also helping employers find Virginia workers with the right training to fill those jobs.”
“The growing demand for these skills is clear,” said Chief Workforce Development Advisor Megan Healy. “Since September 2016, job postings requiring these skills in Virginia have increased from approximately 5,000 per month to 20,000 per month.”
Northern Virginia Community College and George Mason University are two of the first higher education institutions in the country to offer cloud computing degrees. As a result of this new collaboration, these successful programs will be replicated at other community colleges and four-year institutions, and high school students will have the opportunity to receive college credit in cloud computing courses through dual enrollment and early college models.
“This new degree program marks an exciting first step in a much broader plan to bring cloud computing education throughout the state, as the degree seeks to bridge into high schools and four-year institutions,” said Secretary of Education Atif Qarni.
“The need for these skills extend well beyond Amazon as a company, or even what we consider the technology industry. Practically every field is growing more reliant on this technology and need people who can make it work,” said VCCS Chancellor Glenn DuBois. “This collaboration means our students will be at the forefront of a degree program that will help prepare them for high-demand 21st-century jobs.”
“By embedding the AWS Educate program to create a statewide cloud degree program, Virginia is providing students with an on-ramp to innovation and careers in the cloud,” said Teresa Carlson, Vice President, Worldwide Public Sector, Amazon Web Services, Inc. “We applaud Governor Northam and Virginia’s educational leaders for providing this workforce development opportunity for students in all corners of the Commonwealth, from K-12 to community colleges to four-year institutions and on into the workforce.”
The following institutions will participate in this initiative and have committed to implement the cloud computing degree program in Virginia.
• Fairfax County Public Schools
• Loudon County Public Schools
• Alexandria City Public Schools
• Arlington Public Schools
• Northern Virginia Community College
• J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College
• John Tyler Community College
• Thomas Nelson Community College
• Blue Ridge Community College
• Patrick Henry Community College
• Dabney S. Lancaster Community College
• Tidewater Community College
• New River Community College
• Lord Fairfax Community College
• George Mason University
• Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
• Virginia Commonwealth University
• Old Dominion University
• Hampton University
• Virginia State University
Governor Northam Announces Commonwealth’s Unemployment Rate falls to 2.8%
RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today announced that Virginia’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate decreased 0.1 percentage point in August to 2.8 percent, which was unchanged from a year ago. In August, the labor force expanded for the fourteenth consecutive month by 14,204, or 0.3 percent to set a new record high of 4,404,492, as the number of unemployed decreased by 3,551. Household employment increased by 17,755 to set a new high of 4,281,899. Virginia’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate continues to be below the national rate, which was unchanged at 3.7 percent.
“The drop in Virginia’s unemployment rate is yet another sign that our economy remains strong and our efforts to create opportunity in every corner of the Commonwealth are paying real dividends,” said Governor Northam. “While we welcome this news, we also know that we still have challenges to overcome in making sure that all Virginians have access to affordable health care, a world-class education, and the skills they need to get a good-paying job. My administration will stay focused on making the strategic investments that will help the families we serve and ensure that Virginia continues to be the best place to do business.”
Virginia has the lowest seasonally adjusted unemployment rate among the Southeast states. Virginia has the third best rate among the states east of the Mississippi. Virginia is ranked sixth in the nation for the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate along with Colorado and Utah.
“The strength of Virginia’s labor market is evident not only in the declining unemployment rate, but in increasing rates of labor force participation that show how some who had been on the sidelines have resumed looking for work,” said Secretary of Commerce and Trade Brian Ball. “We’re proud of this statewide unemployment rate. But as some localities continue to struggle with a higher rate, the Governor remains focused on bringing new investment and jobs to all regions of the Commonwealth.”
Over-the-year employment growth in Virginia has been positive for 65 consecutive months. For August, Virginia’s over-the-year growth of 1.8 percent was greater than the national rate. Nationally, over-the-year growth was higher in August at 1.5 percent from 0.8 percent in July and 0.9 percent in June.
“Virginia’s thoughtful investments in workforce development are paying off in the form of sustained low unemployment rates and a growing labor force,” said Chief Workforce Development Advisor Megan Healy. “Thanks to Governor Northam’s leadership, more Virginians than in our Commonwealth’s history have either now secured or are seeking a job. We are encouraged by our progress, and will continue to deliver opportunities and results for job seekers and employers throughout Virginia in the months ahead.”
In August, the private sector recorded an over-the-year gain of 35,500 jobs, while employment in the public sector increased as well by 1,200 jobs. Compared to a year ago, on a seasonally adjusted basis, eight of the eleven major industry divisions experienced employment gains, while the other three experienced employment losses.
For a greater statistical breakdown visit the Virginia Employment Commission’s website at www.vec.virginia.gov.
Governor Northam announces 105 new jobs in the City of Manassas
RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today announced that High Purity Systems, Inc., a leading provider of mechanical piping systems for a broad range of industries, will invest approximately $8.5 million to grow its manufacturing operation in the City of Manassas. The company will expand into a new, 30,000-square-foot facility in order to increase production capabilities for piping fabrication. The project will create 105 new jobs.
“Innovative manufacturers like High Purity Systems are thriving due to the region’s competitive operating costs, strong pipeline of skilled talent, and extensive transportation network,” said Governor Northam. “Virginia’s existing businesses play an important role in fostering economic vitality, and when they choose to reinvest and expand, it helps generate and sustain economic development throughout the Commonwealth. With a wide range of clients across cutting-edge and emerging industries, High Purity Systems is an emblem of 21st-century manufacturing, and we thank the company for its continued commitment to the City of Manassas.”
In business for over 30 years and based in the City of Manassas, High Purity Systems, Inc. (HPS) specializes in solving complex, highly technical mechanical projects for a variety of industries including microelectronics, biopharmaceutical, aerospace, food and beverage manufacturers, and other industrial companies. In addition to traditional mechanical services, HPS’ expertise includes fabricating and installing critical process piping systems, performing orbital welding and other specialty welding services, and manufacturing skidded piping systems.
“High Purity Systems has thrived in the City of Manassas for more than three decades, and we are honored that the company has again chosen to reinvest in the Commonwealth for its latest multi-million-dollar expansion,” said Secretary of Commerce and Trade Brian Ball. “This homegrown manufacturer is a valued corporate partner that will continue to benefit from the region’s robust infrastructure, world-renowned workforce, and strategic access to its growing customer base. We look forward to HPS’ continued success in Virginia, and to the creation of 105 new, high-paying manufacturing jobs.”
“High Purity Systems, Inc. is proud to partner with the Virginia Economic Development Partnership and the City of Manassas Economic Development Authority to expand our operations,” said Jody Ralston, CEO of High Purity Systems, Inc. “Our company and our employees’ families have deep roots in the area, which is why we’re thrilled to remain in the City of Manassas and the Commonwealth of Virginia. This expansion significantly increases our capacity to serve our industrial and government client base throughout the Washington D.C. metropolitan area, as well as our national fabrication customers.”
HPS is seeking individuals with any level of experience in Project Management, Estimating, Engineering, BIM/VDC/CAD, Welding, Mechanical Helper, Marketing, Accounting, as well as anyone looking for an exciting career in the Piping and Metal Trades. Interested candidates are encouraged to apply at highpurity.com/careers.
The Virginia Economic Development Partnership worked with the City of Manassas to secure the project for Virginia and will support HPS’ job creation through the Virginia Jobs Investment Program (VJIP). VJIP provides consultative services and funding to companies creating new jobs or experiencing technological change in order to support employee training activities. As a business incentive supporting economic development, VJIP reduces the human resource costs of new and expanding companies. VJIP is state-funded, demonstrating Virginia’s commitment to enhancing job opportunities for citizens. The company is eligible to receive Sales and Use tax exemptions on manufacturing equipment, as well as a Major Business Facility Job Tax Credit for new, full-time jobs created.
“High Purity Systems, Inc. has become a vital part of the Manassas business community with ties to several of the City’s largest employers in aerospace and advanced manufacturing,” said Mayor Harry J. Parrish II. “We are proud to have created an environment in which companies like HPS are able to thrive and grow, helping make the City of Manassas a regional employment center with one of the highest percentages of high-wage jobs in professional and technical services in Virginia.”
“High-paying, skilled jobs are a critical component of our efforts to diversify Virginia’s economy,” said Senator Jeremy McPike. “The investment that High Purity Systems, Inc. is making in the City of Manassas strengthens our community by creating these high-paying jobs closer to home.”
Harrisonburg woman pleads guilty to fatal overdose distribution
HARRISONBURG, VIRGINIA – Iza Mar Rosario-Cruzado, 31, of Harrisonburg, Va., pleaded guilty yesterday in U.S. District Court to one count of distributing and possessing with the intent to distribute a mixture of heroin and fentanyl. Rosario-Cruzado further admitted her distribution of this drug mixture resulted in an overdose death. United States Attorney Thomas T. Cullen made the announcement following the defendant’s guilty plea.
“Heroin laced with fentanyl is driving the opioid epidemic that has ravaged our district for the last several years,” U.S. Attorney Cullen stated today. “We will continue to work closely with our state and local partners to investigate and prosecute cases involving overdose deaths and hold dealers accountable under federal law.”
“This sentence is a great example of our efforts to keep our local communities safe from the spread of drugs. Heroin and fentanyl are extremely deadly substances and those who spread this poison across our cities, acting with blatant disregard for the lives of the people who live here, will not be tolerated,” said Special Against in Charge Jesse R. Fong of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, Washington Field Division. “This case is a testament to the hard work DEA and our law enforcement partners do every day to keep these dangerous drugs out of the hands of our loved ones.”
According to court documents entered during yesterday’s hearing, on December 13, 2017, victim M.J.M. was found deceased following a heroin and fentanyl overdose. Investigators determined that the day prior, December 12, 2017, Rosario-Cruzado distributed a mixture of heroin and fentanyl to Richard Mansfield. Mansfield subsequently redistributed the same drugs to M.J.M., who ingested them, resulting in his overdose death.
On September 12, 2018, Mansfield pleaded guilty to one count of distributing a mixture of heroin and fentanyl.
At sentencing, scheduled for December 17, 2019, Rosario-Cruzado faces between 12-16 years in years in federal prison, as agreed to as part of her plea agreement.
The investigation of the case was conducted by the Drug Enforcement Administration, Virginia State Police, and Harrisonburg Police Department, with the assistance of Rockingham County Commonwealth’s Attorney Marsha L. Garst. Assistant United States Attorney Jeb Terrien is prosecuting the case for the United States.
September 24 is National Voter Registration Day
RICHMOND, VA – The Virginia Department of Elections is pleased to participate in National Voter Registration Day (NVRD) on Tuesday, September 24, 2019. Volunteers and organizations from all over the Commonwealth will encourage all eligible Virginians to register to vote and increase awareness of voter registration opportunities.
On that day, the Department, in coordination with OnTheSquareVA, will host an “Everything Elections” NVRD event. The table will be set up from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Capitol Square near the Bell Tower. At the table, the public can register to vote, update their voter address, request an absentee ballot, obtain voter photo ID information, or sign up to be an Officer of Elections.
Department employees will be on hand to answer any questions about elections and the voter registration process.
Every year, millions of Americans are unable to vote because they miss a registration deadline, do not update their registration information, or are not sure how to register. National Voter
Registration Day seeks to raise awareness of voter registration opportunities around the country.
“At the Virginia Department of Elections, we are committed to making the voter registration process as easy, convenient and transparent as possible,” said Christopher Piper, Virginia Department of Elections Commissioner. “We are thankful for all those who help us fulfill that mission.”
The deadline for registering to vote in the November 5, 2019 general election is Tuesday, October 15, 2019. All eligible Virginians can register to vote, update their voter address, or verify their registration status at vote.virginia.gov.
As of August 31, 2019, the Commonwealth of Virginia has 5,588,740 registered voters.You can find out more about National Voter Registration Day at NationalVoterRegistrationDay.org.
Former Director for Diversity Initiatives at Old Dominion University will join Northam Administration in newly-created role
RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam announced that Dr. Janice Underwood, former Director of Diversity Initiatives at Old Dominion University, will serve as Virginia’s first-ever Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. Governor Northam announced the creation of this senior-level position in May, kicking off an extensive candidate selection process that involved numerous state agencies, stakeholders, and highly-qualified applicants.
“I am committed to making Virginia more equitable and inclusive, and that starts with my administration and our state government,” said Governor Northam. “Dr. Underwood’s background as an educator, leader and collaborator, as well as her experience promoting inclusive policies and directing a variety of diversity initiatives, make her the perfect person to fill this role. I’m thrilled to welcome Dr. Underwood to our administration, and I look forward to having her as a partner in this important work.”
As the Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in the Commonwealth of Virginia, Dr. Underwood will develop a sustainable framework to promote inclusive practices across Virginia state government; implement a measurable, strategic plan to address systemic inequities in state government practices; and facilitate ways to turn feedback from state employees, external stakeholders, and community leaders into concrete equity policy.
“I am deeply honored to serve the Commonwealth in this inaugural position,” said Dr. Underwood. “As I embark on this role I will be relying on my many personal and professional experiences as a teacher, an educational researcher, a parent and wife, and a diversity leader. I am dedicated to working with Virginians to promote lasting, institutional change at all levels of state government, and I look forward to working closely with Governor Northam and the rest of his administration to make the Commonwealth more diverse, equitable, and inclusive for all who live here.”
Dr. Janice Underwood earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Hampton University in 1998 (B.A. Psychology) and 2002 (M.A. Learning and Behavior Disorders), respectively. In 2015, she earned her Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction from Old Dominion University (ODU), where her research focused on culturally relevant pedagogy.
Prior to her appointment, Dr. Underwood served as Old Dominion University’s Director of Diversity Initiatives and as the chair of the President’s Task Force on Inclusive Excellence. Dr. Underwood previously served as the Executive Director and Co-Principal Investigator for the ODU Teacher in Residence master’s program, a collaborative partnership between ODU, Norfolk Public Schools and Newport News Public schools. Dr. Underwood also served for a number of years as a national board certified teacher for students with exceptionalities, and has extensive expertise in the cultural contexts of our public education system.
In these roles, Dr. Underwood has worked to create inclusive work and learning environments, and has collaborated with outside groups—such as the Virginia Community College System, the Chesapeake Public Library, and more—on professional development related to racial and cultural diversity.