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Governor Ralph Northam delivered his final State of the Commonwealth

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On January 12, 2022, Governor Ralph Northam delivered his final State of the Commonwealth to a joint session of the General Assembly in Richmond.

In the last speech of his term, Governor Northam thanked Virginians for their support, friendship, and trust throughout his tenure as the 73rd Governor of the Commonwealth.

He also highlighted the historic achievements of the last four years, including his administration’s work to expand Medicaid, secure record economic growth, reform our criminal justice system, close the digital divide, teach the true history of Virginia, expand access to the ballot box, and keep Virginians safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Here is Governor Northam’s remarks as prepared for delivery.


Good evening.

Mr. Speaker, Madam President Lucas, Lieutenant Governor Fairfax, ladies, and gentlemen –thank you for inviting me to speak with you tonight.

To my wife Pam, to Justices of the Supreme Court, members of the State Corporation Commission, and my Cabinet and staff, thank you for your service to our Commonwealth. To Justices Lemons and Mims, congratulations on your retirements, and thank you for your service.

And to everyone in this chamber and watching at home, thank you. And happy New Year.

This is my fourth, and final, address to you, and to the people of Virginia. This speech – an update on the state of our Commonwealth – is a longstanding tradition. And it has value beyond what I say here tonight. This is a time when elected leaders from different branches of government, different political parties, and different parts of the state come together, to talk about the Commonwealth that we all share. No matter our differences, or what we share in common, every year we come together.

Next Monday, Governor-elect Youngkin will speak to you in just the same way. By then, he will be Governor. I wish him the best and I’m confident he will lead this Commonwealth well. When he succeeds, Virginia succeeds.

This is a night when I talk about the state of the Commonwealth. And this time, my last time, I’m going to talk about what we have done over the past four years to improve the state, and what kind of Commonwealth I am leaving in your hands.

We are only here for a short time—especially governors. But every day is an opportunity to help someone, to make their life better.

And that is how we have governed.

If you asked me who we are in Virginia, I would tell you we are people who care about each other. We try to treat each other right. We want our neighbors to succeed, just as much as we want that for ourselves. We know that it’s not enough for me to be doing ok—you need to be doing ok, too. And our policy choices are rooted in who we are—people who want the best for others.

My adult life has been about helping people, especially children. Serving in the Army, working as medical director of a pediatric hospice, and caring for thousands of children—all of those roles have allowed me to help people.

I saw the Senate, the lieutenant governor’s office, and now the governor’s office as a means to help people at a different level—especially those who need it the most. It has been a chance to help people with fewer resources. And I also saw a chance, as the first governor in generations to come from a rural area, to put a greater focus on helping rural Virginia.

Shortly before I ran for Senate, I evaluated an infant in the emergency room. I diagnosed him with cerebral palsy, seizures, and cystic fibrosis. All of those are serious medical conditions, and they require a lot of care. As I walked back to my office, I saw the father on the phone. He was crying, and saying he could never afford the medical care that his child would need. That experience convinced me that healthcare is a right, not a privilege. No father should have to worry that he can’t afford to take care of his child. I ran for office to help that man and others like him.

I also remember as a doctor sitting with a family whose child had picked up a loaded gun in the home and shot himself. Dead at age 3. I’ve been to too many funerals for children who died because of a firearm. Like a loaded gun in the home, or a stray bullet on the playground. I ran for office to help ensure that more families won’t have to endure that kind of pain.

Virginians choose leaders who will make our Commonwealth work better for them and their families, no matter who they are or where they live.

I can confidently say that we have done that.

We are leaving this Commonwealth better than it was when we came into office.
We have built a state that does a better job of treating people right. It’s more welcoming, more open, more fair, and equitable.

We have built a state that helps people who need it—whether they need health care or cleaner water, or to keep a roof over their head during a global pandemic.

We have built a state that recognizes the wrongs of the past and works to reckon with and rectify them.

We have built a state where everyone has greater access to opportunity—the opportunity to get what you need, to build the life you want to live, where you want to live it.

Everything we have built and accomplished over these four years has been about helping people.

We are leaving in your hands a strong and healthy Commonwealth, one that treats everyone right takes care of people when they need it, and provides opportunity for everyone to thrive.

We could not have a safe and stable Virginia without the work of my Cabinet, their teams, state agency heads, and the thousands of state employees. They truly provide the service in public service – from law enforcement to road crews, to social workers. I hope you’ll join me in a round of applause for our state workforce.

**

I am leaving you with the strongest state budget Virginia has ever seen. Thanks to our strong economy, we are at a unique moment, when we have the funding to catch up on long-delayed investments, while also putting money back into the pockets of the hardest working Virginians. Just today, we announced that general fund revenues were up 20 percent in December—making it five straight months of double-digit revenue growth.

We need to be clear, this is because we have consistently taken a prudent, cautious approach to budgeting.

We have strengthened our balance sheet to keep our finances stable. We’ve made targeted long-term investments to help Virginia grow, helped people get through the pandemic, and put money aside as a buffer for the future.

In fact, I’ve sent you a budget that brings our reserves to more than $3.8 billion. That’s 16.8 percent, more than double the 8 percent I set as a goal four years ago, and more than any previous governor of either party.

I want to thank Secretary of Finance, Joe Flores, and his team, along with the Department of Planning and Budget. Building Virginia’s budget and keeping our finances steady and stable requires people who know state finances in and out, and we’ve been lucky to have that during this administration. Thanks also to Senator Howell and Delegate Torian, chairs of the money committees, for their leadership over the course of some very complicated state budget cycles.

**

We’ve also had record economic success. I’ve traveled around the world, meeting with companies, and telling them why Virginia is the best place to be. During our four years, we’ve brought in more than $81 billion in economic investment, more than four times any previous administration, and creating more than 103,000 jobs.

For most people, the most important thing they need is a job where they can support themselves and their family. From Day One, I wanted Virginia to be the best state for business because I knew it would mean we were doing the right things to attract jobs and help Virginians.

That’s why I am so proud that we’ve been CNBC’s best state for business in back-to-back years—something no other state has done.

We are also ranked number one for business climate by Business Facilities magazine. We have proven that when you treat people right, it’s good for everyone and it’s good for business. Businesses are excited to be in Virginia and to come to Virginia.
Being named best state for business is a testament to our workforce, our education system, our commitment to diversity, and our strong business climate.

From Amazon making Virginia home to its second headquarters in 2018, to Micron’s $3 billion investment to build semiconductors, to Blue Star’s incredible commitment to make billions of medical gloves in Wytheville, Virginia is the state where companies want to invest, put down roots, and grow.

We’ve also taken steps to be a better state for workers. I’ve listened to Virginians who told me they just couldn’t support themselves on $7.25 an hour. They were always one paycheck away from losing the roof over their head. That’s why we’re raising the minimum wage—an increase to $11 an hour just kicked in, and we’ll get to $15 by 2026. We’ve helped working families in a variety of other ways—we’ve made it easier to adopt through surrogates through Jacob’s law, and for our own state workforce, we’ve put in one of the most progressive family leave programs in the country. When you treat workers and their families right, it helps everyone.

We’ve also made historic investments in affordable housing, and Virginia leads the nation for rent relief during COVID—helping people keep a roof over their heads.

I want to thank Secretary of Commerce and Trade Brian Ball, and everyone on our economic development team. A state that’s both good for business and good for workers doesn’t happen by accident. It is built with a lot of hard work, and these folks deserve the credit. With everything Virginia has going for us, there’s no reason we
can’t be best state for business for a fourth year. I’ll be cheering you on.

**

Our best in the country success has come in part because we have been deliberate about building a workforce and an education system that are second to none.
These days, if you want to get a good job and get ahead, you need additional skills training or education beyond a high school diploma.

I have sent you a budget that continues the priorities we’ve pursued all along. We have put half a billion dollars into HBCUs during my term, an increase of 87 percent. And we are making higher education and skills training more affordable, and more accessible to all.

That includes a program I’ve wanted to implement since I ran for governor. As I campaigned, people told me about dropping out of community college because they couldn’t afford it. We came up with the G3 program, making community college tuition-free for low and moderate-income students if they are getting training in high-need areas. I appreciate Senator Saslaw and Delegate Filler-Corn for their work to pass this important initiative.

Our higher education system is dependent on our K-12 system. Every child deserves the same opportunity to get the skills and knowledge they’ll need to thrive in life.

That’s why for the past four years, we have increased our investments in K-12 education. We’ve put historic amounts of support into at-risk students. We’ve raised teacher salaries more than 10 percent, the largest increase in 15 years. The budget I’ve sent to you dedicates new funding to help localities build or modernize their schools.

And we have invested in early childhood education. As a pediatrician, I know that brain development starts early—those first years are vital, and a robust early childhood education system means that children with fewer advantages can get the same good start in life. I am grateful to my wife Pam, who made early childhood education her mission, and everyone who has worked on the early childhood team in our administration.

Our teachers, our school staffs, our administrators, are dedicated to one thing: educating children. They are highly trained and skilled, and they do a phenomenal job. They all deserve our thanks and gratitude, especially after the stresses and challenges of the past 22 months.

I want to thank Secretary of Education Fran Bradford, and our incredible education team. I also want to thank Virginia’s first Secretary of Labor Megan Healy. Education and workforce go hand in hand, and these teams have done tremendous work over the past four years.

**

Education does not just happen in a classroom. And it is not only the young who can learn new things. If we are not learning, we are stagnating. And if we cling only to what we think we know—without keeping our minds open to new information—then we cannot move forward.

My administration has made it a priority to ensure that in Virginia, we understand our past—so we can learn from our mistakes. For too long, we’ve been comfortable telling a story about Virginia’s history that left out a lot of people—and a lot of uncomfortable facts.

But we cannot pick and choose history based on how it makes us feel. We need to understand the full and true story—and put a Black child’s right to have her history included in our textbooks before our own desire to feel comfortable.

That is the only way we can understand how yesterday affects today—and make changes for tomorrow.

We are a commonwealth of contradictions—the place where the first enslaved African people landed, and the place where representative government was born.

We have worked, hand in hand with many of you, to make Virginia a place that reckons with its past.

We have given greater support to institutions dedicated to telling that full and painful story. We’ve focused our historical resources on telling stories that have been marginalized. For example, when Senator Richard Stuart found that stones on his property, used on the river bank to control erosion, were actually headstones, he called for help—and we discovered they had been taken from the historically Black Harmony Cemetery in Washington, tossed aside during development with no respect for the people they represented. We were able to get many of those stones back to the graves they belonged to.

We have taken steps in every agency of this Commonwealth to better support and celebrate the diversity of our state. And we have developed government-to-government relationships with the sovereign tribal nations that called Virginia home for thousands of years before Europeans arrived.

With much help, I put together the most diverse, talented, and hardworking Cabinet in the history of Virginia. We created the state-level Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, led by the country’s first cabinet-level Chief Diversity Officer, and I thank Dr. Janice Underwood and her team for all their work.

I know that talking about history—our real, true history—can make some people uncomfortable. Mostly those people look like me. And I have not always understood the ways that the uglier parts of our past affect things and people today.

But I kept my mind open. I listened, and I learned. I used to tell students, the eyes can’t see what the brain doesn’t know. I know that Virginians want to understand each other.

As someone who works with children, I know that hatred, bigotry, and discrimination are not things we are born with. They are things we learn. And that means inclusion is also something we can learn.

We all work in good faith to try to understand the world we live in together. It’s hard when we don’t all hear the same stories, and we don’t all understand the same facts. It can feel like we’re further apart than ever. But the Virginia I see is full of people who have more in common than their differences. The better we understand our past, the more we broaden that common ground.

**

As Governor, and as legislators, our job is to be good stewards of this Commonwealth and to prepare for what will come in the next ten, twenty, fifty years.

When it comes to the environment, we know that the next 50 years – the next five years – will be a time of great change.

We are already seeing that. Christmas Day in Richmond was 70 degrees, and last week we got half a foot of snow. In Colorado recently, wildfires burned a thousand homes, and then the ashes were covered by a blizzard. Western Kentucky towns were devastated by rare December tornadoes.

Our climate is changing, and our weather is changing – faster than ever, and with devastating consequences.

We must do our part to stem the tide, and make sure that the world we leave for our children and grandchildren is safe. I ran for office in part because I was seeing the demise of the Chesapeake Bay—the disappearance of sub-aquatic grasses, crabs, and other living creatures. I ran for office to help save and protect our waters and air for our grandchildren to enjoy.

In the past four years, we have invested strongly in clean energy. I was proud to sign the Virginia Clean Economy Act, and I thank Senator McClellan and Delegate Sullivan for spearheading the work to get that legislation passed.

Clean energy is a job generator. Businesses that are looking to locate in Virginia like our renewable energy initiatives. And Virginia is also at the vanguard of the new offshore wind energy industry in the United States.

We must embrace clean energy because the cost of not doing so will be devastating. If you want more floods, more fires, more storms, more disaster—and more destroyed property, lost jobs, and devastated communities– then do nothing. But a stable future requires us to act.

That’s why I’m leaving a plan for a cleaner energy future.

And it’s also why we’ve spent four years making our waters and our air cleaner and safer for our children, and our children’s children—including investing $1 billion in cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay.

I am confident we are leaving our environment cleaner and better than when we found it—and that we’ve put in place the right policies to make Virginia a leader in clean energy, and the jobs and economic progress that come with it.

I want to thank Secretary of Natural and Historic Resources Ann Jennings, and her team for their work these past four years to make Virginia’s environment a better place.

**

Leaving a better future for our children also means leaving a system that protects public safety, and ensures that our justice system is as fair as possible.

Our law enforcement do an incredibly difficult, and often dangerous job. That’s why this year, I sent you a budget that provides pay raises and bonuses meant to not just reward our officers, deputies, and jail officers for the tough jobs they do, but also to make pay scales more fair.

We also worked closely with you to make sure our criminal justice system reflects the Virginia that we are today.

Too often, our modern-day punishments and practices have their roots in a more discriminatory and unfair past.

That’s why we’ve made marijuana use legal. I want to thank Senator Lucas, Senator Ebbin, and Delegate Herring for their work on this policy, which is complicated, but important.

That’s also why we have ended use of the death penalty in Virginia—the first southern state to do so—because it was applied unfairly, and we couldn’t rely on the system to get it right. Thanks go to Senator Surovell, Delegate Mullin, and many others who have worked on this for years.

Just look at the Martinsville 7 – Black men who were convicted of rape and sentenced to death by an all-white jury. In Virginia, it was almost entirely Black men who were sentenced to death for rape convictions, and it was clear these seven men were executed because they were Black. I was glad to acknowledge that wrong, in some measure, by granting them a posthumous pardon earlier this year.

In fact, our administration has restored the civil rights and voting rights for nearly 126,000 people and issued more than 1,100 pardons—more than all past governors combined.

That’s because second chances are important. We cannot expect people to fully reenter our society as long as we hold that conviction over their heads, and refuse to treat them like full members of society. If you commit a crime, you should expect punishment—but punishment should fit the crime.

This year Virginians could have a chance to vote to make the restoration of rights automatic if the work of Senator Mamie Locke and others is successful. There must be a date at which we say, enough. You’ve paid your debt, and it’s time to move forward.

That’s who we are in Virginia. We are a state that believes in justice, not just punishment. And we are a state that believes in grace, and in mercy.

The facts demonstrate that what we’re doing is working. In the last five years, Virginia has had one of the lowest recidivism rates in the country.

I want to thank Secretary of Public Safety Brian Moran and his team for all their work to make Virginia a state that is safer, and more just, for everyone. And I want to thank Secretary of the Commonwealth Kelly Thomasson, who has now helped two governors restore the rights of thousands of Virginians and everyone on her team. They have done an incredible job.

**

I mentioned that we restored voting rights for thousands of Virginians.

Voting is fundamental to our democracy. Many Americans have fought—and some paid the ultimate price—to protect the freedoms we have under our democratic system, including the right to vote.

That’s why voting should be as easy as possible, for as many voters as possible.
Yet for too many people, barriers still exist. I remember talking to a trucker who told me his schedule was so unpredictable that he often didn’t get to vote—because he was on the road on Election Day.

That’s why we’ve worked together to make Virginia a leader in voting access.
Now, you can vote early for 45 days before the election—without having to explain your schedule to an election official.

Election Day is a state holiday—because we want people to have the free time to vote or to volunteer at the polls.

And voter registration is automatic through the DMV.

Virginia has gone from being one of the toughest, most restrictive voting environments, to one of the best and most secure in the country. I want to thank Senator Deeds, Senator Locke, Senator Lucas, Delegate Herring, Delegate Simon, Delegate VanValkenburg and many others.

Because of these changes, we have seen record voter turnout in the past two elections. In fact, the 2021 election—in which all of you in the House were elected—saw a 20 percent increase in voter participation over four years ago. Contrast that with other states that have chosen to make voting harder and more restrictive—with the result that fewer people vote.

This shows us that our current rules work. Our elections are fair and transparent.
And it’s really important for voters to hear that message—especially from those of you elected to office under these rules. It does tremendous damage when elected officials use false claims to undermine faith in our elections. Voters deserve better, and our elected officials need to do better, and not perpetuate anyone’s big lie.

Virginia’s elections are always well-run, they’re free and fair, and they’re transparent. This is a hallmark of our democracy, and I am proud of all Virginians whose efforts help ensure that our elections go smoothly. I want to thank everyone in the Department of Elections, along with Secretary of Administration Grindly Johnson and her teams.

**

Voting is a right—not something to be held back as a privilege, reserved for a few.
Access to health care is also a right—not a privilege to be reserved for those who can afford it.

Like the father I mentioned earlier, faced with not being able to afford care for his sick child. That shouldn’t happen.

That’s why I was proud that in the first year of my term, together we agreed to expand Medicaid access to thousands of Virginians.

We couldn’t foresee the pandemic, but I am glad that when a global health crisis arrived, more than 600,000 Virginians had access to care that they did not have in 2018. Thanks to the work and cooperative spirit of the Southwest Virginia delegation—and I won’t mention you by name—we made that happen. We were able to come together, across party lines, because it was the right thing to do. That is who we are. We don’t just want health care for ourselves—we want it for our neighbors.

And never before has our health been so dependent on others, as in the past 22 months of this pandemic.

In the midst of a contagious respiratory virus, where my actions affect you and your actions affect me, we needed Virginia to be a state where people take care of their neighbors.

As the nation’s only governor who is also a doctor, I am proud of how Virginia has handled this pandemic. We have followed the science to keep Virginians as safe and healthy as possible. We have seen fewer cases and fewer deaths than many of our neighbors. Nearly 90 percent of our adult population has had at least one shot. We’re the 9th state in the nation for having our residents fully vaccinated, and for vaccination rates for teenagers. We’re doing better at vaccinations than many other large states and all of our southern neighbors.

That said, none of that matters to the people who have lost a loved one to this terrible virus. Nearly 16,000 Virginians have died of COVID in the past 22 months. And all of them were dear to someone. My deepest sympathy goes to the families and loved ones for their loss. I’d like to take a moment of silence in their memory.

As I leave office, I hope that our Commonwealth will continue doing what we know works: follow the science. Get vaccinated. Wear masks. Take care of other people, not just ourselves. That is who I know Virginians to be.

I want to thank Secretary of Health and Human Resources Dr. Vanessa Walker Harris and her team. I also want to take a moment to thank the thousands of doctors, nurses, teachers, Guard men and women, and public safety officers who have worked tirelessly to keep us safe.

In the balcony this evening I want to introduce a few folks.

We have Major General Timothy Williams, who leads our Virginia National Guard.
Dr. Linsey Marr, the Charles Lunsford professor in civil and environmental engineering at Virginia Tech, whose groundbreaking research has helped guide not only the nation but the world during this pandemic.

Dr. Norm Oliver who has led our Department of Health with distinction and compassion,

And Dr. Danny Avula, who dropped everything when this pandemic broke out to lead our Covid task force.

These individuals worked day in and day out, facing an unknown virus, trying to give the best health guidance they could to a worried public.

If you look at our COVID data, you can see that we have lost fewer Virginians than many other states. This team has saved thousands of lives, and I am incredibly grateful.

We owe our thanks to our public health workers. They are truly public servants, dedicated to helping their neighbors stay safe and healthy. They deserve our gratitude. It hasn’t been easy, and their work is not done.

If you want to thank them—our public health workers, our local health departments, our doctors and nurses in hospitals, our long-term care facilities staff—then you know what to do. Get vaccinated or boosted. Wear a mask. Protect the people around you. That’s how to thank a health care worker.

**
Over the past four years, we have done a lot to make Virginia a better place to live and work. We’ve also made it an easier place to live and work—by investing in the infrastructure that connects us all.

If you commute, or if you travel, you want better roads and rail systems. If you work from home, or you’re in school, you need reliable Internet access.
We have laid the groundwork to transform that infrastructure.

In just four years, we’ve moved broadband investments from $4 million a year, to $2 billion. We’re on track to have universal broadband on its way to every community by 2024—far faster than expected, and faster than most other states.

This is one of the most important investments we could have made, especially in rural communities. Broadband is to today’s economy what electricity was generations ago. It is quite simply a necessary service for students to connect to education, businesses to connect to the wider world, and citizens to connect to work. I want to thank Senator Boysko for her role leading the Broadband Advisory Council, which has played an important part in this progress.

We’ve also made generational investments in roads and rail–$3.8 billion to expand the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel, $2.2 billion to fix I-81 and $3.7 billion to transform rail across the Commonwealth.

These projects, and many others, will help Virginians in every part of the state get where they want to go faster, and safer.

I want to thank Secretary of Transportation Shannon Valentine and her team for all their work to transform the way we move around Virginia.

**

Investments like broadband are especially important for rural Virginia.

As you all know, I was born and raised on the Eastern Shore. And one of my goals as governor was to put more focus on the needs of rural Virginia. Too often, rural communities feel left behind.

You often hear people say they grew up in rural Virginia, but they live and work somewhere else.

Rural areas often don’t have the same work or educational opportunities as our urban and suburban areas. In other parts of the state, you often hear, “well, why don’t they just move?” But that’s not the answer. Instead of encouraging people to leave rural areas, we have worked to bring more opportunities to them.

I’ve made rural Virginia a priority—as my friend Senator Bill Stanley reminded me recently, I promised him I wouldn’t forget Southside, and he’ll tell you that I lived up to my word.

We’ve supported rural economic development—such as the biggest new jobs announcement in Southwest Virginia in a decade, 2,500 new jobs making nitrile gloves in Wythe County. My friend Congressman Morgan Griffith called it the largest economic development announcement made in Southwest during his time in Congress.

We created the Office of Outdoor Recreation to promote Virginia as both a great place for outdoor businesses, and for outdoor travelers. This section of the economy is huge and has great potential for growth. Thanks to Senator Hanger and Delegate Bulova for their dedication to these issues through the Virginia Outdoor Recreation Caucus.

We created the ReBuild Virginia program, investing nearly $400 million in grants to help our small businesses in communities across the Commonwealth stay afloat during the pandemic.

And we’ve supported agriculture, our largest industry. We’ve funded 55 Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development projects, more than the past two administrations combined, and we’ve supported and conserved working lands and forests.

I want to thank Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Bettina Ring, everyone on her team, and everyone who works to support and prioritize rural Virginia. Every community, from the Eastern Shore to Lee County and everywhere in between, deserves attention, and it’s been important to me that rural Virginia not be left behind.

**

I also want to thank our Secretary of Veterans Affairs Carlos Hopkins, who is actively serving with the National Guard in the Middle East right now, and Acting Secretary Kathleen Jabs. They and their teams have done amazing work to support veterans and make sure that we are well-connected with the military operations that call Virginia home.

One in 12 Virginians is a military veteran. In fact, I’m one of them. In the past four years, we’ve promoted the V3 program to hire more veterans, and taken a number of steps to help ease the transition to civilian life. We are one of the best states for veterans, and I hope we continue to take care of veterans as they deserve.

I also want to thank our National Guard, who have done so much to serve this Commonwealth. We call on them to help in emergencies, from last January’s attempted insurrection in Washington to natural disasters, to our COVID response. They helped with testing in 2020 and vaccinations in 2021. And more National Guard members are deployed now than at any other time since World War II. We are truly grateful to them.

**

Four years ago, I stood here, in this room, on this dais, in front of many of you. I told you where I wanted to take Virginia. And I asked you to work with me to get us there.

It has been a more tumultuous four years than I think any of us expected. But the challenges have also been opportunities.

More people have health care access. More people have jobs. More people have access to an affordable education. More people have access to broadband—and soon, everyone will have it.

Our rail system is prepared for important upgrades. Our energy sources are becoming cleaner and safer. Our teachers, law enforcement officers, and public servants are paid better. The Chesapeake Bay and its estuaries are healthier.

We are telling a fuller story of our shared history, and inviting more voices to the table.

We are protecting the rights of more people, and making Virginia a more open and welcoming place to live.

Tonight, I can say that together, we have accomplished more than we could have dreamed of that night in 2018.

At every turn, we’ve looked for ways to help people.

We are leaving you with a Virginia that treats people right, helps neighbors when they need it, rectifies past wrongs, and helps everyone have the opportunity to thrive.

That’s who we are as a people—and we are all God’s people, created equally. We take care of each other.

Tonight, let’s ask ourselves—are we going to keep up this progress? Or will we retreat, become people who are more worried about ourselves than each other?

I hope we will not. I hope the spirit of helping other people continues to prevail. I hope we’ll continue to be people who want to serve the world, rather than conquer it. People who show kindness and hope, rather than anger and fear.

We all are here for a short period of time, and every day is a God-given opportunity to help someone, to make their life better.

I am grateful to all of you in the General Assembly for the work you’ve done with me and my team, and for your constituents. I have worked with some of you for a number of years, as a colleague in the Senate, then as lieutenant governor, and now as governor. I know that despite our differences, you all care deeply about this Commonwealth and the people we serve.

And I again want to thank my Cabinet and my staff. Members of my Cabinet, please stand.

They have devoted themselves to doing good for the people of Virginia, and while you don’t always see their work or hear their names, everything we have done well has been their work. They deserve our thanks.

Over these four years, I have been welcomed into communities in every corner of this Commonwealth. I have met thousands of my fellow Virginians, and what I have been most struck by is this—Virginians are good people.

You want to help others. You have a deep love of place, and of your community. You want to see your neighbors do well.

You put your trust in me to lead our great Commonwealth as the 73rd Governor. And I promised to make the best decisions I could for you.

Every single day of the past four years, my team and I have tried to live up to that trust. And every day, I have felt so proud, and grateful for you, Virginia. I’ve seen your strength and resilience, your kindness, your generosity. It is you, more than anything else, that makes Virginia the best state, in the best country in the world.

It has been the highlight of my life to serve you. As a past governor rightly said, there is truly no higher honor, than to serve as Governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia.

From the bottom of my heart – thank you.

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Blue Ridge Wildlife Center Patient of the Week: Red-shouldered Hawk

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Why are hawks so often hit by vehicles?

Photos / Blue Ridge Wildlife Center

This Red-shouldered Hawk was admitted last week due to a vehicle collision. This hawk had a guarded prognosis on intake due to the severity of head and lung trauma.

This bird improved over the first few hours with supplemental oxygen and pain medications, but was quiet for a few days after admission. Over time, this patient’s breathing improved as did the head trauma.

Now, after a week in care, this patient has been moved to an outdoor enclosure. Though able to fly, there are still some coordination and endurance issues.


We are hopeful that this hawk will recover fully and be released!

We are only a couple of weeks into January, yet we have already admitted six raptors for confirmed vehicle collisions this year.

Why does this happen so often? And how can you help?

We all know that littering is bad. But it may surprise you that biodegradable items like banana peels, apple cores, and other food waste are especially dangerous to wildlife! Often, people will toss these items out of their car window thinking they are harmless and will biodegrade quickly. In reality, the food scraps attract prey species to the roads, and then predators, like hawks, follow.

Don’t give these birds of prey more of a reason to frequent roadways. Help wildlife by disposing of your trash properly!


Looking for an easy way to help native wildlife? Become a monthly BRWC donor! For as little as $5/month, you can provide year-round, sustainable support that helps us fulfill our mission.

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Summary of the Warren County EDA meeting of January 14, 2022

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The Board of Directors of the Front Royal and Warren County Economic Development Authority held the first board of directors’ meeting of the New Year via Zoom. The meeting was authorized under Governor Northam’s executive mandate for the health emergency.

The Board adopted two resolutions.

The first resolution the board unanimously approved was a one-year lease with a 60-day notice clause for 1329 Happy Creek Road. The house is part of a settlement on the Jennifer MacDonald bankruptcy.

The second resolution supports Sands Anderson, EDA’s legal counsel, in the lawsuits to recover lost funds during the Jennifer MacDonald tenure as executive director. The resolution authorizes the EDA Chairperson, Jeff Browne, to direct Sands Anderson in trial strategy as necessary regarding claims and defenses based on the EDA’s strategies.


Beginning with the January 14, 2022 meeting, committee reports are in writing and submitted prior to the meeting with the board report. The committee reports along with the agendas of each meeting will be posted on the website prior to the meeting. The January committee reports are posted. The committee chairs highlighted the items in the reports and answered questions.

Board Vice-Chairman and Asset Committee Chair Greg Harold discussed the long-term need for housing in the community to support businesses brought to the county in the future. Tom Patteson presented an oral report on the staffing for the EDA. Dr. Patteson expressed disappointment that several qualified candidates interviewed but took other positions. He recommended expanding the advertising for the Executive Director position to include the IEDC, an association of professional economic developers.

Dr. Patteson resigned effective January 31, 2022, at the end of his four-year term. The board as a whole and individual board members expressed their gratitude and appreciation for all his work on the board including serving as treasurer. Dr. Patteson provided a balance to the board, attention to detail, and business acumen.

As of January 31st there will be two open positions on the board. Jeff Browne emphasized a full board is needed especially now with the board managing much of the day-to-day operations of the EDA.

See related story “The WC EDA faces 2022 with optimism while bidding farewell to one board member and seeking administrative staff replacements”

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VDOT crews focus on secondary roads tonight – drivers should watch for refreezing and drifting

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STAUNTON – (5:00 p.m.) Plow crews in the Virginia Department of Transportation Staunton District continue with snow removal operations following a major winter storm on Sunday, January 16. With interstate and most primary roads now clear or in minor condition, work will focus on secondary roads. Crews will plow and treat roads throughout the night. If possible people should not park along the road so that plows can fully clear snow from the neighborhood and other residential roads.

With temperatures dipping below freezing, drivers who travel tonight and tomorrow morning may encounter damp areas of roadways that are frozen, creating black ice. Caution should be used when traveling. Ice is prone to form first on bridges, overpasses, and other elevated surfaces.

High winds are forecasted for the area. Blowing and drifting snow covering plowed roads may occur. Crews will continue to monitor and plow as needed. Travelers should be aware of possible snow-covered areas on previously plowed roads.

Here are the road conditions as of 5:00 p.m. in the Virginia Department of Transportation Staunton District:


Interstate 64 – Minor conditions in Alleghany County. Clear conditions in Rockbridge and Augusta counties.

Interstate 66 – Clear conditions in Warren County.

Interstate 81 –. Clear conditions in Rockbridge, Augusta, Rockingham, Shenandoah, and Frederick counties.

Primary roads – Minor conditions in Alleghany, Highland, Bath, Shenandoah, Frederick, and Clarke counties. Clear conditions in Rockbridge, Augusta, Rockingham, Warren, and Page counties.

Secondary roads – Minor conditions in Warren County. Moderate conditions in Frederick, Shenandoah, Clarke, Page, Rockingham, Augusta, Highland, Rockbridge, Alleghany, and Bath counties.

For winter weather road conditions go to http://www.511Virginia.org, look at the orange bar on the top of the page and click on “Text Views” and then click on “Road Condition Table”. Look at the pull-down box that lists all jurisdictions. In this box, individual counties can be chosen to view.

On the go? Then visit VDOT’s Free Virginia 511 Tools to get your 511 app for android or iOS. Traffic alerts and traveler information can be obtained by dialing 511.

The VDOT Customer Service Center can be accessed through its mobile-friendly website at https://my.vdot.virginia.gov/. Agents are on site 24/7 every day of the year to assist the public. People can also call the VDOT Customer Service Center at 800-FOR- ROAD (800-367-7623).

The Staunton District Snow Page is on the VDOT website under Travel Center Snow Emergency Pages. The Staunton District Twitter feed is at @VaDOTStaunton.

The Staunton District Twitter feed is at @VaDOTStaunton. VDOT can be followed on Facebook, Flickr, Twitter, and YouTube. RSS feeds are also available for statewide information. The VDOT Web page is located at http://www.VirginiaDOT.org.

The VDOT Staunton District serves Frederick, Shenandoah, Clarke, Warren, Page, Rockingham, Augusta, Highland, Rockbridge, Alleghany, and Bath counties.

Road condition definitions:
Severe – drifting or partially blocking the road.
Moderate – snow or ice on major portions of the roadway.
Minor – bare pavement except for isolated spots of snow, ice, or slush.

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Governor Glenn Youngkin delivers address to the Joint Assembly

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On January 17, 2022, Governor Glenn Youngkin delivers to the Joint Assembly in Virginia’s State Capitol.

As prepared for Delivery

Good afternoon.

Standing here before you, and looking around this room, I’m struck by the history that’s been made in this place, the people’s house.


As well as the fact that the work you do here has great consequence for the people of Virginia. And so it is as we gather here today.

Mr. Speaker, Madam President, Lt. Governor Earle-Sears, Chief Justice Goodwyn, and Justices of the Supreme Court, members of the General Assembly, my fellow Virginians, today we begin anew, all of us together.

After years of fractured politics, a deadly pandemic, lives and livelihoods lost, soaring mental health incidents and drug overdoses, rising crime rates, ever-increasing costs for housing, food and fuel, Virginians have sent us here to turn the page.

They came out in record numbers to make their voice heard. They chose a new vision for the future.

Today, I want to speak to that vision and begin our partnership to address the priorities of the people.

I’ve enjoyed getting to know so many of the members of these two legislative bodies both Republicans and Democrats.

You have invited me to your homes. We’ve shared meals together. We’ve done community service together. And I thank you for that.

We’re all part of Team Virginia.

And as I shared on Saturday, we can take inspiration from Dr. Martin Luther King’s life which we celebrate today and his words that “we may have all come on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now.”

The work we have to do, we must do together.

And there isn’t a better example of people coming together on behalf of Virginia than the brave crews, the law enforcement heroes, and the first responders who worked during yesterday’s storm in the freezing cold, ice and snow to keep our streets safe, the lights on and our hospitals open.

Before I speak to the work ahead, I want to recognize someone who has traveled with me every step of the way.

She inspired me to live a life of faith as a younger man. She is an example of humility and strength not just to our children but to women across this great commonwealth.

She is the best partner I could ever imagine our First Lady, Suzanne Youngkin.

After a year of campaigning at diners, senior centers, schools, housing projects, courthouses…even pickup basketball games, I’ve taken the measure of our people.

I’ve found them to be resilient, optimistic, courageous. I listened to their hopes and concerns their dreams and fears. Their stories of inspiration and stories of tragedy.

Some cried on my shoulders. Some prayed over me. And some spoke bluntly maybe a little too bluntly at times.

Almost all expressed a desire for a Virginia worthy of the ambitions of its people.

I come here today to echo their clarion call for change.

To form a government that works for ordinary citizens. That’s a catalyst for opportunity and not an obstacle. And that addresses the kitchen table concerns of working families that are real and mounting.

It’s been said that all great change starts at kitchen tables across America.

You see, that’s where families talk about what matters to them. It’s also where parents discuss their worries stagnant wages in the face of rising expenses caring for an elderly parent and trying to find a way to save for their kids’ future.

I want to share with you something that we’ve all heard from voters.

They’re genuinely concerned that the cold halls of government are disconnected from the cold realities families face while sitting at their kitchen tables every day.

In that respect, we shouldn’t misconstrue record revenue for government as economic success for Virginians.

The view from the people, whose labor generates those tax receipts is quite different than the talk in Richmond.

They see an economy whose growth has stalled at less than 1% per year for 8 years. With household incomes stagnating over the last year — as the cost of living has sky-rocketed.

They see declining schools, they see violent crime reports dominating the news, they see record low labor participation, they see small businesses struggling, and they see government failures and encroachments on their liberties.

From the perspective of every day Virginia families times are tough. And the state of our Commonwealth is not what it should be.

Today we’re at the proverbial “tipping point” where the cash flow to the government from rising tax burdens is very high.

And yet the impact of high costs and high taxes, and an increased regulatory burden are clearly being felt in the real economy and the real lives of Virginians.

The good news is that we have the ability to course-correct before this poor performance becomes permanent.

With current and projected tax driven surpluses we can lower the tax burdens on Virginia families.

And make crucial investments in those critical pillars to the great Virginia promise of a lower cost-of-living, excellent schools, safe communities, a rip-roaring economy that lifts up all Virginians, and a state government that works for Virginians.

To do that, I’m asking each of us in this body Republican and Democrat alike to come together.

To rise above the Richmond of divisive, special interest politics, the small and the parochial to usher in a sweeping vision of change

And to put this commonwealth on a pathway to prosperity.

On day one, we hit the ground running, signing 11 executive actions, and swearing in a full cabinet, outstanding individuals, who are qualified and share Virginia’s values.

As of today, we’ve worked with legislators to introduce 59 pieces of legislation to tackle our day one agenda.

And we’ll be submitting a package of 25 budget amendments to reflect our bipartisan priorities.

We’re addressing issues that are critical to the future of this commonwealth. And that every member in this chamber can get behind.

Virginians have given us a license to lead. They have charged us all to deliver on a Day One agenda.

We know on some issues there’ll be deep disagreement.

But I believe this chamber is big enough for us to talk through our differences. And there is more that binds us than divides us.

For we all share a common goal to leave a better Virginia for our children.

We’re going to start by investing in Virginia classrooms.

Education is the key to opportunity. The means by which all children and their parents can realize their greatest dreams.

Virginia schools have a lofty reputation. But lately we’ve not lived up to that reputation.

In fact, our education standards for math and reading are now the lowest in the nation.

Unelected political appointees lowered standards which inevitably led to a decline in student performance.

60% of our students don’t meet national proficiency standards, including over 70% of Latino students, and over 80% of black students, failing to meet standard on the math NAEP tests. Remarkably, despite these dramatic declines noted by the National Center for Education Statistics only one Virginia school has been deemed failing
because accreditation standards were lowered.

Starting now we’re ending the accountability shell games intended to make us feel good but amount to the often stated “soft bigotry of low expectations.”

Let’s stop cheating our kids.

On this we should join arms and purpose together so that when our time here is done we’ll collectively have raised education standards from the lowest to the highest in the nation.

I’m also calling for $150 million to help us meet our goal of starting 20 new charter schools.

Whether they’re called charter schools, lab schools, or schools of innovation – it doesn’t really matter.

I don’t care what we call it I just care that we do it.

We’re joined today by the students of Green Run Collegiate Charter School in Virginia Beach. Green Run Collegiate shares a facility with Green Run High School.

They have an innovative curriculum. They provide access to every child in the school district to attend the collegiate program. They’re thriving and their parents are thrilled.

Please join me in welcoming these future Virginia leaders to our commonwealth’s capitol.

We’re going to build partnerships between the commonwealth and our great universities to create lab schools of excellence.

It could be a lab school in Southwest Virginia in partnership with UVA Wise.

It could be an entrepreneurship or entertainment industry-focused school partnering with one of our amazing historically black colleges and universities.

Or a partnership with Old Dominion University for opportunities in offshore wind development or maritime projects.

When it comes to the education budget, I’ve heard consistent bipartisan agreement from all of you that the budget you’ll pass, and that I’ll sign will reflect a record investment in education including a significant boost in teacher pay.

With the exception of a parent or guardian no one impacts the future of a young child more than a quality teacher.

We will attract quality professionals to Virginia schools. And we will pay teachers as the professionals they are.

We must also recognize that the people most responsible for a child’s education are parents.

My message to parents is this,

You have a fundamental right, enshrined in law by this General Assembly, to make decisions with regard to your child’s upbringing, education and care.

And we will protect and reassert that right.

Hear me clearly when parents are empowered and engaged, a child’s life is enhanced.

I’ve heard the concerns of parents about curriculum.

Virginia parents want our history – all of our history, the good and the bad to be taught. And they want their children to be told how to think, not what to think.

That’s why we should not use inherently divisive concepts like Critical Race Theory in Virginia. And why we should not be teaching our children to see everything through the lens of race.

That’s also why I want to give parents the right to be informed before their child is exposed to sexually explicit materials.

Please, send me the same bill you passed on a bipartisan basis in 2017 and I will sign it.

The classroom environment must be safe, so children can learn.

I’m asking members of this general assembly to prioritize school safety by putting a school resource officer on every campus.

I also ask you to join me in protecting students from sex trafficking organizations that recruit them on and off campus.

Let’s train educators to see the signs of trafficking. And to stand in the gap for children at risk of being preyed upon.

Let’s also involve local law enforcement agencies in the approval of school safety audits.

And whenever someone preys upon a child in a Virginia school — we must require it to be reported to local law enforcement for investigation.

No more cover-ups. No more sweeping it under the rug. Parents deserve to know if their child is at risk.

Schools exist for the educational benefit of children, and for that reason they must remain open. I strongly encourage everyone to get vaccinated for Covid-19 and get the booster.

As we battle covid, its parents that should decide the health measures taken for their children.

That is why I signed an executive order that allows parents to opt-out of mask mandates in schools. This is a matter of individual liberty.

Again, this body passed a law that protects parent’s fundamental right to make decisions concerning the upbringing, education, and care of their children.

And health care workers should get to make those decisions too.

And I will continue to oppose President Biden’s COVID vaccine mandate for health workers as we continue to fight a crisis of staffing in Virginia’s healthcare system.

Our fight against COVID-19 will move forward based on this simple principle we will protect lives and livelihoods.

That means no more mandates and no more shutdowns. As I said on Saturday it means Virginia is open for business.

It also means the science since the beginning of the pandemic has not been static. We now have therapeutics better testing protocols and fortunately a less severe variant.

And of course, we have vaccines. It means, educating our friends and neighbors and encouraging them to get the vaccine and the booster.

There are 1.6 million unvaccinated Virginians today.

And speaking to you as your Governor, I’ll never tell you what you must do. But speaking to you as a friend and a neighbor I strongly encourage you to get the vaccine.

The data is clear people who do not get the vaccine are four times as likely to be hospitalized.

The vaccine will not only help keep people out of the hospital, it will also keep people working, earning a paycheck and growing our economy, something that has to remain a top priority for us all.

Our Day One Plan will jump-start jobs.

We’re going to repeal needless regulations. We’re going to invest in job training. We’re going to foster innovation. And we’re going to win the competition for jobs and corporate re-locations.

I support a significant investment in mega-sites.

To make sure we don’t lose the next advanced battery manufacturing plant after seeing several go to Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, and Georgia.

And while we’re at it let’s broaden the baseball stadium authority to include football. And perhaps we’ll get one of those too.

I want our rural Virginians to know we’re spreading prosperity far and wide. And rural Virginia won’t be left behind.

We’re not only bringing jobs, we’re bringing high-speed broadband.

Every governor for the last decade has stood in this chamber and told you that rural broadband was a priority. This time we’re going to get it done.

We’re also going to make certain that key projects at our ports and our highways are completed.

So the message is clear, if your cargo container ships is stuck off the coast of another state come to Virginia.

We’re ready for your business. And we won’t make supply chain problems worse with regulatory red tape.

And let me be clear, I believe in the fundamental right to work.

If anyone tries to bring me a bill that creates forced unionization it will meet the business end of my veto pen.

The states around us have created more jobs, grown their economies faster, and took steps years ago that we must take now, lower taxes, business-friendly regulations, workforce development, and more.

This is a real competition, and to win, we have to “play to win.”

One of the other challenges businesses face especially small businesses is the high cost of providing health care for their employees.

Over the last three years, you sent the governor eight versions of an association health plan bill to make it easier for workers to get health care.

It was vetoed eight times. Pass that bill again and I will sign it.

Virginians are struggling with the high cost of living, in a commonwealth with skyrocketing housing costs, rising fuel prices, and the silent wage theft of inflation.

There are economic fundamentals we don’t control in Virginia – that must be dealt with at the federal level.

But Washington continues to fiddle in the face of real supply chain challenges. And allows our nation to be overly-reliant on China for critical goods and services.

But there is one vital thing we can do to help Virginians. And that is remove some of the tax burden — added on top of rising prices for groceries, gasoline and housing.

That’s why I support suspending the recent gas tax increase for a year and fully eliminating the grocery tax immediately.

There’s bipartisan support for eliminating the grocery tax. Together, we will give Virginians real relief.

We also need to give Virginians a real break on their personal income tax by doubling the standard deduction. And providing the largest tax rebate in Virginia history.

These tax cuts benefit the people who need it the most.

And represent the largest tax relief ever given to the people of Virginia $1,500 this year for the typical Virginia family.

But beyond the economic implications of this package, I believe we have a special obligation to a group of individuals that have served our country with distinction our military veterans.

Those who risk life and limb for country and community don’t do it for the pay. They do it because service is in their blood.

The care and support of our veterans, have always transcended partisan politics.

That’s why I’m asking this General Assembly to act on something long talked about.

Let’s eliminate the tax on the first $40,000 in military retirement pay together.

Anyone who wears the uniform risks their life each day on the job. And this includes police officers, firefighters, EMTs, every first responder that keeps us safe.

We’re in a fractious era and no group of individuals is under greater scrutiny today than our law enforcement.

A culture of lawlessness has filled the void in Virginia with violent crime on the rise.

In November, Police Officer Michael Chandler of the Big Stone Gap Police Department was violently gunned down by a vicious criminal.

Incidents like this are all too common today.

We’ll never know the depth of his loss to his family but we grieve with them and pray for them.

In Virginia, we must stand with our law enforcement agencies. And therefore, I’m asking you to fund our police to protect our communities.

Officer Michael Chandler’s widow — Natasha Chandler is also a member of law enforcement. She’s a Wise County Deputy Sheriff who even after losing her husband, insisted on returning to serve.

She’s watching this afternoon.

Please join me in recognizing the sacrifice that her husband, Michael, made on our behalf.

The budget submitted to this General Assembly includes pay raises for troopers, sheriffs’ deputies and corrections officers.

Those are strong first steps I know we all support.

But we need to provide more funding for our police departments. And more funding for training and equipment.

Together, we should dedicate $100 million in ARPA funds to a training and equipment grant program for law enforcement. And provide capital funding for a new state police training facility.

Furthermore, I’m asking you to dedicate $26 million in state funding for police departments. But only in localities that are increasing funding for their police departments.

We’ll also fund community violence intervention by dedicating at least $5 million to Operation Cease Fire.

It’s time to take down the temperature around discussions of policing.

The solution is constructive engagement and dialogue. Not inadequate funding which creates more lawlessness.

And when it comes to lawlessness, I want to be crystal clear.

If we won’t tolerate it in communities across the commonwealth then we certainly won’t tolerate it within a state agency.

On Saturday, I fired the entire parole board.

And I asked Attorney General Miyares to begin an investigation into what happened there.

The violations of law and the Constitution, the unconscionable refusal to notify families, of victims about pending decisions to release murderers, were simply unacceptable.

We will not accept selective violations of our constitutional rights. We will protect all of them.

We don’t get to pick and choose the parts of the Constitution we want to preserve and protect.

In order for our government to work for the people, we must also reform the institutions of government that fail to serve the people.

I’ll admit I’ve never run a government agency. But I know something about running a business.

And we’re going to bring business efficiency to government bureaucracy.

That’s why I appointed a Commonwealth Chief Transformation Officer — to oversee government transformation.

We will make government more responsive, more efficient, and more transparent and we’ll start by fixing the Department of Motor Vehicles and the Virginia Employment Commission.

Furthermore, we will be innovative in leveraging federal transportation funds to address the challenges of growth and gridlock.

In Virginia, we are going to build roads, bridges, rail lines and utility lines.

We are going to be better prepared for weather events that strain our highways and the electric grid.

And we will marshal our resources to make our infrastructure the most reliable in the nation.

As I travel Virginia, I remain in awe of the raw natural beauty of our Commonwealth.

The mountains, waterways, beaches, parks, farm land, livestock, vineyards, and natural resources testify to our Creator’s artistry.

I deeply treasure the natural beauty of Virginia. And my administration will dedicate itself to protecting and promoting it as a core principle of our service.

That’s why we will end the dumping of raw sewage in the James River once and for all.

I also support fully funding best management practices on our farms in order to protect our soil and water from the Chesapeake Bay to the Jackson River.

And we are going to see the cleanup of the Chesapeake Bay to the finish line.

Coastal resiliency is critical to me.

And it’s critical to our nation because of our Port and military assets in Hampton Roads.

That’s why we’re going to create the Coastal Virginia Resiliency Authority to battle rising seas and make sure the federal government does its part too.

Let me state our goal.

Let’s work together in partnership. To build a government as virtuous as our people. One that serves.

You don’t have to look too far to find examples of that spirit among the people of Virginia.

I met a veteran of our military on the campaign trail by the name of Natasha Barijon (BEAR-ee-un).

She’s an immigrant. And like so many first generation immigrants, she loves this country with a passion few can understand though certainly our lieutenant governor can.

Natasha knows what life is like in other parts of the world.

Which is why tears flowed down her face when she told me about her journey to America her pride in serving in our military and the hopes and dreams she has for her daughter to grow up in a better America.

Natasha represents the best of America.

She may not have been born here but she is every bit American as someone who was. Because she has lived the ideals of this great land.

Natasha is also watching today.

Please join me in recognizing her service to our country and her dreams for her daughter.

Virginia is home to heroes. Many living and many who lie in eternal rest.

I attended the funeral of one such hero last month, in Virginia Beach – the Commanding Officer of SEAL Team 8, Brian Bourgeois.

Brian could light up a room with his laugh and he could put his subordinates at ease during the most tense moments.

He gave his life in service to freedom. And he left behind a wife, Megan, and five children. One of which – Barrett – led us in the pledge of allegiance on Saturday.

What price would we in this room put on freedom?

For some freedom is so precious they would offer everything in its defense.

Those of us who live in the freedom they so valiantly protect must live lives worthy of their sacrifice. Set aside petty divisions. Set aside ego and self-advancement. And join together to make this Virginia we love better, stronger, freer.

My friends in this esteemed legislature, I’m inspired to be with you this afternoon. And to be working with you to build a future of limitless opportunity and strengthen the spirit of Virginia.

Thank you, God bless you, and may God bless the Commonwealth of Virginia.

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EDA in Focus

The Warren County EDA faces 2022 with optimism while bidding farewell to one board member and seeking administrative staff replacements

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After an hour-and-a-half closed session to discuss a variety of topics, including disposition of three cited properties, the civil litigation against Jennifer McDonald, refinancing of a First Bank & Trust loan, and personnel matters involving two EDA Board members, the Warren County Economic Development Authority received Executive, Finance, and Asset Committee reports; acknowledgment of the County Administrator’s Report included in the packet; and several old and new business matters.

That “Old Business” included updates on the development of the EDA Strategic Plan and Search Committee work in finding permanent replacements for departed Executive Director Doug Parsons and Administrative Assistant Gretchen Henderson. The 9 a.m. Friday morning (Jan. 14) meeting concluded at 11:15 a.m. after a review of potential reallocation of Budget Line Items in its lone “New Business” topic.

A head’s up on one of the closed session personnel matters may have been given in open session when during his Executive Committee report, EDA Board Chairman Jeff Browne acknowledged the pending departure of Tom Pattison at the end of the month as his four-year term comes to a close. Pattison’s retirement leaves the EDA Board of Directors two members short. It was observed that is especially problematic with the board chairman, among other members, juggling what would normally be staff responsibilities to help fill the gap as replacements for departed Executive Director Doug Parsons and Administrative Assistant Gretchen Henderson are sought.

County Administrator Ed Daley joined Browne and his board in bidding Pattison a fond farewell and thanks for his work in helping the realigned EDA Board get adjusted to the evolving, post-financial scandal landscape they were entering in early to mid-2019. Daley was part of that board as chairman, along with current members Browne and Greg Harold. Daley pointed out Pattison had arrived on the board just a few months prior to the influx of new members during the post-financial scandal turnover.


Meeting virtually under state guidelines to combat exploding Omicron COVID variant numbers, WC EDA Board Chairman Jeff Browne hosted virtually against an impressive graphic backdrop. The EDA board and county administrator bid farewell to retiring member Tom Pattison, below, leaving at month’s end as his four-year term expires. Royal Examiner Photos by Roger Bianchini

“He was a terrific asset … you’ll be sorely missed. We appreciate everything you’ve done on our behalf and the County. So, thank you,” Browne said of Pattison’s role in getting the new board on track over the past 3-1/2 years in the wake of questions about EDA operations and contractual arrangements under the leadership of former Executive Director Jennifer McDonald.

“Thank you for your kind comments,” Pattison responded, adding, “And I’d like to say that I’ve certainly been pleased to serve with such a fine board, conscientious and well-qualified, as well as the administration when we had (Doug) Parsons and others. I’ve also enjoyed working with the County and County Administration, and also with Sharon and her expertise and advice over the years (EDA attorney Sharon Pandak). So, I leave thinking the board is in good hands.”

However, Pattison wasn’t resting on his laurels, noting that he had some comments on staff recruiting strategies when the Search Committee Update portion of the meeting arrived under Old Business. Currently, the EDA is functioning with county staff filling the two EDA administrative staff positions on a part-time basis as permanent replacements are being sought after Parsons and Henderson left for other career opportunities, Parsons with the Fauquier County EDA and Henderson with the Northwest Regional Commission.

And following Daley’s acknowledgment of his submission of the County Administrator’s Report and Browne’s noting that once again there was no Town Manager’s Report, the Search Committee Update discussion was broached. Pattison told his colleagues that the county human resources department had reported that there have been “a paucity of applications” for the executive director’s position in particular. Discussion indicated one factor could be confusion over who the director would be answerable to.

Later during the discussion County Administrator Daley noted that the initial advertisement for the position was drawn up while the County and Town were still talking about a joint effort in reorganizing the half-century-old joint County-Town EDA. But as the subsequent town council decision, under the guidance of then-Interim Town Manager Matt Tederick, to litigate against the EDA for real or imagined losses, as opposed to engaging in offered “good faith negotiations” to establish exactly what was owed to whom from the financial scandal; not to mention the continued absence of a monthly staff report on Town efforts toward economic development, that is obviously no longer the case.

Pattison suggested removing confusion in that regard, along with new, broader sources in which to advertise the vacant positions moving forward. “One question for the person looking at it, is ‘exactly who am I going to answer to?’ I think it should be clear that it’s going to be to Ed (County Administrator Daley) and the board of supervisors … and it doesn’t make sense that they’d have to answer to the Front Royal EDA personnel.”

Daley concurred, telling the EDA board, “… that will be clarified that we will work with their (the Town) EDA, but will not be making reports to the town council or their EDA or anything like that.”

Pattison also suggested the list of qualifications be narrowed somewhat, with an emphasis on the marketing of properties, a current focus of the EDA in the wake of the McDonald executive tenure. That is due to some questionable real estate moves dating to McDonald’s executive directorship when it is suggested real estate transactions may have been used to cloak alleged misdirection of EDA assets.

Click here for the WC EDA press release “Summary of the WC EDA meeting of January 14” for additional information.

 

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Shenandoah Valley roads improving – but high winds and refreezing pose threats

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STAUNTON – (11:00 a.m.) Road conditions in the Shenandoah Valley and Alleghany Highlands are steadily improving in the wake of Sunday’s winter storm. But many roads in the region, especially secondary routes, remain mostly snow-covered as of mid-day Monday. The Virginia Department of Transportation is working to improve conditions on major roadways and plowing secondary roads.

High winds forecasted for Monday can cause blowing or drifting snow to re-cover previously plowed roadways. Motorists should also be alert for downed trees, limbs, or utility lines. In addition, temperatures are expected to drop well below freezing Monday evening and create a risk of black ice on many roads.

Road-clearing priorities are as follows:
Interstates, primary roads, and major secondary roads with vital emergency and public facilities, or those with high traffic volumes will be cleared first. Secondary and subdivision streets will be treated in the event of a multi-day storm, but crews will focus efforts on roads that are traveled most.

VDOT employees and contractors continue to plow and treat roadways around the clock on rotating 12-hour shifts. Here are the road conditions as of 11 a.m. Monday in the 11-county VDOT Staunton District:


Interstate 64 – Moderate conditions in Alleghany County. Minor conditions in Rockbridge and Augusta counties.

Interstate 66 – Minor conditions in Warren County.

Interstate 81 – Minor conditions in Rockbridge, Augusta, Rockingham, and Frederick counties. Clear conditions in Shenandoah County.

Primary roads – Moderate conditions in Alleghany, Rockbridge, Highland, and Clarke counties. Minor conditions in Bath, Augusta, Rockingham, Page, Shenandoah, Frederick, and Warren counties.

Secondary roads – Moderate conditions in Alleghany, Bath, Rockbridge, Highland, Augusta, Rockingham, Page, Shenandoah, Frederick, Clarke, and Warren counties.

For winter weather road conditions on http://www.511Virginia.org, click on “Text Views” on the orange bar at the top of the page, and then click on “Road Condition Table.” The pull-down box lists all jurisdictions. In this box, individual counties can be chosen to view.

On the go? Visit VDOT’s Free Virginia 511 Tools to get your 511 app for android or iOS. Traffic alerts and traveler information can be obtained by dialing 511.

The VDOT Customer Service Center can be accessed through its mobile-friendly website at https://my.vdot.virginia.gov/. Agents are on site 24/7 every day of the year to assist the public. People can also call the VDOT Customer Service Center at 800-FOR-ROAD (800-367-7623).

The Staunton District Snow Page is on the VDOT website under Travel Center Snow Emergency Pages. The Staunton District Twitter feed is at @VaDOTStaunton.

VDOT can be followed on Facebook, Flickr, Twitter, and YouTube. RSS feeds are also available for statewide information. The VDOT Web page is located at http://www.VirginiaDOT.org.

The VDOT Staunton District serves Frederick, Shenandoah, Clarke, Warren, Page, Rockingham, Augusta, Highland, Rockbridge, Alleghany, and Bath counties.

Road condition definitions:
Severe – drifting or partially blocking the road.
Moderate – snow or ice on major portions of the roadway.
Minor – bare pavement except for isolated spots of snow, ice, or slush.

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Apple Dumpling Learning Center

Apple House

Auto Care Clinic

Blue Ridge Arts Council

Blue Ridge Education

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C&C's Ice Cream Shop

Code Ninjas Front Royal

Cool Techs Heating and Air

Down Home Comfort Bakery

Downtown Market

Dusty's Country Store

Edward Jones-Bret Hrbek

Family Preservation Services

Front Royal Women's Resource Center

Front Royal-Warren County Chamber of Commerce

Gourmet Delights Gifts & Framing

Green to Ground Electrical

Groups Recover Together

I Want Candy

I'm Just Me Movement

Jen Avery, REALTOR & Jenspiration, LLC

Main Street Travel

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Mary Carnahan Graphic Design

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