Virginia Smith, a Prince George native, is challenging Senator Frank Ruff for his seat as Senator for the 15th District of Virginia. Ms. Smith is a former teacher, teaching kids from kindergarten through fifth grade. In a quote from her website, Virginia’s desire to help others led her onto a path of entrepreneurship. Inspired by her work within the Virginia public school system, she created a hands on learning tool that parents can use to prepare their children for kindergarten. She is a beloved children's book author, publishing her first book with Tate Publishing in 2014. 

During an interview with Ms. Smith, as a former educator, she was asked what she would be willing to do to increase the availability of broadband technology to the extremely rural areas of the 15th district, including right here in Mecklenburg County. She stated “advanced technology is actually one of the things that more people in Mecklenburg County have stated they wanted, actually needed more so than any other infrastructure at this particular time and I know there are a lot of commissions working on it…what I want to do is to actually work to push the current legislation through. It has stalled.” Ms. Smith went on to say that this particular technology is much more than a luxury and could is some ways be life changing for the constituents of the 15th district. Ms. Smith’s plans for making this happen were based on community, business and citizens working in conjunction with state government to make it happen. She stated that “I believe, and I’m backed up by research, that businesses looking to expand or build in an area, look at the availability of updated technology including high speed internet.” Right now, Ms. Smith recognizes that in a large portion of the district, including Mecklenburg County, cellular technology is about all that is available and she stated, “The key to getting things done is having someone in Richmond to push these things through. The infrastructure to handle this has not even been built, I would work with businesses such as Microsoft and others to recognize that as businesses who benefits from our county and as good corporate citizens they should be willing to help build our county and in a sense give back in such a way as to help our county grow with them.” 

Ms. Smith spoke at length about the role that citizens play in helping grow our county as well as our economy. She explained that there are grants and other ways to make things happen that other districts in our state have taken advantage of and yet certain areas of the 15th district seem to fall behind. She stated that knowledge of these options should be spread across the district in an effort to help citizens realize that options are available to them if they want to open a small business, start a non-profit action group and so on. She also stated that she wanted her constituents to know that it’s ok to interact with your elected officials and those on the state level, whether it be through protest or petition, at the end of the day, the right to grow and build is theirs and elected officials are required to put their constituents needs first and advocate for them on the state level. 

The conversation turned to the recognition Mecklenburg County received lately of being the 8th work force ready community in the state. She stated, “Being work force ready means having the businesses here to tackle the job demand. If you have a lot of people trained to do specific jobs but the jobs aren’t there for them to do, then we’ve failed them. Being workforce ready means with the right infrastructure in place we can be a more viable community for businesses to move to. We have the technology, we have the trained work force and we can handle their needs. Moving it forward is going to mean, staying informed and hard work from citizen to state official.”

When asked about what made her decide to challenge Senator Ruff, she stated, “The district needs fresh ideas and fresh eyes. fI was very disappointed in the Senators vote against the expansion of Medicaid. I found the bill to be both cost effective and all inclusive of those who have a true need for Medicaid insurance.” She went on to say that where reform is needed in both the Medicaid and Medicare programs, there are ways to do that. Bringing jobs and training into our community helps those who are in the system and can’t seem to get back on their feet get the training they need to become independent and self reliant. She also stated, “there needs to be better documentation and more of a checks and balances to make sure that those who come into the system on a temporary basis get the real help they need to transition them into getting back to productive citizens.” 

She went on to state that PSA’s (public service announcements) are a great way of educating and informing the public as well as bridging the gap between citizens. When the conversation moved toward the racial divide that is felt across the country, Ms. Smith explained that in a small community like Mecklenburg the types of issues that plague larger metropolitan areas can be stopped here. She further explained that when you have a community that helps to police itself and maintains an attitude of love thy neighbor there tends to be less instances of hate and divide. She said, “again, as an educator, I’ve seen over the years a lack of understanding and tolerance bred from a lack of education and that’s something I plan to work on when I’m elected.” 

The final question asked of Ms. Smith was simply this, “What do you think makes you the best candidate to represent the 15th district in the Virginia Senate?” to which she replied, “I do believe that I’m the best candidate to represent the district because I’m ready and willing to move forward in a progressive way on all issues, infrastructure, technology, health care and our education system. I’m prepared with fresh, innovative ideas to make this happen. I’m ready to get to work.” You can visit Ms. Smith’s website at her campaign slogan is “Moving forward together.”