During a one on one, candid interview with Republican Senator Frank Ruff on Thursday, he opened up about the state of the district and his run for re-election. Senator Ruff started his political career in 1993 when he was elected to the Virginia House of Delegates. He was elected into the Virginia Senate in November 2000 to fill the unexpired term of the late Richard Holland. He has continued to serve as the Senator to District 15, the largest in the state, to this day. He currently resides in Clarksville Virginia with his wife, Jessie. Together they have four children and two grand daughters and they are members of the Clarksville Presbyterian Church. 

In a direct quote from his website, he has stated “I believe that the best way to provide services is not more taxes but to grow the Virginia economy. By encouraging entrepreneurs, assisting existing businesses to grow and hire more Virginians and by attracting new companies to Virginia, we can create the jobs needed to grow our economy and provide opportunities for Virginians.” The 15th district in Virginia is comprised of Charlotte, Lunenburg, Mecklenburg and Nottoway counties as well as parts of Brunswick, Campbell, Dinwiddie, Halifax, Pittsylvania and Prince George and part of the city of Danville. During our conversation Senator Ruff expressed that the needs of the entire district were varied, when asked about his role in creating the Workforce Ready Initiative, the Senator stated that he was proud of it and that fighting for it was, he felt, his duty. He expressed his belief that at the core of all things is the economy. If a person who is not necessarily a “college” person, then they should still have the opportunity to learn a trade and create for themselves the ability to work successfully in a job that provides them security and stability.  This sentiment is a personal one for the Senator who shared that one of his sons left after high school to go to Virginia Tech. He came home for the Thanksgiving break and announced that he just wasn’t cut out for college and wanted to go into the military. Senator Ruff went on to say that so many times parents try to dictate or live the lives of their children for them and that’s not a successful path to take for their childrens future. Everyone has to find their own way and tend to be much more confident when they  themselves are the ones dictating the trajectory of their own lives and future. When asked if he was confident that the status of the workforce ready initiative, which Mecklenburg and other counties in the district are named as Workforce Ready Communities, is going to make a difference at the polls, Senator Ruff stated, “No candidate should ever be confident in anything. They should always be running.”  Senator Ruff is being challenged this year by former educator and Prince George native, Virginia Smith. When asked about his record of bipartisanship, the senator stated, “I’ve always tried to work with everybody and be a gentleman about it.” 

The conversation moved on to the subject of renewable energy and when asked if their was an answer to using the rural area that comprises the majority of Mecklenburg County for such resources, the senator explained that his answer would have been different five years ago because the technology for sustaining the types of renewables that are efficient such as, solar power and wind power, wasn't there. However, now, where the technology to harness and make accessible these renewable sources of energy have increased, the legislation passed this year in the state senate allows for incentives to electric companies for the use of renewable energy sources He went on to state that renewable energy sources such as solar do not produce jobs, they produce energy and are taxed at the state level. So what he’s trying to do is have both the county resources and state resources taxed on the same level so that a county’s cost for these resources don’t put a drain on the county. The senator stated, “Ultimately all power comes from the sun..As we get further into this we’ll find a way to harness that more efficiently.” 

The conversation turned to the death of local towns due to business withdrawal from small communities, when asked what kinds of things could be done, on his level, to use a towns resources to build new business and in essence breathe life back into a town, he stated “I think the Reagan vision of the light on a hill is what is lost in a lot of equations.” He went on to say that there is some responsibility on the leadership at the local level to ask themselves what can be done to entice people to move to an area with an understanding of what they have to offer as a town and a way of life in comparison to the ages, needs and desires of all groups from single adults, to families and retirees. His advice to his constituents in areas affected hard by lack of tourism to their towns is to look around, there are resources all around you. He stated, “we all have to stop looking down at our feet and start asking what do we have to offer and how can we make it happen in such a way as to entice people to move here.” This statement caused a shift in the conversation towards broadband. Broadband is a completely split topic amongst the Senators constituents throughout Mecklenburg county. On the street polling and research shows that most citizens of Mecklenburg county don’t have access to Wi-Fi or Broadband technology, and while an overwhelming number of people expressed a desire or need to have it, the retirement age citizens were neither for or against it. Senator Ruff explained that the “take rate”, people who buy into services offered, is expected to be less than 30%. He went on to explain that when the size of the entire district is taken into consideration with the fact that fiber optic line averages two days to lay over the course of just a few miles, and add with it the fact that electrical monies can’t be used for it, the cost becomes such to the consumer that the take rate goes down. Some of the things they’re working on at the state and local levels to make this service more affordable to consumers is attempting to create packages with companies such as Microsoft, as well as others, in conjunction with the Tobacco Commission to offer some free access to homes with school aged children knowing that the need for technological access to children needs to stay on par with the technology of schools. He also stated that structures capable of handling the antennas have been a source of debate and that everyone has to work together toward the same goal for success to happen. He stated, “When you raise the take rate from say, 30% to 40% the income becomes more in line and more people will have cost effective access.” 

Senator Ruff stated his beliefs in a moral, humane and responsible society where everyone does their part to make the whole process work. With the sense of small town living and neighborly towns, Mecklenburg County has the capability to be as successful as some of its neighbors. You can find out more information about Senator Ruff on his website at www.senatorfrankruff.com Senator Ruff urges everyone to do their research and turn out the polls to vote. Election day is November 5, 2019 be sure to register and make your vote count. A rebuttal interview is scheduled on Thursday, September 12 with Mrs. Virginia Smith, Senator Ruffs challenger and will appear in the South Hill Enterprise on Wednesday, September 18.