By: Michael Campbell | Twitter: @itsthesoup
Posted: August 3, 2019 | 1:45 p.m.
Delegate to hold pair of sessions in Northern Dinwiddie, McKenney
DINWIDDIE – With roughly six months until lawmakers return to Richmond for the 2020 General Assembly session, many delegates and state senators use this time to return to their constituencies to spend time with the people they represent to learn about their concerns and priorities and next month, Delegate Lashrecse Aird will hold a pair of listening sessions where she can learn more from those living in the 63rd House District.
The first of the two sessions is set for Saturday, August 17 in the heart of the Town of McKenney at the Robert and Betty Ragsdale Community Center from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., with a second session scheduled for the following week, Saturday August 24, from 10 a.m. to noon at the Eastside Enhancement Center.
For Aird, these sessions, which will also take place across the 63rd House District over the next few weeks, will serve two purposes – allowing the delegate to glean information from community leaders and residents while also spending time with constituents living in communities that have been added to her district following the recent redrawing of lines.
“My district was one of the districts where the lines were changed due to racial gerrymandering,” she explained. “So my district went from having all of the City of Petersburg and parts of Dinwiddie, Prince George, Hopewell, and Chesterfield to now having all of Petersburg and Dinwiddie and the western portion of Chesterfield so, I felt like this would be a good time to, not only, touch base with my constituents, but also to do a pulse check as in, I think I know what your needs are, especially in the areas that I represented before but, more importantly, I want to hear from you to make sure I am still in sync with what you identify as the need.”
She continued, “This is even more important for places like Chesterfield where I am brand new, not only to their rural areas, but also their suburban areas because, even in Chesterfield, the rural needs might be different than the rural and suburban needs in Dinwiddie. I just think that is going to be really important that I have a crystal clear understanding directly from the citizens as to what their perspectives are and what their opinions are about what they want to see district evolve, grow, and be strengthened.”
Aird noted she wants those living within the 63rd District to feel as though they have a voice and the ear of their state-level representative at any time, particularly during these type of listening forums.
“As I have moved around from community to community, you always hear, ‘Well, politicians never listen’ or they come to events and they feel we are doing all the talking, and I am legitimately saying, I am not going to do that,” she remarked. “I want to give you all the chance to say whatever you need to [say] to me and I can guarantee, whether we agree or not, I am going to be listening, I am going to take that information and carry it with me.”
The delegate explained, referring to the selection of Saturdays for the days of her sessions, “I try to do it on days and times I felt like were most accessible. Anytime I have town halls or community conversations in the evening when people get off work but, I am hopeful that I am going to meet people.”
Delegate Aird listens to a constituent during a 2017 community conversation at the Eastside Enhancement Center.
Aird has one of the more diverse districts in Southside Virginia before and after the implementation of the district’s new lines, with urban centers like Petersburg joined together with suburban and rural communities in Dinwiddie and, now, Chesterfield. For the delegate, that diversity doesn’t bring about competing priorities, rather “a full spectrum of needs” from the community at large.
“The core needs and core values of any community are all the same, whether they are in suburbia, or in a rural or urban environment,” she remarked. “Now how those break down into actual needs and addressing them, those approaches might be different but, at the end of the day, working individuals and families all want the same thing – a fair and strong quality of life.”
Aird shared, “This ties back to why I think this is so important because I live in Petersburg, which is an urban area but, I am very familiar with farmers and hunters and the mindset that we need to make sure rural areas are strong but, I am doing these listening sessions to make sure there aren’t things I am missing.”
She added that the ongoing drug issues that have gripped the nation continue to be talked about in the 63rd District, no matter the location, from rural to urban.
“In rural areas, it may look like opioids but in urban areas, it might look different but, at the end of the day, it is still a problem that still exists in these communities,” Aird remarked. “So, I want to make sure the district is unified in the way I represent them and that I have a strong understanding of where the nuances exist so that when bills come before me, I know how one area might be affected over another and I want to make sure that I am not louder for one part of my district than I am for another. I want to approach all of the areas I represent equally so this is my best effort in trying to do that.”
Over the course of her time as a delegate, Aird has held similar town hall events in Dinwiddie County, including a drug use-related town hall in 2017 and, earlier this year, a community conversation ahead of the special session of the General Assembly that sought to address gun violence in the Commonwealth. At all of her events, the community not only turns out, but engages in insightful conversation with Aird and her team to help shape her policy efforts. The level of engagement she gets from local residents and community leaders has her thrilled for the upcoming sessions in August.
“It makes me excited because I always feel like the job of an elected official should never be, ‘You’ve been elected, go forth and do good things,’” Aird remarked. “It is really a collaborative relationship at best and, if I don’t have that constant feedback because these issues are ever changing, I feel like at any moment, I could be off-base. You have to stay close to the people and communities because that is what people can feel the difference that government can make and, if you are not close to those things, then you run the risk of misrepresenting what is best for your area.”
She added, “I am excited to see in the past that citizens have come out and actively engage and I want to build on that engagement in as many ways as I can and let them feel part of the development of the work I am doing on their behalf.”
After facing no challengers in last month’s Democratic primary, Aird will seek re-election in November, with Lawrence C. Haake, an independent candidate, serving as her opponent during the fall’s general election.