Person aims to represent House District 83

Published 5:55 pm Friday, November 3, 2023

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

Mary L. Person, a Democratic candidate for the Virginia House of Delegates District 83 seat, introduced herself, conveyed her understanding of local issues and explained why she was running during the Candidates’ Forum held Oct. 18 at Franklin High School by the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc. Lambda Psi Omega Chapter.

Forum organizers indicated that Person’s opponent, Del. Otto Wachsmann, a Republican currently representing House District 75, accepted his invitation to the event but had to cancel with regrets.

Wachsmann is effectively the incumbent in the race because redistricting transferred much of Wachsmann’s constituents from the 75th to the 83rd District.

During candidates’ opportunity to give opening remarks at the forum, Person shared details about her background and her achievements in public service.

“I am a person who comes from a long line of family advocates, and they kind of instilled in me that desire to become a public servant,” she said. 

She noted that she has 16 years of public service experience, first as a city councilwoman and then as the mayor of the city of Emporia. 

“I have a vast amount of experience working for the citizens of Emporia, and you can expect me to use that same experience working for constituents in the 83rd District,” she said.

Person indicated that she has served on numerous boards, including the Greensville-Emporia Social Services Board, and she has also served on the legislative committee with the Virginia Municipal League.

“As a member of local government, I helped implement the First-Time homebuyers Program,” she said. “I secured scholarships to promote the free tuition for our graduating seniors to attend a community college.”

She stated that she implemented a program to reduce the amount of manganese in Emporia’s water, addressing an issue that was causing the water to be brown.

“I have worked to improve the relations between the county and the city,” she said. “They were not so great, but under my leadership, we became better able to serve the constituents of our community.”

She said she was able to secure several neighborhood project grants that improved the quality of life for Emporia’s citizens.

“These are just a few of the things that I’ve done as mayor of the city of Emporia and as a public servant, and you can expect me to have that same kind of commitment and drive for the citizens of this district,” she said in conclusion.

As her time for opening remarks expired, she briefly highlighted one of the key subjects she is concerned about as an administrator in the public school system – education. She is currently principal of Belfield Elementary School in Emporia. She elaborated on the subject of education later in the forum.

The first question from the public that she received at the forum was as follows: “Can you describe District 83 and your awareness of the issues of importance of Southampton County that you plan to address if elected?”

After redistricting, Virginia House District 83 includes part of Isle of Wight County, all of Southampton County, Braunschweig County, Sussex County, Greensville County, the city of Emporia and part of Dinwiddie County.

Person said it is a pretty large district, and it takes her nearly an hour and a half to travel it.

“Everywhere I go, people are talking about economic development, affordable health care and, of course, our schools, so those are issues that are forefront in the minds of our people in those counties,” she said.

Next, she was asked, “What legislation would you plan to sponsor in your first year?”

“Of course, being an educator, that is forefront in my mind on how we need to attract quality teachers, and we need to make sure that we put some incentives in place for colleges to have more students going into education,” she said. “That is one thing that I definitely want to be looking into, and we can’t attract them if we’re not paying them well.”

She also highlighted the health care system and mental health.

“Those are some areas that I’m definitely concerned about, along with economic development,” she said. “Those are legislations that I would be introducing first and anything else my locality would like me to.”

Later in the forum, Person was asked, “What are some of the most chronic workforce shortages in our district, and what can be done to build talent pathways for these in-demand jobs?”

Virginia House of Delegates District 84 candidate Nadarius Clark had just answered the same question at the forum for neighboring District 84, and Person noted that she could not add anything for District 83 to what he already had said, but she did take time to emphasize the workforce shortages in the fields of education and law enforcement.

“When I talk about education, that is definitely a shortage there, and it’s because of funding,” she said. “And in the police departments, the funding is also an issue. The amount of money that we’re paying in this area is not as good as, say, a Fairfax or a northern Virginia. 

“We need more funding in our localities, in rural Virginia – that’s what we need,” she continued. “And if we don’t have that kind of funding, we’re never going to attract teachers or great law enforcement officers. We’re going to keep getting a recycled person who may not be the best for our localities.

“Right now in education, we have to go to Jamaica and to the Philippines to get teachers,” she added. “That should not be (the case) in the United States of America. They don’t understand our culture, and we need to make sure our teachers are paid what they’re worth so that we can attract quality people.”

In her closing remarks, Person shared a couple reasons why she decided to run for the House District 83 seat.

“I live in Emporia, born and raised there, and we asked our current delegate to introduce two bills, and Greensville County also asked for bills to be introduced,” she said. “Neither one of them got introduced.

“So that was one reason that I said, ‘Hey, we need somebody who’s going to represent all of the constituents of 83rd District, not just a certain facet,’” she continued.

“So that’s why I’m telling everybody that we need a new person in the General Assembly,” she said. “Let’s make him a one-and-done and get him out of there. Vote for the right person, Mary L. Person for the house of delegates for District 83.”