Virginia Capitol Connections Winter 2023

Virginia Capitol Connections, Winter 2023 11 There was a time in Virginia when someone like Lionel Spruill would not have been expected to make much of a difference. A minority, one of fifteen children, born into poverty, with a disability — the odds were definitely stacked against him. But this is a different time in Virginia. Lionel Spruill leaves public service with eight years on the Chesapeake City Council, twenty-two years in the House of Delegates, two terms on the Democratic National Committee, and seven years in the State Senate. This is quite a career. For those of us who worked with Senator Spruill over the years, it was hard not to like him. He had a unique way of having friends on both sides of the aisle. While he could be funny, he was firm in his beliefs. You had to earn his vote. You had to be prepared and expect the unexpected tough questions. But if he was for you, you could count on him One thing about Senator Spruill that was underestimated was his understanding of the legislative process. For those of us who have been around the General Assembly, you can’t teach instinct. Having years in local government and two decades in the House of Delegates, he knew not just parliamentary procedure but how to read people. In short, he knew how to count votes. At the same time, he had a willingness to take on tough issues particularly if they would benefit Chesapeake that he knew so well. He was willing to go against his party if the other side had a better idea — something that is becoming rarer as the institution becomes more partisan. My lasting memory of Senator Spruill was that he had a print of a lithograph of the last group of African American members of the Virginia General Assembly during Reconstruction. It would be almost one hundred years before African Americans would again serve in that body. Senator Spruill would always say that he wanted to make sure that, in the future, there would be someone in the General Assembly who looked like him. Well, thanks to your efforts there will be members who look like you. Hopefully, they will make as much of a contribution and be as memorable. I will miss you friend. James Turpin has held various roles in government and is now a lobbyist. The Virginia General Assembly is losing many experienced members in the aftermath of redistricting, including my fellow Southwesterner and friend, Senator John S. Edwards. First appointed to the Roanoke City Council in 1993, Senator Edwards had an impressive political career full of successful legislative feats. He shaped the Virginia Senate in a progressive, and meaningful manner, always fighting for what’s right. From establishing the Virginia Department of Veterans Services to bringing educational opportunities, like the Virginia Transportation Museum, right here to Roanoke. Sen. Edwards has always been a champion for not only his constituents, but all Virginians. In the Upper Chamber, he fought tirelessly to make sure Southwest Virginia was never forgotten and was always involved in the legislative discussions of the session. Outside of his time as Roanoke’s representative, Senator Edwards began his professional career as a lawyer. Appointed by President Carter in 1980, he began his journey as the United States Attorney for the Western District of Virginia. During that time, he prosecuted our state’s first criminal civil rights case and chaired numerous appeals before the Supreme Court of Virginia. His successful law career prepared him to passionately fight for his constituents and to pass legislation that made our Commonwealth better. Senator Edwards was willing to break with his party if he believed it would serve his constituents. As our state becomes increasingly polarized, this can be a difficult decision to make. However, he would always use his best judgment when voting on critical bills. Edwards was rational and understood he represented a region that was more politically diverse than many other parts of the state, even if he may have upset his party. That being said, he was crucial to supporting Democratic legislation in the Senate Courts of Justice Committee. Both Senator Edwards and myself are the only Democrats representing the Southwestern region of Virginia. We worked together countless times, always using our generational divide to our advantage by sharing perspectives. He consistently advocated for the renovation of the Catawba Hospital project, working with me to fight for a needed place in our region that can treat both substance use disorder and behavioral health issues. I enjoyed attending community events with him, knowing he would always be the longest speaker at any event we went to together. He was always ready to share his perspective with anyone willing to listen. Senator Edwards’ absence in the legislature will be felt by the entire state. His decades of experience, his dedication and work ethic, and his willingness to work with all of his colleagues will be difficult to replicate. He leaves a hole that will be challenging to fill, however, his influence and legacy will serve as a guide to his successor. I have no doubt that he will remain involved behind the scenes and that he will continue to serve Roanoke in a private manner. Delegate Sam Rasoul represents part of Roanoke City. Lionel Spruill, Sr. Delegate 1994-2016 • Senator 2016-2024 BY JAMES S. TURPIN John S. Edwards Senator, 1996-2024 BY SAM RASOUL D B A V A . C O M JAMES TURPIN 1108 East Main St., Ste 1200 Richmond, VA 23219 804-643-5554 office 434-964-6124 cell