Virginia Capitol Connections Winter 2023

Virginia Capitol Connections, Winter 2023 14 It is with sadness that we (the Virginia Association of Counties) learn of the retirement of a county friend, Senator Lynwood Lewis. Senator Lewis is one of many recent announcements of retiring state lawmakers. Senator Lewis was first elected to the Virginia House of Delegates in 2013 representing the Eastern Shore counties of Accomack and Northampton, as well as parts of the cities of Norfolk and Hampton. In 2014 he succeeded Ralph Northam, who won the election for Lieutenant Governor, in a special election for Virginia’s 6th Senate District, which also comprises Virginia’s Eastern Shore, as well as part of Mathews County on the Middle Peninsula and parts of the cities of Hampton and Virginia Beach. In addition to serving on the committees for Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources, Commerce and Labor, and Rules, Senator Lewis is the chair of the Senate Local Government committee. Senator Lewis was born and raised on the Eastern Shore in the Town of Parksley and currently resides in the Town of Accomac. He graduated from Hampden-Sydney College in 1984 with a B.A. in History and Political Science and went on to receive his J.D. from the University of Richmond. Senator Lewis continues the general practice of law in Accomac, Virginia as a partner in the firm of Custis, Dix, Lewis & Custis, L.L.P. Senator Lewis has been a champion for policies that support the function and operations of counties in Virginia. A few highlights among his many efforts to advance local government priorities are the following: • Support for fully funding public education — including a complete study of Virginia’s outdated Standards of Quality (SOQ). He successfully sponsored legislation to do this in 2021. • Support for pay raises for teachers and funding for them at a state level. • Support for increases to at-risk funding for schools and funding through the lottery, as well as through the General Fund. • Support for investments in career and technical education as well as legislation that increases access to these programs. • Co-sponsorship of legislation for state investments in local school infrastructure, despite a precedent of local responsibility for these costs. • Securing investments (Agricultural Best Management Practices) that helped farmers curb runoff pollution. • Playing a critical role in rural broadband deployment and expansion, helping secure prioritized funding and budget language changes to make grant funds more accessible. • Support for continued increased investments in the Housing Trust Fund in order to address a growing affordable housing crisis. • Efforts to address major infrastructure needs that inhibit economic development or create barriers to existing improvements, like outdated sewer systems and aging water infrastructure. More recently, during the 2023 legislative session at the request of VACo, he sponsored successful legislation to extend the current moratorium of city annexation of county areas. Virginia counties will miss a true advocate for local government and his steadfast commitment to the Eastern Shore and Middle Peninsula. Dean Lynch is the executive director of the Virginia Association of Counties. While Chap Petersen appears today as a respected establishment figure, he made his first impression on Virginia politics as an upstart, scrappy fighter. The Northern Virginia Senator’s political journey began in 2001 when he defeated a Republican incumbent to secure a seat in the House of Delegates. Still unsatisfied, he pulled off another upset win in 2007 to claim a seat in the State Senate. These victories earned him a reputation as a man of the people, a label he claims to this day. Throughout these electoral battles, Petersen displayed genuine concern for his constituents by meeting voters door-to-door. Believing that no level of success could put him above the people he represented, Petersen held on to his seat for 16 years by staying in touch with the needs of his district. Over his career, Petersen developed an identity as a moderate Democrat who was unafraid to work across the aisle. Seeing Virginia students struggle against pandemic-related learning loss pushed him to support a successful effort to reopen schools. He even broke with his party to oppose continued masking in schools, showcasing political courage and foresight. Raised in Fairfax City, Petersen’s roots run deep in the community. After graduating from the University of Virginia Law School, he started a private law practice, representing thousands of local citizens and solidifying his belief in the importance of small businesses. Petersen championed several bills to benefit these businesses, including through targeted tax relief. A proud husband and father of four, Petersen resides in Fairfax City with his wife, Sharon Kim Petersen. His dedication to community service extends back to his early days when he was elected to the Fairfax City Council in 1998, following in the footsteps of his parents, John and Mary Petersen, who were committed community servants. In recent years, Petersen cast pivotal votes on key Democratic bills advancing labor rights, voting rights, and criminal justice reform. He then stood as part of the “blue wall” that stopped efforts to roll back these landmark laws. As Chairman of the Senate Natural Resources Committee for the past four years, he played a crucial role in safeguarding Virginia’s environment, leaving a lasting impact. Fearless in his approach, he has consistently taken on large corporations and special interests in the pursuit of the public good. Though Petersen was ousted in a primary campaign by a challenger from his left, many have rightly pointed out that he paved the way for Democrats in the district. Indeed, he lost to a campaign that would have been inconceivable 16 years ago, a testament to the profound impact he had on the political landscape of his district. Chap Petersen’s remarkable journey from scrappy fighter to respected statesman will serve as an example for many underdogs to come. Kalina Kulig is an intern with David Bailey Associates. Lynwood W. Lewis, Jr. Delegate 2004-2014 • Senator 2014-2024 BY DEAN LYNCH Chap Petersen Delegate 2002-2006 • Senator 2008-2024 BY KALINA KULIG