Interview With Virginia Governor Ralph Northam Pt1

It’s not every day that the Governor of Virginia visits Highland County, and it’s even more rare when they stop by the WVLS studio, so I was pleased to have the opportunity this week to have a conversation with 73rd Virginia Governor Ralph Northam. Knowing his time was limited, I wasted no time getting serious.

“So, I’m a pretty hard-hitting journalist, so I’m just going to jump right to the tough stuff right here.”


“Chris told me that you made an appearance recently on The Bachelorette, so I would just like to know if you have any future aspirations for doing acting, or anything like that?”

“Well, you know, The Bachelorette show came to Richmond, and my daughter, who is 27, and some of her friends, got the idea that it would be good if I could make an appearance on The Bachelorette. And so, I did, I was able to ask some of the bachelors a few questions.

“But, I tell you Scott, at the end of the day, I was expecting to get a rose – I didn’t get a rose, and so I think my Bachelorette days are over with unfortunately”

“So no movie deals or anything like that in the future?”

“Nope, just a one-shot deal and I’m done.”

I actually did have serious questions for the Governor, including his reason for visiting.

“Well, yesterday was Veterans Day, November 11th, and I am a veteran of the United States Army. I served for a total of 11 years. And so, I’m here in Monterey today to attend a veterans’ ceremony.

“You know, a lot of people don’t realize this, but we have over 720,000 veterans that live here in Virginia. We have the highest number of women veterans in Virginia. And so, we are doing everything that we can to make sure that Virginia is the most veteran friendly state in the country. And so, that’s why I’m here today – my friend Susan Swecker is going to be with me, and we’re looking forward to a good ceremony.”

He looked back on his first year in office.

“Well, it’s gone real well, and, you know, we’ve got a great team. We put a great Cabinet together, and our top priority in Virginia is the economy. You know, as I go around and listen to folks, people want a job that they can support themselves and their families with, so we’re doing well. Our unemployment rate is at 2.9%, it’s the lowest it’s been in over 10 years. With that comes some challenges though, one of which is if you go to rural Virginia – you know, I’m from the Eastern Shore – if you come to the south-side or the southwest, our unemployment rate is not at 2.9%, so we need to lift up all of Virginia.

“But we’ve done a lot of good work with economic development, and especially workforce development, training individuals for 21st century jobs, bringing companies to rural Virginia, and putting people to work. So we’ve made a lot of progress in that regard.

“The other area that I’m really focused on is education. You know, I really believe that’s the tide that lifts all ships, and we’ve got great colleges and universities, and I want to make sure that they’re affordable for Virginians. (We’re) putting a lot of emphasis on our community colleges – we have 23 in Virginia. Certification programs, apprenticeship programs – and one of the things that I like to emphasize to people is that you don’t necessarily need a four-year college education to get a really good high-paying job now, so we’re really putting a lot more emphasis on our two-year programs, and even putting more emphasis at the high school level on vocational and technical training, so that’s going real well.

“As a physician, Scott, you know, I think all Virginians need access to affordable and quality healthcare, and so we’ve made a lot of progress in that regard, and I remind people that about 1/3 of the hospitals now in rural Virginia are operating in the red, and so we need to do everything that we can to make them whole. If we’re going to help businesses grow, if we’re going to bring in new businesses to rural Virginia, we’ve got to have access to good healthcare.

“And then finally the opioid crisis is something we’re continuing to fight. You know, last year, we lost 1,227 Virginians – that’s too many, way too many. That’s more than will die on our highways, more than will die from gun related accidents. And so, I’ve been travelling around Virginia as a physician, and Governor, talking to our medical schools, teaching our students and residents, you know,  (about) more innovative ways of dealing with acute and chronic pain, and it’s something we’re coming at from a lot of different angles, but  That’s too many lives that are lost, and that wrecks people, and it wrecks their families, and so, I’ve put a lot of emphasis on that as well.”

Stay tuned to AMR for Part Two of our conversation.

Story By

Scott Smith

Scott Smith is the General Manager for Allegheny Mountain Radio and Station Coordinator and News Reporter for WVLS. Scott’s family has deep roots in Highland County. While he did not grow up here, he spent as much time as possible on the family farm, and eventually moved to Highland to continue the tradition, which he still pursues with his cousin. Unfortunately, farming doesn’t pay all the bills, so he has previously taken other jobs to support his farming hobby, including pressman/writer for The Recorder, and Ag Projects Coordinator for The Highland Center. He lives in Hightown with wife Michelle and son Ethan. In his spare time, he wishes he had more spare time, especially to ride his prized Harley-Davidson motorcycle.

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