Local Commentary

Senator Whipple’s Richmond Report


As Virginia says farewell to Governor Kaine, and prepares to welcome a new Governor, it is the perfect time to think about how much we value Tim Kaine’s contributions to the Commonwealth.

First of all, I venture to guess that a large number of residents of Arlington, Fairfax and Falls Church call him “Tim.” He is so friendly, so genuine, and kind that he inspires affection from many, many Virginians.

When Tim Kaine was elected Lieutenant Governor, we got to see him daily in Richmond as he presided over the Senate, the main Constitutional duty of the Lt. Governor. Even though the Republican General Assembly cut his staff severely, he managed to engage in policy initiatives. For example, he visited almost every school division in Virginia during those four years.

Tim Kaine himself believes that education opens doors of opportunity; he also knows how much Virginians value education and want their children (and their neighbors’ children) to learn and do well. As Governor, he expanded Virginia’s preschool programs for at-risk 4-year-olds to many thousands more children, thereby greatly increasing their chances for future success.

When the Virginia Tech tragedy occurred, Governor Kaine had just arrived in Japan on a trade mission. He was on the next plane back home to Virginia. His address at the University memorial service was eloquent, reflecting the sorrow felt by the whole Commonwealth.

His next step was to revise Virginia’s laws relating to mental illness, making it easier to protect persons who are a danger to themselves or others, as well as requiring better procedures for community services boards and providing more funds for treating mental illness.

His eloquent, amazing speeches came one after the other. I have heard people say how they have remembered his words that come from his knowledge and wisdom, as well as his heart. They are original speeches and remarks, delivered for the specific occasion, and they have inspired many.

I’m not sure I know all of his decision-making process. I do know that it is thorough, that he can recognize a good idea when he hears one, that once a decision is made, he sticks to it. Then he becomes very persuasive.

Perhaps his greatest legislative success was to ban smoking in restaurants, a measure that will do much to protect the health of Virginians for decades to come. He went about persuading the public, the legislature and others that this was the right thing to do, and it actually happened. In our tobacco state, this is an amazing achievement.

Another great accomplishment was the emphasis placed on Virginia’s environment. Governor Kaine will have protected about 400,000 acres of open space during his term; he has taken many steps to improve water quality and restore the Chesapeake Bay; he examined climate change and its impact on Virginia; and issued executive orders for energy efficiency and conservation.

We thank Governor Kaine for his contributions to the Commonwealth.

Senator Whipple represents the 31st District in the Virginia State Senate. She may be e-mailed at district31@sov.state.va.us