After a total of 17 years and 8 full days in office, my term has expired, and this is the last “News From The Coffin Corner” column.
I have written this column for the News-Press since I was first sworn-in on January 4, 1993. I had red hair then; it is all gray now.
My original district included Falls Church, two other precincts in Providence District, and the Bailey’s, Skyline, and Culmore areas. It changed after the 2001 redistricting.
The district lost those places, but gained the 7-Corners area, communities adjacent to Annandale and Springfield, and the entire Edsall Road corridor.
The 38th district has always been diverse economically and ethnically, and I am sure that diversity will continue when it is redistricted in 2011.
Only Male and Longest Serving
I am the only man to ever represent the 38th district. Created in 1981, three women served before me and another woman represents it now.
With over 17 years of service, I also represented the 38th district longer than anyone. I do not expect that to be equaled any time soon.
I checked the records and found that I served with 218 separate people in the House of Delegates over those years.
Sink or Swim
Following the special election in which I was first elected in December 1992, another was held for a vacant House seat the day before the 1993 session.
Both Democrats, we were a freshman class of two. Neither of us was given an official orientation and the Democratic caucus did not assign mentors in those days.
My orientation consisted of the Clerk showing me my desk, pointing out the men’s lounge, telling me not to be late to committee meetings, and wishing me good luck.
It was sink or swim. But, after serving on Fairfax County commissions or committees for about 19 years, I took to it like a duck to water.
I have prided myself in diligent committee and subcommittee work, and tried to become a legislative craftsperson who could clean up poorly written legislation.
I introduced bills on various subjects over the years, achieving unanimous or near unanimous votes on the vast majority of the bills that passed.
Three notable successes come immediately to mind. As a freshman legislator in 1993, I was able to achieve what a number of more senior members could not.
My legislation creating carjacking as a separate felony in Virginia, punishable by up to life in prison, passed and became law.
I won legislative approval the next year authorizing construction of the Virginia Tech-UVa Northern Virginia Center.
It was my bill in 2002 that created the “Fight Terrorism” license plate in Virginia. More of those special license plates have been sold in a shorter time than any other.
I was also successful in getting legislation passed as requested by Fairfax County and, when I represented it, Falls Church.
One in particular, that I worked for two years to get approved, mandates jail time for those convicted of repeated housing health and safety code violations.
Helping the Little Guy
I was always mindful of the unintended negative consequences of changes to the law and regulations on the average Virginian.
I also worked hard to help constituents with their problems, doing whatever I could to help cut red tape, including once personally installing a stop sign for a community.
I was ably assisted over the years by some outstanding Legislative Aides, including Marcia Jay, Jackie Dilley, and Bette Doranz.
It Was My Honor
The Virginia House of Delegates is the successor to the House of Burgesses, the first legislative body in the English speaking New World.
So many great people served there before me, such as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, George Mason, and Patrick Henry.
I never forgot that I stood on their shoulders and it was truly an honor to serve in such a legislative chamber.
No one is successful without the support of their family and I thank my late mother, Lillian, my wife, Laura, and my two children for putting up with it all.
It has been a pleasure to serve the people of the 38th district. Thank you!