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HILLSVILLE — Highlighting the need for jobs in the 6th District, Democrat Jonathan McGrady launched his campaign for the House of Delegates at the former home of Kentucky Derby Hosiery.
Surrounded by family, friends, teachers and a principal he had in school, Carroll County officials and even some Republicans in the cavernously empty facility, McGrady underscored the point that his effort to win the seat now held by the retiring Annie B. Crockett-Stark will focus on jobs.
After several family meetings with his wife and three children and split votes about whether the Hillsville attorney former Carroll County Democratic chairman should get into the House of Delegate race, McGrady, 43, decided he had to seize the opportunity.
The Carroll native recalled recently reading “Oh, The Places You’ll Go” by Dr. Seuss to his daughter Molly’s fifth grade class.
“When I looked around the room, I was moved by the energy of this class — the hope and opportunities that lie ahead for these young people,” he told the crowd of around 75 on Monday afternoon. “Little did I know that just a few days later our Delegate Annie B. Crockett-Stark would retire and that all of a sudden I had a chance to make a difference for these children.”
McGrady wished the current delegate a happy retirement as he wondered how she got folks to universally like her during her eight years of service to the people of the 6th District.
He indicated frustration with the rift between the political parties. “We need statesmen, not politicians, and that is what I want to be in your next delegate,” he said.
McGrady has deep roots in the region, with his ancestors going back 225 years in Carroll and 250 years in Wythe.
He remembered learning some of his earliest values from watching his great-grandfather Clinton Webb serve the community at his country store.
McGrady watched a man pay Webb the $7 he owed for gas from three years before, when the store owner let him fill up while traveling with his family and out of gas and cash.
From his grandfather, Harry Lee McGrady, a cattle farmer, McGrady learned the value of hard work.
“He used to pay me a penny for every thistle I would dig up on the farm,” McGrady recalled. “I can tell you one thing, it takes a lot of thistle to make a dollar.”
He credited his mother Anne for giving him lots of energy and compassion and his father Joe for teaching him to always treat others the way that you want to be treated.
Though many of his contemporaries at law school in William & Mary in 1995 wanted to land high paying jobs at big firms, McGrady knew he wanted to be back at home practicing law with his father.
McGrady feels lucky to be able to make a living in his hometown. “So many of my friends from my 1987 high school class would love to have come back or stayed in Carroll County but couldn’t find work,” McGrady said in prepared remarks. “It’s still like that. That is a problem I intend to fix as your delegate.”
McGrady will work to fill the three empty plants in the Carroll County Industrial Park and others like them by going back to a method used by former U.S. Rep. Rick Boucher (D-9th District). Like Boucher did with the 9th, McGrady promised to showcase the 6th District by working personally to recruit businesses to Carroll, Wythe and Smith counties.
“We have such assets throughout the district with highly motivated/skilled employees, empty buildings like these ready for occupancy and shovel ready sites ripe for development,” his written remarks said. “We also have the good fortune to have an interstate nearby with thousands of cars passing by daily…
“When I was president of the Twin County Regional Chamber of Commerce, I actively promoted jobs and did the same when I served on the New River/Mount Rogers Workforce Investment Board,” he said. “As your delegate, I can do more.”
Coming from a family full of teachers, McGrady wants to stop unfunded state mandates on schools and local governments.
Carroll County schools recently lost a teaching position in order to make the budget balance, due to the state leaving funding gaps for the localities to fill for pay raises and retirement contributions, McGrady noted. Counties only have so much revenue available to them.
Along with creating new jobs, McGrady also wants to work to keep existing jobs, like those at the Southwestern Virginia Training Center, which is slated to close in 2018.
If the facility for the intellectually and developmentally disabled closes, McGrady worries about the quality of care its residents will be able to find elsewhere, as well as the impacts on the families of the 500 employees there.
Other challenges that McGrady pledged to work on include supporting agriculture; completing the four-laning of U.S. 58 “once and for all” instead of incrementally; and addressing high power bills that force people to choose between eating and heating their homes.
McGrady, who recently filed a lawsuit against the Virginia Department of Transportation on behalf of a commercial truck driver injured in a wind-related accident on I-77, said he would fight as a delegate to make the interstate safer in the wake of deadly weather-related accidents.
There’s also a special significance of McGrady announcing his candidacy on April 15, tax day. “I, like so many of you, had to skimp and save to pay my taxes today,” he said. “I do not want to see any new tax increases. I pledge to look for ways to save money without sacrificing our children’s education and without cutting core governmental services that are vital to our commonwealth.”
McGrady and wife Jennifer have three children. He is a member and former deacon of Hillsville Christian Church; and a member of Hillsville Masonic Lodge, Grayson Carroll Shrine Club, Galax Moose Lodge and Galax Elks Lodge. He is also active in Cub Scout Pack 83 as a den leader.
McGrady was appointed in 2005 by then-Gov. Mark Warner to represent private attorneys on the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services Board.