This week, I discuss the updated telework policy for Virginia state employees, events happening around the district, share application information for the Richmond Symphony Youth Orchestra Program and the Sorensen Institute’s Emerging Leaders Program, and also reflect on the community events and celebrations I attended this past week. Thank you for taking the time to read our newsletter and for staying informed.
Updated State Employees Telework Policy
The Governor recently announced a revision to Virginia’s telework options for state employees. Because of this Senate District’s close proximity to state agency offices, many state employees are also my constituents. Over the past few days, several of these constituents have reached out to my office and have shared many concerns about the new policy guidelines. I share their concerns for the following reasons:
A universally-applied telework policy does not address the many differences that exist among position requirements and agency needs. Many of our state employees are not public-facing, and their job responsibilities are largely centered on projects that can be effectively completed remotely.
The past two years of the pandemic have demonstrated that our state employees have continued to be productive and engaged; in some cases, productivity and efficiency have increased.
The recently-announced policy revises the options that were available pre-pandemic. Previously, decisions for telework options were agency-driven. Now, any remote days beyond one day per week will require the approval of Cabinet Secretaries and the Governor’s Chief of Staff.
Many agencies have reduced office space and have also invested in necessary equipment and technologies to support employees’ remote work. This investment may now be rendered obsolete, and it is not clear that agencies have the necessary funding to support office space, parking, and other necessary employee resources.
We know that remote work options are much more environmentally-friendly, helping to reduce carbon emissions, congestion on our roads and highways, and reducing fuel demand.
The private sector has found remote work options to be an attractive benefit that draws talented and skilled workers. While many of our state employees value the public service that they provide to fellow Virginians, the limitations on flexibility will likely lead to an attrition of talented state employees who may also carry a considerable amount of institutional knowledge with them.
Telework options provide necessary flexibility for employees, particularly those who are parents of young children. The sudden announcement this late in the school year has left many of my constituents with limited options for the arrangement of childcare.
I am reaching out to the Governor’s Office on behalf of these constituents, and I hope that some modifications to the new policy may be forthcoming.
News Around the District
Plant a Row for the Hungry (PAR): The Chesterfield Master Gardeners, the Chesterfield Cooperative Extension, and Plant A Row for the Hungry (PAR) are partnering together to address food insecurity and hunger in our community. Individuals and families can help their efforts by growing fresh produce in home gardens and then donating it to the Chesterfield Extension Office (9501 Lori Rd). Donations will be accepted on Mondays, between now and October 31, from 9:00am to 12:00pm. All donations will be given to SevaTruck RVA, a free meal food truck that will transform the ingredients into nutritious meals to feed the homeless and hungry in the Metro Richmond Area. More information about the initiative is located here.
Rabies Vaccine Clinic: The Chesterfield County Health Department is hosting a rabies vaccination clinic for cats and dogs this Saturday, May 14, from 1:00pm until 3:00pm at the Chesterfield County Fairgrounds (10300 Courthouse Rd). The cost is $10, and it is a cash-only event. It’s important to keep pets up-to-date on their rabies vaccination to prevent them from getting infected by wildlife and to prevent possible transmission to other animals or community members.
Friends and Farmers Market Returns: The Chesterfield County Farmers Market has returned and will be held on Wednesdays, from 11:00am until 2:00pm, until September 28 at 6707 Mimms Loop. This annual farmers market is a great opportunity for community members to support local farmers, businesses, and artisans.
Powhatan County Fair: This year marks the 103rd celebration of the Powhatan County Fair, one of the longest-running fairs in the Commonwealth. The annual Fair hosts food, arts and crafts, and live entertainment. The fair will be held May 13 through 15 at the Powhatan County Fairgrounds (4042 Anderson Hwy).
Recycle Upcycle Art Contest: Children in grades K-12 are invited to participate in the Recycle Upcycle Art Contest hosted by the Virginia Cooperative Extension. Using creativity, design, and innovation, students are encouraged to design art, jewelry, clothing, or something uniquely their own. Entries must be dropped off at the Powhatan County Fairgrounds (4042 Anderson Hwy) by 3:00pm on Friday, May 13. Registration information for the contest is available here.
Village Vibe Concert Series: The Powhatan Chamber of Commerce is hosting the annual summer concert series at Village Meadow (3920 Marion Harland Lane). Each concert is sponsored by small businesses in Powhatan, which are also selling raffle tickets to benefit a local charity of their choosing. Admission to all of the concerts is free. The concert schedule is available on this Facebook page.
City of Richmond
Health Equity Fund Community Advisory Committee: The Richmond and Henrico Health District (RHHD) is seeking applicants for the Health Equity Fund Community Advisory Committee (HEF CAC). Selected applicants will use their lived experiences with systemic racism and health disparities to guide RHHD in selecting which community-led projects and partner organizations to fund. Applications are due by May 20, and additional information is located here.
Neighborhood Clean-Up Program: Although we are getting ready to transition to Summer, many residents are still in the process of Spring cleaning. The City of Richmond Department of Public Works continues to offer services through the Neighborhood Clean-Up Program, collecting bulky items such as mattresses, furniture, and appliances on select Saturdays. The full program schedule is available here. Hazardous materials like electronics, glass, and destruction debris are not accepted. For more information, call 804-646-8325 or visit the Department of Public Works website.
C-FIT Housing Series: Richmond City Public Schools’ Center for Families in Transition (C-FIT) is partnering with Virginia Housing to offer workshops to RPS families on homeownership, renting, down payment assistance, and more. Workshops are offered in both English and Spanish on Zoom.
Virginia Museum of History and Culture Grand Re-Opening
I’m delighted to share that this Saturday and Sunday, the Virginia Museum of History and Culture is welcoming community members back with a two-day Grand Re-Opening Celebration, an event that will include food trucks, music performances, and kid-friendly activities. During the festivities, visitors are encouraged to tour the facilities, which recently went under a $30+ million renovation and expansion, the most extensive transformation in the museum’s nearly 200-year history. Details about the expansion and the Grand Re-Opening Celebration are available here.
Richmond Symphony Youth Orchestra Program Auditions
The Richmond Symphony is holding auditions for their Youth Orchestra Program in the coming weeks, with auditions beginning on May 16. From beginner to advanced musicians, the Richmond Symphony Youth Orchestra Program offers something for every student, elementary through high school. This wonderful program inspires young musicians in so many ways, and I encourage interested students to apply.
Sorensen Institute Emerging Leaders Program
The Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership, sponsored by the University of Virginia, is now accepting applications for the Emerging Leaders Program (ELP). With the goal of shaping young professionals' collaborative abilities and critical thinking skills, the curriculum focuses on ethics, effective leadership strategies, bipartisanship, public policy exercises, and more. For questions, contact Sorensen Community Relations and Program Recruiting Assistant, JaVori Warren at firstname.lastname@example.org. The deadline to apply is June 13.
Community Events This Week
Last Thursday, I joined a few other members of the General Assembly to visit with the Virginia Maritime Association. Association members provided impressive details about the breadth and scope of efforts at the Port of Virginia and the Port of Richmond. As a vital part of the international supply chain, the ports are a critical gateway for export/import industries. The VMA is also focused on the efforts to expand clean energy options through offshore wind, workforce development to help sustain new economic growth, logistics and supply chain management, and much more.
On Saturday, I joined the Virginia Capital Trail Foundation at their annual Cap2Cap event in which cyclists get the opportunity to enjoy the wonderful network of trails that our region has to offer. The work of the Foundation and the entire cycling community has greatly contributed to the wellbeing of the Richmond area, and I’m so appreciative of their efforts.
On Saturday, I also had the pleasure of delivering the resolution I sponsored commending the Islamic Center of North America (ICNA) Relief for its incredible humanitarian work in the Richmond area. From the beginning of the pandemic, the ICNA Relief Center in Henrico County mobilized to provide food, hygienic products, vaccines, and school supplies to thousands of families in need. Organizations such as ICNA Relief serve as the model for community stewardship.
Saturday continued to be a busy day as, after two long years, I was finally able to deliver the Senate Joint resolution I sponsored in 2020 commending the Pi Sigma Alpha Political Science Honor Society on their 100-year anniversary. The Xi Pi Chapter at Virginia Commonwealth University was recently reorganized and has done incredible work in the last few years, including raising over $1,000 for Fox Elementary School this year. Congratulations to the graduating class and to all the new inductees!
On Sunday, I celebrated the end of Ramadan with the Muslim community at the Islamic Center of Virginia (ICVA) Eid Festival. Delegate VanValkenburg and Delegate Willett joined me as we wished Eid Mubarak to the community. Although the winds were brisk and chilly, community members still had a wonderful time with cookouts, face painting, bounce houses, and other activities for children.
Connecting With My Office
My staff continue to hold meetings with constituents via Zoom or by phone. You can sign up for a meeting with either of my staff members with our easy scheduling app: