- Last Updated on 11:41 AM 04/23/12
- BY Catherine MacDonald/Capital News Service
RICHMOND — In politics, “dirt” usually has a negative connotation. But James Edmunds of Halifax says he misses the brown stuff. In fact, the freshman delegate joked he needed a bucket of dirt for his office in the General Assembly Building next to the state Capitol.
“I’m country coming into town here,” said Edmunds, a farmer who has served on the Halifax County Board of Supervisors since 1999. “I don’t see anything green out of my window, so that’s taking a little getting used to.”
His voice hoarse from talking so much over the past few days, Edmunds said he is learning quickly in the fast-paced House of Delegates – especially considering he became interested in running for office less than a year ago.
“To say that I’ve had this ambition secretly my whole life would be a complete lie; I never thought I’d be here,” he said. “If you’d told me I was going to be here last January, I probably would’ve laughed at you.”
Although he is anxious about his first session being during such harsh economic times, Edmunds said he is excited about his committee appointments, which were handed down Wednesday. He will serve on the House Agriculture, Chesapeake and Natural Resources Committee; the Counties, Cities and Towns Committee; and the Militia, Police and Public Safety Committee.
“With those appointments I’ll be able to do some things for rural Virginia and maybe make an impact there,” Edmunds said.
Public safety is especially important to Edmunds, who succeeds Clarke Hogan as the delegate representing House District 60.
Edmunds said outgoing Gov. Tim Kaine’s proposed budget cut the sheriff’s department funding in his region by about 30 percent, which would mean the loss of about eight road deputies.
“They’re already overworked and stretched out too far,” Edmunds said. “All they would possibly be able to do is answer calls, and even then there’s going to be an enormous delay. You may be waiting an hour for an officer to come to your house for a breaking and entering.”
He said he opposes cutting funding for law enforcement. “It’s one of the core roles of government: to provide the safety and protection of its citizens.”
But given the multibillion-dollar shortfall in the state budget, the General Assembly may be forced to reduce funding for public safety and other services, said Sen. Frank Ruff, a fellow Republican from Mecklenburg County.
“Hopefully, it will be less than that 30 percent,” Ruff said. “Nobody wants to make those cuts, whether it be teachers or whether it be deputies. But it’s very much a balancing act, and we’re going to have to figure out how to make it work.”
Ruff said he is looking forward to working with Edmunds this session, and the legislators are sponsoring several bills with the same language.
Ruff said he can commiserate with Edmunds’ difficulty adjusting to city life.
“It’s certainly a change to have concrete under your feet all the time, but it’s an experience that you build on,” he said. “I think (Edmunds is) a great guy – very family-oriented. And I think he’s going to be a great asset.”
Edmunds and his wife, Jennifer, have two children – Paul and Caroline. Edmunds said family is a major motivator for him.
“The process is certainly going to be a great experience for me and my children,” he said. “They came up (Wednesday) and got to see me sworn in and tour the Capitol, so the interest (to pursue politics) may be sparked in them.”