Being the youngest member of the Virginia General Assembly since colonial days, especially coming from a rural region six hours from the state’s capitol, has been an exhilarating experience for Delegate Will Morefield, the state representative from the Third Legislative District that serves all of Buchanan County, most of Tazewell County, and the Honaker area of Russell County.
“The past year and a half has been a whirlwind to say the least,” Delegate James W. “Will” Morefield said while reflecting upon his first political campaign and the start of his first two-year term as an elected official. At the beginning of 2009, he was laying the groundwork for a run for the House of Delegates. After receiving the nomination, he traveled around Southwest Virginia promoting the idea that “Southwest Virginia needed fresh representation that would work to bring jobs and new opportunities to the region.”
November came and the people spoke. “I was honored with the privilege to serve the people of Southwest Virginia as a member of the oldest continuous legislative body in the United States,” said Morefield. He commented that it is an honor to be able to serve in the same legislature as many of the nation’s Founding Fathers. “Each elected official in Virginia should reflect upon our state’s legacy as the cradle of American democracy. Thomas Jefferson, who served as a member of the then House of Burgesses, left his mark on our nation along with many other esteemed Virginians. Their presence is everywhere at our state capitol, especially Jefferson who designed it and drafted our Declaration of Independence.”
Morefield said that being a freshman Delegate is a learning experience indeed. “Crafting legislation, working with constituents, and listening to and participating in committee testimony were certainly not everyday matters for me before January.”
Delegate Morefield, the grandson of a coal miner, supported many initiatives to open up tourism in his district and streamline the system for coalfield landowners to access gas royalties that are held in trust funds. “We have to always maintain a balance between jobs, the environment, and property rights more than any other region of the state. Nowhere else is title to property more complicated, the need for mineral development and wise management of watersheds more pronounced, and the safety of our industrious labor force to make it all come together more important.”
When asked about his biggest eye openers since arriving in Richmond, Delegate Morefield thought for a second. “It’s clear to me that legislators from our mountain region have to work harder, stick together more, and cooperate to make ourselves relevant more than any other group of lawmakers. We’re outnumbered greatly but not outgunned, so we have to be ready with the facts, passion, and persuasion to convince legislators from urban areas to listen and respond to our region’s needs.”
“Many of Virginia’s governors, starting particularly with Governors Henry Carter Stuart and George C. Peery from Russell and Tazewell counties then Linwood Holton from Wise County, have been part of Southwest Virginia, and other governors such as George Allen have adopted our region as their own,” Morefield observed. “Governor McDonnell likes coming here and he works well with our delegation, so we are not forgotten, just small in numbers which means we have to be proud and loud.”
The delegate added that, “Since the beginning of this year, I have been in discussions with a number of businesses that are willing to either relocate to or expand their operations in our coalfield area. I have also been working closely with coal and natural gas companies throughout the region to discuss how we can use existing resources to create new opportunities.”
Morefield pointed out that the energy sector is one of the most vital resources that we have, and it is crucial to increase demand for Virginia coal and natural gas. To help highlight the importance of these sectors, he is currently crafting legislation that will save localities money and add more local jobs in the energy sector. His proposed energy and job-producing legislation will be formally announced by the end of summer.
If you have any comments or suggestions, send them to DelJMorefield@house.virginia.gov.