From Veteran House Member to Freshman Senator, Bill Carrico Stays Focused

Charles William ?Bill? Carrico (R-Grayson) was born in Marion, Virginia, in 1961 to Charles and Alda Carrico in the same county that he has represented in the General Assembly for more than a decade. But politics was far removed from the little corner of Smyth County where he was born and raised. Carrico spent most of his youth playing football, fighting, and playing with his siblings Mary, Danny, and Pam. He worked hard to keep his grades up while in school, and began helping his father in his private contract business as a plasterer and sheetrock finisher. ?I was a typical Southwest Virginia boy,? says Carrico. ?Fights, football, family, and fun.?

Virginia Senator Bill Carrico
Virginia Senator Bill Carrico

He graduated from Chilhowie High School in 1981 and enrolled at Virginia Highlands Community College, which was known by a different name by locals. ?We called it UCLA,? laughs Carrico. ?The Upper Corner of Lower Abingdon.? While at ?UCLA,? Carrico earned a certificate in drafting and landed a job at General Engineering in Abingdon as a draftsman when he graduated. His time as a draftsman in the private sector gave Carrico hands-on experience in a complex industry at a young age. ?I saw what it took to make a company run and how important the coal industry was to our region,? he says. ?I learned a lot about business, about the building blocks of a local economy.?

He enjoyed his work as a draftsman, and he would have been successful in a line of work that was rising in the area at the time. But Carrico had a desire for a different career, one based on public safety and public service. In 1985, Carrico applied and was accepted into the Virginia State Police Academy, a decision that would determine the course of the rest of his life. For fifteen years, Carrico served as a Virginia State Trooper, bouncing around the Northern part of the state before moving back to Southwest Virginia for good. In 1987, he married Paula Sweet, and a few years later, the couple had a son, Willie. ?Being a state trooper was a dream come true for me,? Carrico says. ?I served with honorable and brave men and women, and there was something very rewarding about protecting the Commonwealth. And, it was during those years that I realized how important family was to me, through my marriage, the birth of my son, and my daughter Emily a few years later.?

In 2000, Carrico?s life was changed in an instant. He was injured in an automobile accident in the line of duty. After surgery to repair his damaged spine, Carrico?s career hung in the balance. ?God worked a miracle on that hospital bed,? Carrico says. ?When I finally woke up, I knew that my life would never be the same, but I also knew that God had a purpose for me.? From that day forward, Carrico?s faith became the driving force in his life.

The road to recovery for Carrico was long and difficult. He underwent multiple surgeries to repair his back, and the recovery took almost a year. Confined to a brace from his neck to his waist, Carrico was faced with the reality that he could not return to law enforcement. In 2001, as his recovery progressed, he was approached about running for the Virginia House of Delegates. ?My interest in politics grew during my time with the State Police, and I became interested in local politics during my recovery,? Carrico says. ?After being forced into retirement due to injury, I felt led to run for public office, even though I was new to the game.? Carrico ran, and Carrico won. For the next 10 years, he served the 5th District in the House of Delegates, rising to chair subcommittees and becoming a powerful voice in the House. Politically, his stature rose in Southwest Virginia, as his district went from competitive to safe during his tenure. ?My first couple of races were hotly contested,? he recalls. ?I had Democratic Governors flying into my district all the time.? Carrico worked hard to develop a network of support in his district and in Richmond, and he kept winning. His work in Richmond focused on economic development, law enforcement, and faith-based issues.

In 2011, longtime State Senator William Wampler retired and endorsed Carrico to run for his seat in the Virginia Senate. Carrico won easily, and now represents more than 200,000 people in seven counties and the city of Bristol throughout the region. In his first year in the Senate, Carrico has seen firsthand the differences between the two chambers. ?The House is closer to the people, and you have a greater ability to focus on a smaller number of constituents,? Carrico says. ?But serving in the Senate gives me an opportunity to have more influence over events in Richmond and gives me a key role in bringing economic development projects to Southwest Virginia.?

Carrico is focusing his time in the Senate on doing everything he can to revive an economy in Southwest Virginia that has struggled for years. ?The recession has taken a toll on our region,? Carrico says. ?Manufacturing and textile jobs have left, and our young people are migrating out of this area to find work. I?m focused on putting my legislative experience to work in the Senate to put Southwest Virginia back to work.?

His agenda includes renewing the Commonwealth?s focus on energy through clean coal. He was instrumental in restoring and extending the coalfield tax credit, and he is working to bring more attention to the industry. Other economic development successes include passing the retail sales tax use for construction projects in the City of Bristol, which landed a new Cabela?s store for the city. Carrico serves on the Virginia Tobacco Commission, which oversees critical economic development projects for the region.

Carrico is also quick to point out that his heart is never far from law enforcement, and he continues to work on public safety issues like methamphetamine problems in the region. Carrico has come a long way since his childhood days in Smyth County. He has seen good times and bad, and he has experienced a unique path for a Southwest Virginian. ?I have been blessed in many ways throughout the course of my life,? Carrico says. ?I?ve served the Commonwealth for almost thirty years now. I have a loving family and a faith that guides me. And I live in the greatest state in the greatest nation on Earth.? Not bad for a boy from Smyth County.