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Governor’s Cabinet Members and VEDP CEO Highlight First Virginia Rural Caucus Meeting of 2018

Virginia Secretary of Agriculture & Forestry Bettina Ring addresses the Virginia Rural Caucus

Richmond, Va. – The Center for Rural Virginia welcomed leaders from the Governor’s Cabinet and Virginia Economic Development Partnership (VEDP) at the first weekly Rural Caucus meeting of 2018, where it also elected new Caucus officers.

The January 17th meeting was hosted by Sen. Frank Ruff, R-Clarksville, and attended by a number of other caucus representatives from the General Assembly and dozens of interested stakeholders. During the meeting, Sen. Ruff was elected to serve as Chairman of the Rural Caucus for 2018 and Del. Keith Hodges, R-Urbanna, was elected Vice Chairman.

After the elections, several prominent special guests presented, including two members of the Governor’s Cabinet.

Bettina Ring, Virginia Secretary of Agriculture & Forestry, said that she was honored to have been appointed to her new role by Governor Northam, emphasizing her strong land ethic and rural background as a native of Craig County, VA.

“I’m happy to be here and look forward to working with you to continue to advance agriculture and forestry in this great state,” said Ring, who now resides in Charlottesville. “I look forward to doing whatever I can to bring forward initiatives to help us ensure we continue to develop rural economies across the state.”

Also speaking at the meeting was Megan Healy, Ph.D. who was named Chief Workforce Development Advisor, a role that has been elevated to the cabinet level in Governor Northam’s administration.

“Our goal is to really strengthen the workforce system to meet all needs,” said Healy, who started her career in Danville and Martinsville as a community college professor and most recently served the state as the Assistant Vice Chancellor for Academic Services and Employer Partnerships for the Virginia Community College System.

“Specifically, when you think about who our customer is, it’s our participants who are trying to get jobs, it’s also our businesses – so really it’s the Virginia economy,” Healy explained.

The Virginia economy is the primary focus of VEDP President and CEO Stephen Moret, Ed.D. who also presented at the Rural Caucus meeting, highlighting his organization’s budgetary proposals and key goals for the coming year.

“We aspire for every region in Virginia to participate in the growth of the Commonwealth,” said Moret. “We have to be aggressive to be successful, and we want rural Virginia to thrive.”

Moret indicated that the right metrics will play an important role in driving positive results across all areas of the state.

“As we report out statistics going forward, we’re going to break them out by region,” Moret said, emphasizing that growth initiatives will not be deemed successful if some regions grow while others decline.

Other VEDP aspirations include positioning Virginia’s growth rate (employment and median earned income of works) among the top 5-10 states in the U.S.; restoring Virginia to its previous leadership position among the top three in national business climate rankings; reestablishing VEDP as one of America’s premier state economic development organizations; and exhibiting collaboration and coordination as hallmarks of VEDP.

Virginia Rural Caucus meetings are held each Wednesday at 5 p.m. in the General Assembly Pocahontas Building. For more information, visit the Center for Rural Virginia Events Calendar here or contact Executive Director Kristie Proctor at or (804) 512-1453.

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