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Summer Fellow Joins Team at Virginia Rural Center

KEYSVILLE – This summer, the Virginia Rural Center is excited to welcome a new team member on board. Chandler Vaughan, a Charlotte County Virginia native, has developed a passion for addressing rural issues through his childhood and college experiences. For twelve weeks this summer, Vaughan will serve as the Virginia Rural Center Fellow, providing input on rural issues, planning events, representing the center and rural Virginia in meetings, and assisting in other center functions.

“We are thrilled to have Chandler Vaughan join our staff as a fellow. As a native of rural Virginia, Chandler's knowledge, enthusiasm and experience will allow him to make an immediate contribution to our organization as we continue to work towards advancing economic development and prosperity throughout rural Virginia,” said Kristie Helmick Proctor, Executive Director of the Virginia Rural Center.

“To provide friends at college and outside of my home county with scope of how rural we are, I proudly tell them that Charlotte County is home to about 12,000 people and 18,000 cows. The town I grew up in, Keysville, is the largest in the county, with a population of around 800,” said Vaughan. “I grew up and still work on our family’s beef cattle farm. The farm is a part of the larger agriculture and forestry industry in the county, which serves as one of the top three employers in Charlotte County, along with the school system and sheriff’s office.”

Vaughan graduated from Virginia Tech in December 2018 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Agricultural Business. He is currently a graduate student at Appalachian State University in North Carolina where he studies public administration with an emphasis on rural economic development. “If I truly wanted to understand rural issues, I needed to attend a rurally focused college in a relatively rural area. Appalachian State checked all those boxes,” Vaughan said. “I am also fortunate to have a rurally based research assignment at Appalachian State where I study how communities collectively govern the New River’s ecosystem health”

The Rural Center is not Vaughan’s first experience in state-level government, also serving as a Governor’s Fellow in the Secretariat of Agriculture and Forestry last summer. When asked about the experience, Vaughan was grateful. “The Governor’s Fellows Program provided a great ground-level view of the functions within the Governor’s Office, especially those within the Secretariat of Agriculture and Forestry. One of the most memorable experiences of the summer was attending the opening of a bourbon cooperage and stave mill in Smyth and Washington Counties, which will bring 160 jobs to the rural region.”

The Rural Center is excited to have another contributor to work towards advancing economic development, job creation, workforce development, education, infrastructure, healthcare and other vital initiatives for the prosperity of rural Virginia.

“My interest areas align greatly with the rural center’s mission. Broadband and increased, high-speed internet access is the first key for rural prosperity. When I talk to my friends from home and other rural areas in Virginia, most plan, or are forced, to move to an urban area to find employment after college, trade school, or high school. With telecommuting becoming increasingly popular, we must be able to provide the current and next generation with access to high speed internet,” Vaughan said. “Hand-in-hand with broadband access expansion is a need for greater attention on education, especially career and technical education, vital to job attainment, workforce development, and other aspects of economic development. I am looking forward to learning more and contributing to the rural center’s efforts this summer!”

The Center is a partnership of the Center for Rural Virginia, a Virginia legislative entity advocating for rural policy, and the Council for Rural Virginia, an entity organized by federal statute that is a conduit for building rural capacity by facilitating the collaboration and creation of coalitions of the key economic regions and sectors of the Commonwealth.

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