Virginia Legislators and Government Officials Convene at 14th Annual Rural Caucus Reception
Richmond, Va. – Nearly 300 rural Virginia stakeholders gathered at the 14th Annual Rural Caucus Reception on January 18th, including dozens of state government legislators and administration officials who pledged support for rural Virginia.
Representatives from more than 45 counties across Commonwealth participated in the event at the Omni Richmond Hotel. Lt. Gov. Winsome Earle-Sears, Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Matthew Lohr and Secretary of Health and Human Resources John Littel all delivered remarks at the reception.
Lohr, who serves on the Board at the Center for Rural Virginia, noted that agriculture is the number one industry in the Commonwealth, with forestry ranking as the third largest industry. Recent statistics show that combined, the two have an economic impact of $105 billion dollars.
“I’m a fifth-generation farmer from Rockingham County, so my entire life has been living, breathing and working in rural Virginia,” said Lohr. “I thank you for being here, and for what you do every day, helping our elected officials understand the issues facing rural Virginia and how important they are to the Commonwealth.”
Behavioral health was a key theme for Secretary Littel, who touted the behavioral health plan Gov. Youngkin rolled out in December that should have a transformative effect in rural communities.
“Nowhere is the need more urgent than in rural Virginia and in places where communities have to do more with less,” said Littel. “We spend a lot of time talking about rural economic prosperity. You cannot have that without rural health.”
The annual Rural Caucus Reception is a joint effort of the Center for Rural Virginia, the Virginia Association of Counties (VACo) Rural Caucus and the Virginia General Assembly Rural Caucus.
Lt. Gov. Sears, who sits on the Board of Directors at the Center for Rural Virginia, emphasized the importance of keeping lines of communication open between rural Virginia and the Youngkin administration.
“We thank you for what you do and encourage you to keep coming and letting us know how you feel about a bill,” said Sears. “It’s important for all of us to stay in touch, even when we are away from Richmond.”
VACo’s Executive Director Dean Lynch; Sen. Emmett Hanger, Chairman of the Rural Caucus; Del. Emily Brewer, Vice Chairman of the Rural Caucus; Sen. Frank Ruff, Chairman of the Center for Rural Virginia, and Del. Les Adams, Vice Chairman of the Center for Rural Virginia were also among the guests in attendance.
Hanger touted recent accomplishments of the Center for Rural Virginia, including launching the Virginia Rural Leadership Institute (VRLI), the first program of its kind focused on attracting, developing and retaining leaders in rural communities. The inaugural class graduated in the fall of 2022, and applications for 2023 VRLI sessions are open now.