VACo staff traveled to the Northern Neck to conduct our seventh of eight regional meetings slated for 2023. VACo staff had the honor of traveling to Lancaster County, who graciously hosted the event, to meet with VACo Region 2 county leaders at the exciting Compass Entertainment Complex. VACo Region 2 encompasses the counties of Essex, Gloucester, James City County, King and Queen, King William, Lancaster, Mathews, Middlesex, Northumberland, Richmond, Westmoreland and York. These regional meetings allow us to hear directly from county staff and elected officials on the important issues facing localities across Virginia. They also help VACo staff craft the legislative program for the upcoming 2024 legislative session.
VACo President Jason Bellows opened the meeting by welcoming attendees to Lancaster County. Representatives from each county then outlined top issues or legislative priorities in their localities. Throughout the meeting, the region identified common areas of concern, which include education funding, transportation, and the cross section of the environment, rural affairs and economic development.
County leaders in VACo Region 2 agree that more resources need to be directed to localities to support school capital and broader education needs that are prevalent in the Region. Transportation and other infrastructure funding was cited in the discussion. Region 2 counties believe they are being left behind with current transportation and infrastructure funding programs and that this work will help with and support economic development in the Region. The cross section of the environment, rural affairs and economic development unfold in many ways as was outlined by the county leaders at the meeting. Many counties in the area depend on access to the Chesapeake Bay as an economic engine and urge the continuation of state support for flood mitigation and water quality projects. Agriculture and forestry are a major part of the economy in this Region and counties also encouraged support for farm and foreland preservation. On the same topic, counties agreed that we must look forward and invite investment in new generation farming technologies as well as embracing aquaculture and agritourism. This region of the Commonwealth is so unique and by protecting the environment, preserving farm and forestland while investing in new economic development strategies, counties in VACo Region 2 will continue to thrive and prosper.
After the discussion with county leaders, VACo was delighted to hear from several great speakers. Susan Cockrell, Town Manager of Kilmarnock, discussed the fantastic regional tourism initiative, Virginia’s River Realm. Tony McDowell, Executive Director of the Opioid Abatement Authority, shared important updates and information relating to the work of the Authority. VACo staff wants to first thank Lancaster County and the Compass Entertainment Complex staff for hosting us for a great meeting. We would like to give a special thanks to the county leaders and staff, VACo President Jason Bellows of Lancaster County, guest speakers, sponsors and others who attended and participated in the discussion.
VACo Contact: James Hutzler