Tammy Mulchi: It’s a time for creativity

Published 12:30 pm Thursday, May 30, 2024

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This past week I was invited to speak to the Virginia Rural Leadership Institute (VRLI) as they toured Southern Virginia. This year’s class has a vast range of experience from those with local government experience to entrepreneurs and would-be entrepreneurs. They were selected from those who applied last winter.

The VRLI was created by the Virginia Rural Center three years ago to help develop leadership in our communities for the next generation. They come from all parts of the state and have various backgrounds. Each class consists of a three-day workshop/classes in four different regions of rural Virginia. The Southern Virginia one began in Danville and finished the last day in South Boston. The others will be held in the peninsula area of eastern Virginia, Southwest Virginia, and last in the Valley.

Those visits consist of tours, classes, and meetings with entrepreneurs and local officials to discuss local projects that have made a difference in their communities. In Danville, they stayed at the Bee Hotel, located in the building that once housed the Danville Bee and Register newspaper. It was converted into a boutique hotel several years ago. In South Boston, the tour ended with a class and lunch at the Microsoft Innovation Center.

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Each participant is expected to select a project that will enhance the lives of those in their community. The participants will have a mentor who has experience and background in similar efforts. They will be expected to complete their project over the next few years. Two examples were as follows: One which created a food pantry for students attending community college on very tight budgets. This one was created on the campus of Danville Community College. Another was to obtain unused cargo containers and outfit them with electrical service for food vendors to use on the bicycle trail from Richmond to Williamsburg. Most of this trail goes through Charles City County, which has few places to stop and purchase refreshments.

The VRLI is the brainchild of the Center for Rural Virginia, which was renamed the Frank M. Ruff Jr. Center for Rural Virginia by legislation passed by the General Assembly earlier this year. I was honored to sponsor the legislation suggested by Governor Glenn Youngkin. This effort was made because of Frank’s efforts in creating the Center and his service on behalf of the rural parts of Virginia. The bill was signed and supported by all 140 members of the House of Delegates and Senate in recognition of the huge impact Senator Ruff had on rural Virginia.


One issue that was not resolved by the General Assembly was whether to allow or restrict gaming machines in stores around Virginia. Current law leaves merchants and truck stops in limbo. What was once ignored and then made illegal but is now in court has been a subject of concern for the last couple of years. Law enforcement and local government efforts to stop them vary from county to county.

Store owners say they need them for the profit they receive from customers playing them while other customers are offended by them and wish them gone. The issue is in court now. After that case is dealt with, the General Assembly and the Governor hopefully will find common ground on whether the machines should be allowed and if so, what restrictions should be placed on them and how much to tax them.

TAMMY MULCHI serves as the District 9 state senator. She can be reached at senatormulchi@ senate.virginia.gov or by calling 804-698-7509