Richmond Mayoral Candidate Interview: Levar Stoney
At Grid, we believe that everyone in Richmond has a superpower — a unique combination of personality traits and aptitudes that they bring effortlessly to everything they do. What’s your superpower and how will you share it with RVA?
I’m a people person. Some people are born with certain abilities, some are great athletes, others are great scholars. My “superpower” has always been my ability to communicate, collaborate, and motivate people. As mayor, I will be a leader who shares my “superpower” with RVA by bringing folks together to tackle our challenges and take us to the next level.
Journalist and Congresswoman Clare Booth Luce once told John F. Kennedy, “A great man is a sentence.” Can you sum up your purpose in a single line? Let’s hear your sentence.
My mission in public service is to give a voice to the voiceless and right wrongs.
Let’s chat conflict. How do you handle it and how do you make sure you’re listening effectively to others when conflict arises?
I don’t seek out conflict, but when I encounter it, I face it head-on with composure, respect, and an ear for solutions.
What defines good citizenship and how do you model it?
Good citizenship means civic engagement. Staying silent is giving others permission to make decisions for you. I’ve always sought to have a voice in the process and a seat at the table. If you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu, and for far too long, Richmond and Richmonders have been on the menu.
Tell us a story about a solution to a problem in Richmond that you made better, faster, smarter, and less expensive.
As Secretary of the Commonwealth, I transformed the restoration of rights process and individually restored the rights of more than 18,000 Virginians — that is more than the past seven administrations combined. And we did it with a fulltime staff of two in the Restoration of Rights office. We did things differently. We reduced the wait period for serious offenders from five to three years. Drug offenses, which used to be classified as violent, were reclassified as nonviolent. We reduced the length of the application for serious offenders from 13 pages to one page. Those applying to have rights restored no longer needed a notary, letter of recommendation, or letter of remorse. We refused to make people beg for their civil rights. We instituted an online lookup function so people know the status of their application with our office. We invested in young, new talent and motivated staff, and used stakeholders like William and Mary students who would remotely phone bank to relieve pressure from the two paid staff. We worked at making government efficient and helping to inspire the next generation of leaders by showing them that public service can be a rewarding profession. In addition to reducing recidivism and a financial burden on taxpayers, restoring rights also allowed for a greater number of former offenders in Richmond to fully reenter society and help break cycles of concentrated poverty.
We’re proud of our makers and doers in Richmond — people who roll up their sleeves and get stuff done. Tell us about the last thing you made with your hands or created.
On the campaign trail this summer, I worked with students to create some art at the Visual Arts Center of Richmond booth at the Strawberry Street Festival at Fox Elementary School. It was great to “roll up my sleeves” to make something and to see students being engaged and creative outside of the classroom.
Please share an example of a solutions-oriented Richmonder — or Richmond organization — engaged in innovative practices that have influenced you.
I am both influenced and inspired by the great work being done by Chris Dovi and everyone at CodeVA. Their programs are displaying innovation and generosity. We should have a greater focus on preparing students for a 21st century economy and I applaud CodeVA in their efforts to do so.
If you could change one event in Richmond over the past 10 years, what would it be?
Instead of all the discourse about the location of a new baseball stadium, we could have been having a robust discussion about strengthening our city schools. I have read more stories about the Flying Squirrels and the baseball stadium than I have about the mayor, city council, and school board working together to transform our schools and our children’s future.
9) Who is your favorite Richmond mayor of all time, and why?
Henry Marsh. As the first African American mayor of the city, I’m sure he faced a lot of challenges while leading a city that was going through transformative change. He rose above all those challenges and made it possible for someone like me to be the next mayor in the former capital of the Confederacy.
If you could paint a mural depicting the future of Richmond, what would you paint and where would you paint it?
I’d let an artist do the designing, but I would want a mural that illustrates to children they can achieve anything they put their mind to, whether that means growing up to become a lawyer, doctor, artist, nurse, or police officer. I would want this painted in every school to show our children they matter.
Hometown: I grew up an hour east of here in the 757 Hampton Roads
Neighborhood: Downtown RVA
Favorite Way to Volunteer: At public schools and through GRASP, a program that helps at-need students with the college admission and financial aid application process
Listening Style: Action-oriented
Preferred Mode of Transportation: I enjoy taking the train and I can’t wait until high-speed rail comes to downtown RVA
Best Locally Made Product: Hardywood beer
Favorite Spot on the River: Belle Isle
GoTo Restaurant: Comfort
The Book You’ve Gifted Most to Others: What A Party! by Gov. Terry McAuliffe
Three achievable goals that you plan to champion over the next year, regardless of who becomes mayor?
· Strengthening our public schools
· Turning the tide on poverty
· Demanding accountability and transparency in government