It’s 18 months until the election for the 20th District Senate seat, currently held by Bill Stanley, comes up for election, but Kim Adkins isn’t wasting anytime introducing herself to voters of the district. Adkins, who has served two consecutive terms as mayor of Martinsville, said in an interview with The Carroll News on March 26, the time was right to make her intentions known.
“I went ahead and did this for two reasons,” said Adkins. “One, my election for city council comes up in November of 2014 and I felt I had a responsibility to announce to the citizens of Martinsville why I wasn’t seeking reelection; it’s so important to have good representation at the local level and I wanted someone to think it through before deciding to run; and, two, I also wanted time to go around the district and listen to what issues are important to the residents of the 20th District - you can’t do that overnight - and I wanted to be very thoughtful about it because I want to be responsive to those issues. It’s real important this early on for voters to get to know about a candidate they’ve probably never met before.”
“I really didn’t seek out the path to run for State Senate, it just seemed to be the right time for me to really do what was best for the region, and I can do that in Richmond. I know it’s going to be one of those tough processes because it’s always hard to unseat an incumbent,” she added.
During her travels, Adkins said she will address many issues, one of which is education.
“I want to talk to people about what the state can do to help rural areas invest in education. The state needs to meet its obligations,” she said. “We’re putting so much pressure on our schools to have on-time graduation. Why wouldn’t the state, knowing it’s an economic development initiative and an economic driver, fund and support it?”
Adkins noted that the pay of teachers in rural Virginia is not competitive with other areas of the state and neighboring states. She said she will support legislation that would help distressed areas provide more equitable compensation for teachers.
She also stressed that continued investment in infrastructure is also an important economic issue.
“If counties and towns, in these tough economic times, continue to invest in the infrastructure, even if they don’t see the benefit now, they will 10 to 20 years down the road. Another thing the state could do to help with economic growth is to leverage state resources and look at the antiquated water and sewer systems. Improved infrastructure is going to be important in drawing businesses,” said Adkins, who added that Carroll County’s decision to bring in a natural gas line was “really smart.”
While a concentration in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) is important for the district’s concerted effort to support and lure advanced manufacturers and innovators, Adkins said supporting the region’s efforts in creativity is equally as important as it helps create an unique identity to an area where artisans can display their talents and make a good living.
Hillsville, Galax and the counties of Carroll and Grayson were the first stops on the campaign trail for Adkins, who made a bit of history in being elected Martinsville’s mayor in 2010. Martinsville’s mayor is not elected by popular vote, but chosen by city council from among its members. Adkins’ election was the first time in 60 years a newly elected council member was elected mayor. Adkins, only the second woman to be elected mayor, was reelected in 2013.
Adkins’ experience involves much more than just her mayoral duties. She is a former president of the Martinsville-Henry County Planning Commission, a member of the West Piedmont Planning District Commission, and executive director of the West Piedmont Workforce Investment Board. In 2011, Adkins was awarded the chamber’s Partnership for Economic Growth Fred Herring Award, which is the chamber’s highest honor for volunteerism and commitment to improving economic growth in Martinsville and Henry County.
Adkins has worked as director of corporate communications and investor relations for Tultex Corporation and director of external affairs at Carlisle School, where she was responsible for the school’s admissions, public relations, development and financial aid. In addition, she has served as a founding board member for the Martinsville-Henry county Economic Development Corporation, The Launch Place, West Piedmont Business Development Center and the Fayette Area Historical Initiative. Adkins also has her own business, public relations, marketing, communications and fundraising company named KEA Consulting Services, LLC.
With her extensive business and community involvement background, and her understanding of a rural area’s needs, Adkins thinks she is well-suited to represent the voters of the 20th District.
“I understand the issues and understand how important it is to have someone at the state level to be an advocate for local communities,” said Adkins. “I’ll use my background as a mayor and in local government and business to, hopefully, bring additional resources to the 20th District.”
Adkins, who graduated from the University of Maryland with a degree in journalism, lives in Martinsville with her husband Jeff, who is the head basketball coach at Martinsville High School. They have two children, Jack who attends Elon College and Claire who attends James Madison University.
Michael Howlett can be contacted at 276-728-7311 or Twitter@MikeEHowlett