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Chris Graham Announcement - February 1

Chris Graham Announcement
Feb. 1, 2008
Remarks as prepared for delivery

Ladies, gentlemen …
I have asked you all to be here today so that I can begin with you on a new journey. I want us all to join together in Moving Waynesboro Forward.
My contribution to this effort will have me seeking the Ward B seat on Waynesboro City Council. I am announcing my intent to enter into the race for the open seat on the city council here today.

I first want to thank Tom Reynolds for his eight years of stellar service to the residents of Ward B and the residents of Waynesboro, including the last four as the city’s mayor. I am not engaging in hyperbole when I say that I know for a fact that there will be no way that anyone can adequately fill Tom’s shoes.
He has been a tireless advocate for Ward B and Waynesboro, holding the line on taxes and spending while at the same time serving as a catalyst for the development of a vision for the city of Waynesboro and taking us on the first of many steps toward seeing Waynesboro to our mutual goal of becoming a First-Class City.

I do want to try to build on those successes. As a lifelong resident of the Waynesboro area, this is the only place that I have ever called home.
My story is in some ways the story of Waynesboro. My father worked at the old General Electric and Genicom for 25 years, weathering the economic booms and busts along with everybody else, enduring a two-year layoff when I was about to enter my teen years, before ultimately losing his job when Genicom moved his division to Mexico in the mid-1990s.
The economic hardship put a strain on my parents, who divorced when I was 13. Those years weren’t easy, but my mother refused to take handouts because she said that she didn’t want her children to grow up thinking that it was someone else’s responsibility to put food on the table.
Her lessons to that effect dwell inside me today and will forevermore - that if you’re ever going to get anywhere in life, you’re going to have to work hard at it.
I worked my way through the University of Virginia, graduating with honors with a degree in American government, then taught myself journalism upon getting my first real job across the street at The News Virginian, typing bowling scores and obituaries for two months before talking my way into the newsroom, where I was later to win some of these awards hanging behind me here on the wall.
My wife, Crystal, and I then decided to strike out on our own and started Augusta Free Press Publishing in 2002 - and have grown that business from one news website when we started out to include now three websites, three news podcasts that appear regularly on those websites and a quarterly print magazine, The New Dominion Magazine, which debuted in 2007.
Just as when I was a kid growing up in a single-parent home, we didn’t seek handouts to get the business off the ground and running. We started the business with a few dollars in the bank and our good looks, such as mine are, anyway, and through hard work and willpower have made it now six years into our run here.

I am now ready to take on this new adventure into elected politics that began for me back in 1995 when I started typing those obituaries and bowling scores across the street. I had the fortune of having talked my way into being the city-hall reporter for The News Virginian in 1996, and I have been a close observer of the city-government scene since that point in time. I have often told colleagues that I consider my years walking the halls of city hall my master’s and Ph.D. education in American government to complement my bachelor’s from UVa. - because it is the hours that I have spent in the city-council chambers and the commissioner of revenue office and the city-planning office and city manager’s office that taught me how government really works.
And I want to emphasize that point here - because unlike a small but vocal faction here in town, I believe that our government here works and works well. And I believe that is due in large part to the efforts of those who have served on city council before me.
I applauded both as a citizen and as a journalist when city leaders developed a vision for the future of Waynesboro in 2003 - in fact, I was in the room for the visioning sessions that led to the creation of that vision, and participated at the direction of members of the city council in some of the discussions therein. And I have applauded again as a citizen and as a journalist as council members have taken some crucial steps toward implementing policies toward bringing that vision into a reality.

I am applying for the job of city-council member because I think critical progress has been made toward Moving Waynesboro Forward - even as critics of that progress have made the case for rolling back the successes that we are seeing in revitalizing our economic and community base. They don’t share in our vision for Moving Waynesboro Forward, and don’t see the potential that we see, that Waynesboro can be a First-Class City, that all we have to do is sit back and let people in corporate offices in farflung places come in and provide us with jobs and tax dollars.

I think my mom had it right back in the day. It’s not someone else’s responsibility to put food on our table. If we’re going to get anywhere in life, if we’re going to be successful in Moving Waynesboro Forward, we’re going to have to work hard at it.

I pledge to you that I will do my part as we engage on this journey together to work hard at it - and I hope that you’re ready to roll up your sleeves and get to work with me.


Economic and Community Development.

I believe strongly that to keep Moving Waynesboro Forward, we need to strengthen its commitment to economic and community development across the city - and not just in the Rosser-Lew Dewitt corridor.
Public and private investment in Downtown Waynesboro is an important part of these efforts. I also want to see us take steps to revitalize the Basic City and East Main areas that are key entrance corridors to our city for people coming to Waynesboro from the Skyline Drive and Blue Ridge Parkway.
It seems to me that success in revitalizing these forgotten parts of our city will strengthen Waynesboro at its core - and will have a positive spillover effect into adjoining residential neighborhoods on the East Side and in the Tree Streets.
I also want to be a part of a greater effort in city hall to see to it that our staff continues with its assignment to seek to attract corporate residents to our city industrial park. That kind of thing can be easier said than done, but it is crucial that we find a complement to our strong retail base in the West End in the event that the big-box stores that now populate that part of town to service a regional customer base stretching from within our city limits to Stuarts Draft in Augusta County to Crozet in Western Albemarle County decide that they can in the future more easily reach those markets with stores in other locations.
Another reason that it is important that we focus our time and energy on attracting industry to Waynesboro has to do with our young people. Our schools do a wonderful job producing quality vocational and college-bound students, but we need to make sure that we get the best out of our investment in their futures by making sure that we provide them with economic opportunities when they are ready to enter the job market.

Holding the Line on Taxes and Spending.

Another task that is easier said than done, but is just as crucial as anything that we do as we work to keep Moving Waynesboro Forward.
City leaders have to make sure that city government is running as effectively and efficiently as is possible - and that includes providing proper oversight of the senior city staff in its management of the day-to-day affairs of the city and making tough decisions at budget time.
As a small businessman who has to meet daily deadlines and weekly, monthly and quarterly budgets, I know what it’s like to make tough decisions - and I won’t be afraid to step up and be held accountable for the decisions that I make and that my fellow city-council members make when we are spending our city’s tax dollars.

Tapping Into Our Greatest Resource - We, The People.

I will seek to involve citizens from all walks of life in Waynesboro in citizen-advisory committees that I will organize and maintain to assist me in Moving Waynesboro Forward by examining in detail the issues of the day that so many of us feel demand our immediate attention.
I want to involve mothers, fathers, grandparents, businesspeople, worker bees, educators, students and everybody in between in an effort to learn more about how we as a community can deal with gangs, teen pregnancy, blight, ongoing flooding and stormwater issues and more.
I believe - let me emphasize this more strenuously, I know - that there are people in our community who have good ideas about how to solve the problems of the day. I am going to ask you to be a part of the solution by sharing your good ideas - and I am confident that working together, we can all be a part of many, many solutions.

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