Citizen of the Month – Harry Blevins

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Citizen of the Month

Harry Blevins

By MJ KNOBLOCK

State Sen. Harry Blevins is retiring in August from his seat in the Virginia General Assembly. After serving the Chesapeake community and the Commonwealth of Virginia for more than 50 years, Blevins is ready for a permanent vacation. He and his wife Margie plan to pack up their RV and spend some time together traveling about the country.

“It’s time for me to think about what’s the most important thing for me and my wife and family,” said Blevins, 77, who noted that he didn’t take his decision to retire lightly. He explained that he is stepping down before his term ends next year to spend more time with his family and also for health reasons.

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell has declared a special election to fill Blevins’ seat to be held on Tuesday, Aug. 6, 2013. Blevins’ last day in office is Aug. 5.

“I had the privilege of serving with Sen. Blevins in the General Assembly, and he has been a vital ally during my time as attorney general and governor,” said Gov. McDonnell. “During his time in office, Sen. Blevins has been a faithful public servant on behalf of the citizens of his district and the Commonwealth of Virginia. He has been a key advocate on education issues in Virginia and his strong voice will be missed in the Senate. We are grateful for his years of dedicated service and I wish Sen. Blevins and his wife all the best.”

A native of a tiny town named Elk Park in the mountains of North Carolina, Blevins moved to Chesapeake in 1957. With a brand new degree in industrial arts from East Carolina University, he took a job as a teacher at Great Bridge High School. He taught drafting, wood shop and metal shop. He also served as a high school coach.

Blevins earned his master’s degree in secondary education from the University of Virginia in 1964 and became assistant principal for one year at Great Bridge High before becoming the school’s principal. He enjoyed it immensely.

He retired in 1991 after 34 years of service at Great Bridge High School, expecting to settle down and relax. He spent the next few years becoming even more active in the Chesapeake community.

“When I retired, I didn’t jump into politics right away,” said Blevins.

In 1997, Mark Earley vacated his seat in the state senate to become attorney general for Virginia. Randy Forbes took Earley’s place in the state senate, vacating his seat in the Virginia House of Delegates. Blevins ran for Forbes’ vacant seat, winning the special election in December of 1998. After four years as a delegate, he then ran for and won the seat for the 14th Senatorial District of Virginia, which he still holds today.

“As principal, I always tried to make sure that the students took their election as student officials seriously,” said Blevins. “I would talk to the kids about being good leaders.”

One student council president in particular stood out to Blevins, a young student named Randy Forbes. After learning about a new program in Washington, D.C. called the Classroom for Young Americans, Blevins lobbied local leaders and members of the Chesapeake business community to join together and raise money so that Forbes could travel to Washington and participate in the interactive program that teaches high school students about the fundamentals of democracy and government.

“We all thought he was going to be somebody,” said Blevins. “You know, somebody that stood out.”

They were able to raise enough money to send Forbes to the workshop in Washington, which became the springboard for his future career as a lawyer, a Virginia senator and his current position as a U.S. congressman representing Virginia’s 4th District.

Congressman Forbes describes Blevins as “a great role model” and someone who has inspired him. He pointed out that while he was a student at Great Bridge High School, Blevins was one of the youngest principals in the state. He fondly recalled Blevins’ efforts to help him attend the Classroom for Young Americans.

“He told the business community, ‘If we can train one student in government, he can come back and change this community,’” said Forbes. “That’s the type of vision he had.”

Forbes cited Blevins’ calm demeanor in difficult situations as an asset to his years of service to the Chesapeake community and to the citizens of Virginia.

“In all my years in government and my years in practicing law and everything else, if I had to pick the top five men I’ve encountered, Harry Blevins would be one of those men,” said Forbes.

Throughout the years, Blevins has tirelessly served the citizens of Chesapeake and Hampton Roads a voice in government, but also in other organizations. For example, he is a past president of the Rotary Club and former Rotarian of the year. He is still active in the local community.

In government, Blevins sees himself as a voice for education simply because that’s where his background has led him.

“There are not a lot of educators in the senate,” said Blevins. “I’ve been one to do a lot of speaking on that subject. That makes some people happy, but doesn’t make some other people happy; but that’s one of the more important things we’ve tried to do.”

Chesapeake School Board Chairman Jay Leftwich was also a student at Great Bridge High while Blevins was principal. He went to school with one of Blevins’ daughters and has followed the senator’s political career, especially with regards to issues on education.

“He has been a strong ally in the General Assembly; a strong advocate for education,” said Leftwich.

Leftwich noted that Blevins will be missed in government, “but hopefully will still be active in the civic life” of the Chesapeake community.

“He has achieved the status of elder statesman, and I mean statesman in the truest sense of the word,” said Leftwich. “He’s not just a politician, he’s a true statesman. He is full of honor and integrity.”

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