Ralph Northam, a Democrat, is the governor of Virginia.
On Nov. 7, Virginians voted for new leadership for their commonwealth.
As the man they elected governor, I am humbled that they spent their time, energy and votes to hire me to lead their state for the next four years.
However, I am also aware that they were not just casting a vote to put me into office. They were sending a message about the type of representation they want in Richmond and the results they expect it to produce.
Thanks to our geography and the structure of our economy, Virginia gets a front-row seat to the happenings in Washington. We feel the first impacts, positive or negative, of the decisions made in the White House and on Capitol Hill.
If the tumult of the past year has taught us anything, it is that modern-day Washington is too bogged down in tweets and investigations to make real progress on issues that matter to everyday Americans.
After more than two years of campaigning, I can say confidently that the chief mandate Virginians gave their leaders on Election Day is to lead this commonwealth away from the counterproductive strife we see across the Potomac. The people who hired us are demanding that we work together to make life better for all of them, not just some of them.
As my team and I have begun our work over the past several weeks, I am convinced that this is a moment for Virginia to distinguish itself. We can show Washington and the rest of the country what good governance looks like.
The men and women of the Virginia General Assembly have come to Richmond for this year’s legislative session with a renewed commitment to bipartisanship and productivity. The agenda that we are pursuing together focuses on solving real problems people are facing, not dividing people along partisan lines or satisfying special interests.
Key priorities such as connecting workers with the skills that employers need, making schools work better for every child, expanding access to health care, standing up for veterans, reforming our criminal-justice system and getting Virginians moving by improving our transportation infrastructure are a foundation for future economic growth.
If we succeed in advancing these initiatives, we will make life better for all Virginians, no matter who they are or where they live.
We will also show Washington and the rest of the world that partisan warfare is not the only way to govern. In Virginia, we still get things done.
Committing to work together in a way Washington won’t does not mean leaders in Richmond will always agree on every problem or every solution.
In my campaign, I heard a lot from Virginians about challenges they face that Richmond has historically had trouble addressing.
The people who spoke to me about gun violence in their communities, unnecessary obstacles to voting, discrimination against women and LGBT people, and climate change and sea-level rise were not talking to me as Democrats or Republicans. They were speaking to me as Virginians who need help. Leaders in Richmond have the capacity to meet those challenges together in a way that works for all of us.
That is also true for targeted tax and regulatory policy that promotes economic growth, focused reforms that make government more efficient and smart policies to reduce crime and keep communities safe.
Unfortunately, our modern political discourse brands many of these issues as “partisan” and gives one side or the other the excuse to ignore challenges as well as solutions.
We have an opportunity to change that, starting this year. In my inaugural address, I pledged to listen to Virginians and work to meet the challenges they identify — even if solutions have evaded us in the past. I asked members of both parties to reset their notions of “Democratic” or “Republican” priorities and work with me to make decisions that do the most good for the most Virginians.
Three weeks into this new administration, we are making great progress in Richmond. Discussions between leaders on expanding health care, fixing Metro and promoting clean energy have advanced far beyond points where they got bogged down along partisan lines in previous years.
We will not solve every problem in our first year, but we can solve a lot of them. In the process, we can show the Virginians who hired us to serve them in Richmond that we heard them loud and clear. They did not send us here to be Democrats or Republicans. They sent us here to get things done.
And they want us to do it the Virginia Way.