Centreville's Joe Oddo has been preparing for a career in politics for quite some time. In 1984, he obtained a bachelor's in public policy from Penn State and ran for state legislature there against an incumbent. In 1991, he ran against Jay O' Brien for 40th-District delegate.
Now Oddo (pronounced "O-doe") is again running for delegate. But this time, O'Brien's seat is vacant and Oddo, an independent, is vying against another independent, Mark Calhoun, Democrat Carol Hawn and Republican Tim Hugo.
Although Oddo, 44, of Singleton's Grove, ran as a Republican in 1991, this time Hugo had already declared his candidacy before Oddo tossed his hat into the ring, and he wanted to make sure that Hugo didn't run unopposed.
"This is democracy," he explained. "The Republicans hand-pick the guy that can raise the most money and toe the party line. But I think a delegate should listen to what the citizens want — and I can be a citizen lawmaker, as opposed to a big-money, corporate representative."
Oddo and his wife Margie have two children, Joseph, 5, and Jada, 1. He works as a freelance Internet consultant and is currently enrolled at UVA to obtain his e-commerce certificate. He also has definite issues and concerns, and people wanting further information about them may go to www.geocities.com/jodo201/voteoddo.html.
Regarding the budget, he wants to correct the way state dollars are spent. "All the state programs should have an expiration date so they can be re-evaluated, instead of being automatically renewed," said Oddo. He says lawmakers should see if some state-employee positions can be eliminated by either automating them or merging them with others to save money.
Oddo says there are plenty of jobs in the private sector for these people and the cost savings from this and other budget-trimming measures would lead to more funding dollars for transportation and education.
He also wants to restore the lottery proceeds to education, as was originally intended. And he believes there should be "more parental involvement in children's education. Their public education should supplement what they learn in the home."
As for transportation, Oddo said developers were allowed to build poorly planned office clusters that spread parking lots at every development, rather than creating a coordinated transit infrastructure. "And they built all these compressed neighborhoods with no schools in them, so the schools get overcrowded," he added. "If they're going to bring in mass transit, they need to do a better job of planning the urban clusters around it."
He says rail to Dulles airport should have been built, many years ago: "That needs to be our first priority to relieve the dependence on road building for more fossil-fuel-burning auto traffic." He supports Sen. Ken Cuccinelli's (R-37th) proposal to synchronize all the Northern Virginia traffic signals, and he wants to "increase the speed limit on our highways by 10 mph in the fast lane and keep slower drivers in the right lane to move traffic faster and safer."
Oddo would also like to see term limits for politicians — 10 years for House delegates and 12 years for senators. That's because, he explained, "Some of these guys become pretty complacent when they're in there so long, and they don't actively pursue legislation that will correct the problems and imbalances in state spending."
To help deter crime, he favors a two strikes, instead of three. That way, he said, two violent felony convictions would result in an automatic extension of 20 years to every sentence.
And Oddo staunchly believes in campaign reform and will accept only $10 contributions to his campaign, to offset costs. "Too many of our elected officials are dependent on their big-money donors," he said. "Anyone who contributes hundreds or thousands of dollars to a candidate can then dictate policy and control the agenda. It's time to involve everyone who votes — even those [who] contribute little or no money."
Oddo believes he'll receive the votes of fellow Independents, as well as "people fed up with the politics-as-usual style that both parties exhibit right now." He says he's the best candidate because he's studied the issues a long time, has legislation all prepared to be drafted and "I raise issues, as opposed to letting the PACs and big-money contributors determine [them]."
He also contends that enough lawyers and lobbyists are involved in the legislative process already, and more citizen participation is needed. "I'm asking the citizens to come out and take back this section of the legislature," said Oddo. "I have a legislative survey on my Web site that people can fill out and e-mail back to me with issues that they want covered. That's what it's supposed to be — representation of the people."
Campaign manager Carey Campbell likes his term-limits idea and "fiscally conservative approach" toward eliminating the state budget deficit. Local resident Terry Robarge has known Oddo 10 years and says he'd make a terrific delegate because "he's got strong principles and morals — and guts enough to stand and enunciate them. He's honest, forthright, has good judgment and generates trust."