Her Civic Duty

Her Civic Duty

Del. Vivian Watts sees transportation, mental health as top priorities in 2008 session.

While technically running with a challenger, Vivian Watts is fairly sure she will be heading back to Richmond in January.

"I'm hooked on the process," said Watts, who has served as the delegate from the 39th District for the better part of the past 20 years.

Watts, a Democrat, is facing Independent Green candidate Laura Clifton, who was unable to be reached for comment.

The top two priorities in the upcoming session will be transportation and what Watts calls "illegal boarding houses," where several members of an extended family live in one home.

"There's a lot of support for the zero tolerance approach and the strike force for coping with our laws," Watts said. "Sadly, I can't say things have changed much except for the strike force approach. We need people on the ground to enforce occupation laws. It's a real issue in my district."

When it comes to transportation, Watts said she was disappointed with the transportation bill adopted earlier this year.

"That solution was a drop in the bucket compared to the actual need," she said. "What we need is for the state to at least match the amount of funding we receive from that plan."

Like many other legislators, Watts wants to spend some time addressing mental health services from Richmond, from people with a history of mental illness to service men and women coming back from Iraq.

"I've served on the Veterans Affairs Service Board and have been very involved with the issues of post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injuries," Watt said. "As we deal with questions of effective treatment, as we become more aware of the need for mental health services, we could be more effective by cooperating with the VA [Veterans Administration]. We need to work hard to get this right because it can be so dangerous, even deadly, for the community when there are people we cannot reach."

In the months leading up to Election Day, Watts said she's visited most of the homes in her district, knocking on doors and meeting with her constituents.

"At the state level, we deal with so much, from transportation to schools to insurance, and if you really know your constituents and their concerns, it's very helpful," she said. "Being a citizen legislator is so important."