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Votes

Column: A Special Shout-Out

By Kenneth R. “Ken” Plum, state delegate (D-36)

I know my constituents join me in a special thank-you shout-out to Barbara Shearer who has been my legislative assistant for over twenty years and who is retiring at the end of this month. Although a state legislative office is technically part-time, Barbara’s attention to details of constituent request and dependable follow-through gained for my office a reputation for having the best constituent services of any office of an elected official with many having full-time staff members.

While dealing with proposed legislation during the legislative session is a very important part of a legislator’s duties, taking care of constituent needs and requests was understood by Barbara as being just as important. Many of the calls that come into my office are from persons who are totally frustrated with trying to figure out the appropriate level of government—federal, state, local—to call, the agency to call when most agencies have names that may make sense only to the bureaucrats in them, and with talking to answering machines with no humans ever calling them back. Barbara always had a willingness to listen, to know where the request should be directed, and to get an answer. She developed friendships in many state agencies and departments from her many years of dealing with them. She taught many new legislative assistants how to do their jobs.

Jane and I met Barbara and her husband, Scott, at a political event over 20 years ago soon after their second relocation to the region related to his employment. When I learned that she had experience working for an Illinois legislator, I offered her a job working with me. While the job is part-time, it is more than full-time for a couple of months of the year when my legislative office relocates to Richmond for the legislative session. Barbara was agreeable to such a schedule and has been the only person working in my legislative office locally and in Richmond since then. During the session we also had college interns to assist us, but Barbara probably helped them a lot more by teaching them about the legislative process than they actually helped out.

Barbara is editor of my weekly Virginia e-News that some have described as having the most comprehensive calendar available in the community. We get numerous requests to list events in the calendar and numerous plaudits from people who learn new information from it. She passes along to constituents news and information on state government that is not easily accessible to residents. Barbara also schedules my weekly television show, always on the lookout for interesting people for me to interview.

I know that I join the residents of the 36th district in thanking Barbara for her exceptional service and wishing her well in her retirement as she looks after her mother and has more time for her husband, children and grandchildren.

Succeeding Barbara as my legislative assistant is Kristy Pullen. Please give Kristy a big “Welcome!” when you phone my office.