By Deloris Thomas

Shelly Simonds is a current member of the Virginia House of Delegates for the new 70th District located entirely in Newport News.  She is a former teacher who started her time in elected office as a member of the Newport News School Board and as the Chair of the Board for New Horizons Regional Education Centers.  Delegate Simonds is a passionate advocate for students and teachers as a member of the Education Committee in the House, where she has passed legislation promoting STEM education and workforce development.  She also co-founded the Career and Technical Education Caucus, a bi-partisan effort to connect students to careers.  Simonds has been dedicated to fair elections and voting rights while serving on the Privileges and Elections Committee in the House.  

Simonds owes a lot to Rotary because after she graduated from college, she won a Rotary Fellowship from a club outside Oxford, Ohio, to study economic development at the University of Chile.  The Rotary fellowship helped her fluency in Spanish which is still important as a legislator today.  She said, “I had my first constituent meeting in Spanish in the General Assembly building last February.”  The new House District 70 is 10% Latino so being a Spanish speaker helps me communicate with more people in the district so more people’s voices are heard in our government.

Delegate Simonds currently serves on the Education Committee, the Agriculture, Chesapeake and Natural Resources committee and the Privileges and Elections Committee, as well as the Aerospace Advisory Board and the School Construction and Modernization Commission.  She is excited to report that our School Modernization Commission’s bi-partisan support for upgrading our school infrastructure has been very successful and secured close to $1 billion for rebuilding crumbling schools across the Commonwealth in the last budget. Our schools were not built with modern-day considerations in mind, how could they have predicted in the 1950s, our technology needs, the energy efficiency needs, or our school security needs.  Our 1950s buildings have too many side entrances and were not built so the main office has a view of the front entrance.

Simonds provided some tips for communicating with your legislators on the issues that matter to you. “I am a full-time delegate, so I will make the time for you.”  My legislative assistant, Cheryl will be your point of contact. If you’d like to meet with me or have me attend a community event.  

Tip #1: Always include your home address when you send an email so my office knows if you’re our constituent or if I should forward your concern to the Delegate who represents you.

Tip #2:  Keep the legislative calendar in mind.  It’s easy to reach me and meet with me from April to December.  I will personally respond to the emails and letters that you write to me during most of the year. However, during the legislative session, January, February, and March, I will be mostly in Richmond, so it will usually be my aide who will respond on my behalf.  However, she will make sure I hear your suggestions on legislation because she will record your response in our IHOD system, which is a computer system that allows me to see any constituent comments on bills before I vote.