By TRAVIS HANDY
Virginia Delegate Anne (“Annie”) B. Crockett-Stark (R-6th) announced Wednesday she will not be seeking re-election this November.
In a statement released March 13, 70-year-old Crockett-Stark said, “having served four terms, I am now moving on to enjoy other adventures that are on my personal ‘bucket list.’ I want to thank the network of family and friends whose support and efforts blessed me and afforded me this great opportunity. It has been such a pleasure to serve the Best people in the Commonwealth of Virginia.”
Crockett-Stark was first elected to serve in Virginia’s House of Delegates in 2005, when she unseated incumbent Democrat W.B. “Benny” Keister. Before the 2005 election she served six years on the Wythe County Board of Supervisors, including one year as chairwoman. She was also the first woman to serve on Wytheville Town Council.
Over her years in the House, Crockett-Stark served on multiple committees and sub-committees, including Education; Counties, Cities and Towns; Health, Welfare and Institutions, and Science and Technology.
Crockett-Stark’s constituency in the Sixth District covers Smyth, Wythe and Carroll counties. Before redistricting in 2011, she also represented Pulaski County with the exception of the Ingles District.
In a phone interview Wednesday evening, the delegate was upbeat and thankful for having had the support she has enjoyed over the years.
“Nobody could run for this part-time office and work it if they did not have a network of family and friends that have worked behind the scenes and have worked with them and have done volunteer things for them,” she said. “I have had volunteers—believe it or not, from both political parties—who have come into my office and helped me (go through) six or seven newspapers; they come in here weekly and help me send out notes of congratulations to people, as well as condolences… that kind of volunteer help is invaluable.”
Throughout her service in public office, Crockett-Stark has championed education, transportation and infrastructure in the rural district she represents, taking those issues to Richmond and working to serve her constituents.
She carried legislation to create crisis and emergency management plans through HB 305, which she mentioned. The bill had far-reaching effects, even impacting Pulaski in an emergency event.
“It was my bill that set up the emergency management planning after the Virginia Tech tragedy, which has unified local law enforcement with campus law enforcement, and has also provided hotline service and people where students can turn in emergency issues,” said Crockett-Stark. “The same emergency management team has been set up in Richmond, so that all the tornadoes and hurricanes, things that we’ve had that have been natural disasters in the last couple of years; that same emergency management (has) been on the ground and were in Pulaski to help within hours after the tornado struck Pulaski.”
She also sponsored legislation to secure public funding for Pulaski Theatre at $50,000; Fine Arts Center for the New River Valley and Calfee Park at $25,000 each; bills to improve safety of school bus passengers in Carroll County, tax incentives to bring business and industry to the entire district, and other legislation to require helmets for moped operators, to name a few. Other pieces of legislation she is proud of include bills to allow more funding for school security in the wake of the Newtown, Conn. school shootings and advocating action at a mental health level to avert future violence.
“We’re trying to work with people who have emotional and mental health problems and seeing if some of this can be stopped and our people can feel safe again in our schools,” said Crockett-Stark. “So I feel good about those things.”
She also has advocated heavily for keeping Carroll County’s Southwestern Virginia Training Center open, saying she will beg the delegate elected behind her to support the home. Her comments returned to education, transportation and health:
“I think we can never quit working on (those issues). If you don’t have healthy citizens you don’t have healthy students; without education, you don’t have a good work force, and without transportation to get them to schools, you don’t have education. So to me we don’t have the luxury of ever separating our core services. There’s no way you can ever separate them.”
The delegate said she looks forward to free time to “have adventures,” and is leaving with few regrets. One individual who will look forward to additional time with Crockett-Stark is her dog, Abby, which she added means “Annie B.’s Baby,” saying she “will be a happy little camper that mom will not be leaving her with baby sitters for two months at a time.”
“I’m 70 years old. Maybe I’m too old, and I feel like, you know, this was a hard decision to quit,” she said. “I decided three years ago to run one more time and not do it when I hit 70 because I had some adventures that I wanted to do, and some writing I want to do and some family things, but I think I’m leaving this job in good hands. There are always things you wish you could have gotten done.”
Crockett-Stark was highlighted in 2012 General Assembly session for her enthusiastic support of HB 48, the “castle doctrine” bill, which would allow Virginia homeowners to use any degree of force, even lethal, against intruders without threat of criminal or civil charges. It was never passed with her support.
“It never gets passed, and I still think the day needs to come that a man is able to defend himself in his own home without it being a criminal offense,” she said.
Crockett-Stark showed an optimistic attitude about her decision. Her office will remain open through December and she hopes her work for her community will continue in some capacity once her time in office is complete in January.
“I would say there’s no way anybody could say, ‘I am a legislator,’” she said. “No, you are a legislator because of all the people that elected you, and actually all the people that even voted against you, or argued with you about bills and called and told you things they wanted you to vote no or yes on. If you don’t look at all those people equally and say, ‘all of this has helped me be a better legislator…’ You know, you can’t be a one-man team.”