Politics for Levar Stoney has never been about power and money. It’s always been about having the ability to do the right thing.
“For me the role of politics in government is about giving a voice to the voiceless and righting the wrongs,” the former Secretary of the Commonwealth said. “That’s what politics has always been about.”
Stoney recently resigned from his position with Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s administration and threw his hat into the city of Richmond mayoral race. Some would think this move is for political status in hopes of moving towards a higher elected office. Nothing could be further from the truth, said Stoney, which is why he is giving this campaign his full attention and making it a full-time effort.
“It’s going to take someone’s full attention to tackle the challenges of this city. There can’t be any distractions from possible future titles. The next mayor has to be focused on doing the most good on behalf of as many people as possible before even considering moving forward,” he said.
He further maintains that there needs to be a fresh and new approach to City Hall, and to achieve this Stoney says everyone must work together.
“There has to be collaboration,” he said in a recent interview with The LEGACY. “City hall and the community coming together. That’s the key ingredient of it all. That’s what you need to get things done in this city.”
Probably most noted for the role he played in getting the voting rights of over 200,000 Virginians restored alongside Gov. McAuliffe, Stoney is looking to continue on the path of empowering individuals and offering fairness to communities that have historically been marginalized.
“The principal of politics will always be being a voice for the voiceless and righting wrongs. Not just money and power. We are doing a disservice to a lot of people by just letting the status quo continue like that. Anybody can write a check, but it’s not about economics,” he said.
Stoney’s passion for pushing the envelop on issues most politicians would stand neutral on comes from a personal place. He is the product of teenage love and raised primarily by his grandmother. His father, who was 19 when Stoney was born, was convicted of a felony and didn’t graduate high school.
“As a child I remember, first hand, [my dad] saying ‘I gotta check this box on this application.’ He would walk to McDonald’s for employment. He was a butcher, did landscaping, construction and odd-end jobs to provide for his family because of that box and because of that scarlet letter on his chest.
“Can you imagine being stressed out about whether or not you can get a job to feed your family and put a roof over their head?
“So, it’s more than just restoring rights. It’s about restoring dignity. We must go beyond the political theater and discover how we can get things done. These are people’s lives we are talking about,” Stoney said.
Government should be a place to empower communities, create new jobs and invest in public education—all key elements of a successful city that Stoney says he will work towards developing. He plans to place education at the forefront.
Education is a pressing issue in the city of Richmond and Stoney believes in order to keep the city safe the children who reside here cannot be neglected and must be properly educated. Additionally, he says the city of Richmond must become more vigilant when it comes to gun violence.
“There are the Sandy Hooks and Virginia Techs, but there are a number of people in our communities dying from gun violence,” Stoney points out. “My full energy will be focused on that as the city’s next mayor.”
When asked to voice an opinion on the current adminitration’s highs and lows, Stoney said that his campaign will not be about current or past administrations, but instead about the future and where he wants to take the city.
“The city is ready for a new and dynamic leader,” Stoney said, “who is ready to take the city to a new level. We have to gain momentum and do things differently. I am that hands-on, visible and transparent leader that can be a champion for accountability, measure outputs and inputs and at the end of the day say that the buck stops with me.”
Stoney’s first step would be performing a 100-day comprehensive review and audit of every department to identify performance. “I will commit to a comprehensive performance review and audit of all departments of city government and it will be the top priority of my first term to execute those recommendations,” he said.
The only break Stoney may take from the long list of duties of being mayor is during football season to see his New York Jets play and then again during basketball season to catch a VCU Rams game or watch the New York Knicks try to rebuild their franchise. Otherwise, the York County native who began his career in politics in the very city where he wants to serve as mayor will be 100 percent focused on what he can do to build a better Richmond.
He isn’t looking for a title, but an opportunity to inspire people, make a positive impact in people’s lives and shake things up in order to change the course that has led Richmond astray, he said.
“If I can do what I did in the Secretary of Commonwealth Office for the city of Richmond, everything will work itself out,” said Stoney.