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Although nobody will be able to fill Delegate Lacy Putney’s shoes, two men are vying to fill Delegate Putney’s seat representing the 19th District in the House of Delegates. The seat is vacant because Delegate Putney announced, in the spring, that he will not seek reelection after 52 years in the House of Delegates.
One of them is Terry Austin. Austin has served for 16 years on the Botetourt County Board of Supervisors.
Austin said that his primary goal, if elected, will be economic development.
He said he has experience working with the Virginia Economic Development Partnership, a state authority created by the General Assembly in 1995, and believes that having a seat in the House of Delegates will give him more influence. He sees an opportunity to form a coalition of area delegates to work with this authority.
Education will be his next priority. Austin said schools are important, and he pledged to work to provide adequate funding for K-12 education. He supports the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) program.
His interest in education also applies to college. Austin said the General Assembly must make sure tuition at state universities is reasonable.
“I think, right now, Virginia has done that,” he said, adding that the Commonwealth needs to make sure tuition stays reasonable.
Transportation is his third priority.
“I think we waited far too long to address the condition of roads and bridges,” Austin said. “We are letting infrastructure fall behind.”
He mentioned one highway in particular, Va. 220 North, as a concern. Austin said that route has been slated for improvement three times, only to “be taken off the table.” He said the highway goes through Botetourt County and Allegheny County, and 300 tractor-trailer rigs hauling wood chips go over it every day, and share the highway with school buses. A biomass project at Westvaco, in Allegheny County, will add an additional 100 tractor-trailer rig trips per day.
“It needs to be four-laned,” he said.
That’s a Botetourt road issue that he’s familiar with. Austin said it will take him some time to learn the state highway issues that affect Bedford County, which makes up approximately a third of the 19th District.
Then comes public safety.
Austin said volunteer emergency service agencies are struggling to get volunteers, and sheriff’s deputy pay needs to go up.
“Our deputies are underpaid for the work they do,” he said.
Austin said addressing both of these issues will be a challenge, especially in rural areas, and will take time.
He said he does not support raising taxes in order to pay for any of these priorities. He said he would rather find money in other parts of the budget.
What about other issues such as abortion and gun control?
“It [abortion] shouldn’t be used as a means of birth control,” he said.
He said he supports it in the case of rape or incest.
“I do not agree with gun control at all,” Austin said. “I fully support the Second Amendment. I don’t think guns kill people, I think people kill people.”
A Botetourt native, Austin has run Austin Electrical Construction for 35 years.