Special/Signature Issues » Independents' Day

James M. Ellis Jr.


Race: Hanover County Board of Supervisors

Age: 46

Family: Married 16 years to my wife, Lisa; Jamie (15), Christopher (9), Sean (7) and Lucy (4).

Profession: Public opinion researcher

B.A. English, 1982 (University of Virginia); M.S. Mass Communications, 1989 (Virginia Commonwealth University); M.S. Survey Methodology, 2003 (University of Maryland); Ph.D. Educational Research and Evaluation, in progress (Virginia Commonwealth University).

Where do you live? Mechanicsville, Craney Island Farms.

Where did you grow up?
Northern New Jersey; Paris, France; and southeastern Pennsylvania. I've lived in Central Virginia since 1978, essentially.

Why are you running as an independent?
At the local level, the issues we face are often nonpartisan. My particular issues are clearly nonpartisan.

Why aren't you running as a Democrat or Republican? See above.

What are your signature policies and campaign issues?

(1) Citizen engagement. Government needs to create a more collaborative relationship with its citizens. Many government processes seem to create distance between government and its citizens rather than bringing them closer together.

(2) Sustainable growth. It is critical that we aggressively move ahead now in this area. It can be done in ways that support profit-making. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates the U.S. will add 92 million people by about 2040. The question is not, "Will we grow?" The question is, "How will we grow?" Sprawl, smart growth, energy use, land use, transportation policy, environmental responsibility and sustainable growth may be the most important issues of the 21st century.

(3) Green infrastructure. We often set aside areas for industrial, commercial and residential uses well in advance of developing them. We need to set aside open spaces in the same way, before development comes to them. We also need to look for creative opportunities to bring small green spaces back into established areas. Although there are many studies that argue the economic benefits of a strong green infrastructure plan, I think we also have to make it acceptable to do these things simply because they are the right thing to do - they make us happy, we choose them as a priority, and our local governments should listen to us.

(4) Remembering that government is not a business. I've heard elected officials say that government is a business. I disagree. Government is different from business. That's why we have two different words for them. Certainly government should, and does, take lessons from business in terms of approaching its work efficiently and effectively. Certainly money drives decision-making options in government. And certainly we reap many benefits from the hard work of businesspeople. But when local elected officials think that our governments are literally businesses, the fiscal tunnel vision starts and trouble follows.

Which political party do you more closely identify with? The Democrats

How do you differ most from them?
I probably spend more time thinking about what our history tells us about the core values that we say make us "American," although I am fairly tolerant by what I mean as "core values."

What changes would bring you into the Democratic or Republican fold?
In both cases, I think citizens want them to stop playing politics with our lives. Many citizens want to be proactively brought into decision making by the system. They want decisions to be made on broadly accepted facts and plain logic, not on the basis of which party can maneuver the other one into looking bad for the next election. Citizens don't want to see politicians seeking power merely for the sake of having power. I would want both parties to consider citizens as partners in decision making, seek us out in ways that connect to how we live our lives, and respect the contributions we can make to our decision making.

How did you arrive at your political convictions?
My mother is a strong Democrat; she always stressed the importance of voting and participating. My father was known to vote all over the political map. He was VMI man and a UVA law grad and he held politicians to a high standard of honesty and honor. So he was usually not very happy with them! I have voted all over the map as well, but I became concerned with how the Republicans at the national and state level have chosen to exercise their majority power and politicized government agencies and rank and file personnel that did not used to be politicized.

Are you running to win, or running to bring attention to certain issues?
Both. The issues demand their own attention. I am just articulating what I am hearing and seeing.

Who is your political hero?
Kevin Kline as Dave, the imposter president in the movie "Dave." OK, I'm not naïve enough to think that situation would be ideal, but it's fun to imagine it. I'm not sure if I have a real life political hero. I'd probably have to go with more of an anti-politician - George Washington, for his indomitable spirit, desperate ingenuity and noble avoidance of petty politics during the Revolution; his wisdom and self-control in squashing talk of him becoming king after the war was won so that the Articles of Confederation (and later the Constitution) could be given a chance to work as designed; and his willingness to serve his nation once again as its first president.

Is it wrong to steal office supplies? Yes. Enough said.

What kind of car do you drive?
A 1994 Saturn SL-1 with 283,000 miles on it. Does that say "independent candidate" or what?

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