Getting right to work

Published 9:33 pm Monday, January 18, 2010

Just days after taking the oath of office, Gov. Bob McDonnell is still settling in to the executive mansion in Richmond. Tim Kaine is gone, off to devote his full attention to his other job, that of leading the Democratic National Committee. With the tick of a second hand, the clock of Virginia politics moves on. One man moves on and another steps in to fill the space, taking on not just the mantle of the governorship, but also all of the problems and worries of office.

In Virginia, the law does not allow a governor to succeed himself, so the time he has to make a difference is extremely limited. After just four years, he is shown the door and a new leader raises his hand and swears to uphold the state’s constitution. In political terms, four years seems hardly enough to warm up the seat.

Such a limitation is appropriate, though, in a state with such a connection to heritage and tradition. In Virginia, change generally happens incrementally and with one eye cast backwards so as not to lose sight of where we’ve been. Such an attitude helps ensure stability for the Old Dominion and has resulted in economic and social foundations that have weathered the tests of time.

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Still, the best Virginia governors have been more than caretakers of the office, more than seat-warmers for their successors. The best Virginia governors have understood how quickly their four years would pass and have set to work , immediately fulfilling their pre-election plans and promises.

Gov. Bob McDonnell made a promising start when he signed his first two executive orders Saturday. Both were aimed at increasing the number of jobs created within the Commonwealth, a fact that proves the new governor — who last visited Suffolk during his campaign’s “New Jobs, More Opportunities” RV tour — hasn’t lost the focus on what’s important to Virginians this year.

There will be plenty of distractions ahead for McDonnell and his advisors. The state’s budget crisis, for instance, looms closer and larger than any would like to consider. But, a clear focus on the Commonwealth’s economy and — for now, at least — a single-minded vision of jobs as the engine of that economy will serve both to improve the state of the Commonwealth and to ensure a quick and decisive transfer of power in the executive mansion.

If he is able to maintain that focus and help put Virginians back to work, McDonnell will ensure he is remembered far beyond his four-year term.