Marvin Gilliam of Bristol, a GOP citizen member of the state’s redistricting commission, is stepping down from the panel effective Wednesday.
No reason for Gilliam’s departure was announced at Tuesday’s meeting of the panel, which will be tasked with redrawing the boundaries of the state’s legislative and U.S. House districts based on new census information.
Gilliam, a former coal executive who has donated nearly $945,000 to Republican campaigns in Virginia, was one of the eight citizen members that a panel of retired judges selected for the commission in January. Members of the redistricting commission, which also includes eight legislators, hope to vote on a Republican citizen replacement for Gilliam at their next meeting, July 19 at the Pocahontas Building.
In January the retired judges selected two names from each of four lists of citizen finalists submitted by four legislative leaders: House Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn, D-Fairfax; House Minority Leader Todd Gilbert, R-Shenandoah; Senate President Pro Tempore Louise Lucas, D-Portsmouth; and Senate Minority Leader Tommy Norment, R-James City.
Gilliam, the commission’s only citizen member from Southwest Virginia, and a former member of the University of Virginia board of visitors, was among citizen applicants Norment recommended. The commission will now select Gilliam’s replacement from the remaining names on Norment’s list. The Division of Legislative Services will first check back with the remaining people on Norment’s list to see who remains interested in serving.
“We just wanted to thank Mr. Gilliam for his service to the commission at this point,” co-chair Greta Harris, president and CEO of the Better Housing Coalition, said Tuesday. “We appreciate your attendance, your thoughtfulness and your care to the democratic process.”
Gilliam, appearing virtually, said he enjoyed his time on the panel and that he wished he could have met participants in person. The panel previously had met virtually because of COVID-19.
“I do wish everyone good luck moving forward,” Gilliam said. He said commission members have “a difficult task” ahead, and “I wish you all the best.”
The 14 remaining names on Norment’s original list are: Jeffrey Wayne Bolander of McGaheysville in Rockingham County; Erick Fletcher of Spotsylvania County; Thomas Douglas Heffernan of Elkton in Rockingham County; Ben Hudson of Montross in Westmoreland County; Thomas H. Hueg of Fairfax Station in Fairfax County; Charles Johnson of Williamsburg; Joni Organ of Lynchburg; Christian Ortego of Williamsburg; Mark G. Rinaldi of Williamsburg; Mary Catherine Slusher of Rockingham County; Shelly Smith of Powhatan County; John Thomas of Roanoke; Virginia Trost-Thornton of Forest, which is part of Bedford and Campbell counties; and Robert West of Norfolk.
The U.S. Census Bureau announced in February that census data would be delayed and that it would deliver data to the states by Sept. 30. As a result, the state is holding this fall’s elections for the House of Delegates under the current boundaries, rather than in new configurations.
Before it receives the census data, the redistricting commission this summer will hold eight public hearings to solicit public input on the drawing of districts.
The first public hearing, focused on Southside, will be at 5:30 p.m. July 13 at Jarman Hall at Longwood University. The Richmond hearing will be Aug. 3. The site has not been finalized.