By Leonard E. Colvin
New Journal and Guide
Now instead of representing the western half of her city, if she wins in the new state District 21, she will cover 93 percent of Norfolk from a seat in Richmond.
McClellan is running against her former colleague on council Angelia Williams Graves who ascended to the House of Delegates after a decade representing Norfolk’s Super Ward 7, the other half–eastern portion of the city.
Now both are cultivating support and votes over all of the city instead of the East and West side political power centers.
McClellan said her experiences as a businesswomen and serving the city in various capacities have prepared her for the upper chamber of the Virginia State Senate.
This is not her first attempt at pursuing a political job in Richmond.
She ran an unsuccessful bid at winning the Democratic primary for Lt. Governor in 2021. Hala Ayala was the eventual nominee losing to Winsome Sears, a Conservative Republican.
Since then, McClellan has been busy preparing for this run for the State Senate.
McClellan grew up in Hampton Roads with a single mother in Virginia Beach. She said the teachers in the Virginia Beach public schools prepared her academically to earn her undergraduate degree from the University of Virginia.
After college, she worked on the sales and marketing teams of two Fortune 500 companies.
She attended and graduated from the Wharton Management Program and then ran two small businesses, which had mixed success. She admits her tech venture failed “but it gave me great insight into the challenges of running a small business.”
After that time, she was appointed in 2003 by Governor Mark Warner to the Virginia Small Business Advisory Board, and she currently serves on the boards of 757 Angels and 757 Accelerate.
She and her husband Michael have three sons who were educated in the Norfolk public school system.
McClellan said that funding education and supporting teachers is important to prepare children for college and adulthood.
But she and a growing number of local and state leaders believe that not all of high school graduates should be funneled into the increasingly expensive college portal.
Community colleges notably should provide more skilled trades in home construction, HVAC, and automotive repair and maintenance, which pay high wages, she said.
These skilled men and women could be vital in helping Norfolk and other communities address the critical shortage of affordable housing.
She said Norfolk has many old houses which could be remodeled and made more energy efficient, for individuals, or couples starting families.
McClellan said that current public-school students, new and old homeowners, and businesses all need powerful tools such as access to high-speed broadband which is critical to job access, job creation, and educational opportunity, as highlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
McClellan said the pandemic showed us that access to affordable and reliable high-speed broadband is critical for education, jobs, healthcare and more.
McClellan was part of the organization to create a five-city 110-mile broadband regional fiber ring, and currently serves as the Chair of the Southside Network Authority which manages this “internet highway.” Its goal is to provide affordable ultra-high speed Internet connectivity throughout the region, ensuring Norfolk and the area can be at the forefront of high-tech economic development.
McClellan said that she applauds the fact that the city has a new Internet provider, Metronet, which will offer internet competition to residents who have long sought an alternative.
But the city’s future is threatened by the effects of global warming and flooding. McClellan has over a decade of experience focusing on environmental issues, including writing Norfolk’s Climate Action Plan. She has been focused on combating the effects of global warming, its threat to locales in the form of flooding, rising seas and increased precipitation, which is overwhelming the city’s aging stormwater infrastructure.
Norfolk is at the forefront of protecting its shores with its proposed $2.6 billion plan that will add storm-surge barriers, nearly eight miles of floodwalls, nearly one mile of levees, 11 tide gates, and 10 pump stations around the city.
The city will receive some $1.7 billion of the costs from federal coffers and, $931 million must come from “non-federal” resources, which can include the city and the state. Thus far, the state has not come forward to be the 50/50 partner the city seeks.
“This is one of my priorities in the State Senate, as we need strong leadership in the General Assembly to secure the resources necessary for this transformational, critical project for Norfolk,” she said. “We need to address this lest we suffer the fate of Hurricane Katrina.”
She said her positions on the council and other panels have allowed her to focus on the policy and operational features of the issue.
In 2020 McClellan was appointed to the statewide Joint Subcommittee on Coastal Flooding, chairs the Coastal Resilience Subcommittee of the Hampton Roads Planning District Commission and received a gubernatorial appointment to the Chesapeake Bay Program’s Local Government Advisory. She is also a member of the American Flood Coalition.