The One Vote Winner, Shelly Simonds: Creating a Virginia Economy that Works for Everyone

The One Vote Winner, Shelly Simonds: Creating a Virginia Economy that Works for Everyone

by December 20, 2017

Shelly’s Story

Shelly Simonds is an educator and a community leader in Newport News. A former teacher, Shelly is a member of the Newport News School Board with a passion for excellence in education.

All my life, I have been passionate about learning and using my education to help others. In college, I studied in Spain and Chile, where I became fluent in Spanish and discovered my love of writing and journalism. My passion led me to pursue a Masters in Communications from Stanford University, then to a job in journalism. I moved to Newport News in 2000 with my husband Paul, a NASA engineer. We decided Newport News was the perfect place to raise our two daughters, Georgia and Tessa. I became a Spanish teacher at their school, Hilton Elementary, and found my second passion: teaching. I had never had a workplace where I felt like I was part of a team with such purpose. We spent our lunch breaks talking about our students and how we could encourage them.

In 2012, I was elected to the School Board on a platform of support for teachers and workforce development. As a School Board member, I still feel like I’m on the teacher’s team, fighting for resources for my colleagues, and understanding, first-hand, the challenges and joys of their important work in our community.

I’ve been a vocal advocate for education through the Virginia School Board Association and helped write the final report for our Challenged Schools Taskforce in 2015.  This report helped secure funding for extended learning programs in the Commonwealth. I’ve also been a longtime environmental activist. I got my start in Virginia politics as a member of the Legislative Contact Team with the League of Conservation Voters.

As a mother, an educator, an activist, and an entrepreneur, I know I can hit the ground running to bring positive change to my community when I become a member of the General Assembly.

Community Involvement

  • Newport News School Board Member (elected)
    • Board received the Magna Award from the National School Board Association for innovative summer learning program called Spark
    • Shelly received Award of Distinction (2014-2016) from Virginia School Boards Association
  • New Horizons Regional Education Centers: BOD CHAIR
  • Sister Cities of Newport News: BOD Vice Chair
  • Virginia Living Museum: Appointed Representative
  • Board for Professional and Occupational Regulation Meeting Agenda: BOD Member
  • Virginia Civic Engagement Table: BOD Member (2016-2017)

Civil Rights

Shelly is passionate advocate for civil rights and will always stand up to defend vulnerable members of our community. We need stronger leadership in the General Assembly to stand up to hatred and bigotry now more than ever. Shelly is commitment to addressing:

Racism and Religious Bigotry

As a longtime member of the NAACP, Shelly knows we need a leader in Richmond who isn’t afraid to stand up to racism in all its forms. At a time when racism and religious bigotry are on the march across America, getting too close to home, Shelly knows we need a Delegate who will stand up to prejudice, divisiveness and hatred. Shelly will always stand strong with our minority communities and will always vigorously oppose and protest efforts to sow division based on race or creed.

LGBTQ Rights

Shelly believes members of the LGBTQ community must have equal rights before the law. She’ll always defend non-discrimination protections in the workplace. She knows how important it is that we work to create a society where our LGBTQ youth are happy and healthy, instead of disproportionately affected by mental health issues and suicide. In Richmond, she will support efforts decrease the number of homeless LGBTQ across the commonwealth.

Jobs and the Economy

As Delegate, Shelly’s number one priority will be creating a Virginia economy that works for everyone. Too many of our citizens miss out on the American dream, which is why Shelly is dedicated to bringinging good, well-paying jobs to Newport News and strongly supports raising the minimum wage. Economic growth should benefit everyone. And to turn that belief into a reality, Shelly is committed to:

Developing our Workforce

Shelly’s plan to improve Virginia’s economy starts with investing in our workforce. We need to be prepared for the 10,000 new manufacturing and shipbuilding jobs coming to Newport News over the next few years. As Delegate, Shelly will increase opportunities for career and technical training while strongly advocating for apprenticeship programs that give students hands-on education in areas like plumbing and pipefitting, electrical contracting, industrial insulation and cosmetology.

Investing in Working Families

Only three countries in the world have no laws guaranteeing paid maternity leave: Lesotho, Papua New Guinea, and the United States. As Delegate, Shelly will work hard to bring paid maternity leave to Virginia so that our working mothers can afford to take time off to spend with their newborns. She will also fight for families’ right to paid sick leave, so that everyone can afford to take time off to care for their sick loved ones.

Strengthening Small Businesses

As an entrepreneur who owns rental properties in Newport News, Shelly understands the important role small businesses play in our economy. That’s why she’s committed to working with Republicans to introduce new reforms in taxes and regulation. Her goal is to make it easier for small businesses to flourish, creating more jobs and strengthening Virginia’s economy for everyone.

Women’s Economic Agenda

Virginia’s economy can only reach its full potential when women succeed. In Richmond, Shelly will fight for equal pay for equal work, which disproportionately affects women of color. As a mother, Shelly knows how much caring for children can impact a woman’s ability to work. That’s why she’ll work to make sure every mother in Newport News has access to affordable childcare and quality Pre-K. She’ll also fight to introduce school days that line up with the work day and increase funding for summer learning programs.


As a Newport News School Board member and former Spanish teacher, Shelly has the passion for ensuring the highest quality education for our children and the experience to make it happen. She is a longtime advocate for excellence in public schools and will double down on her fight to bring bold ideas and meaningful programs to our children’s education. Shelly is focusing her efforts on:

Investing in Schools

Excellence in Virginia public schools begins with excellent teachers. That’s why Shelly strongly believes we must raise teacher pay so that it’s no longer stuck at pre-recession levels. Teacher pay in Virginia is currently at $7,900 below the national average, and we’re losing out on top-quality teachers as a result. Shelly also has bold vision to improve school infrastructure across Virginia. Many of our students are studying in overcrowded classrooms and run down buildings built before the 1950s. Investing in school infrastructure will bring jobs to our district and create a learning environment worthy of our children.

Connecting Students to Careers

As Chair of the Board of the New Horizons Regional Education Center, Shelly has a proven record of connecting students to careers. During her tenure on the School Board, graduation rates have risen to 92%, and Newport News School students have earned over 2,000 career and technical certifications, preparing them for the jobs of today and tomorrow. The number of students receiving career and technical certifications has doubled under Shelly’s School Board membership. She is also strong advocate for investing more state funds in STEM education and will fight to ensure every school in Newport News is preparing its students for graduation and beyond.

Closing the Achievement Gap

As an educator, Shelly is passionate about closing the achievement gap and making sure all our kids get the same benefit from our school system, not just children from wealthy families. As a member of the School Board’s Challenged Schools Taskforce, Shelly helped secure $2,000,000 for low-income students to attend summer school programs. Over the past two years, the number of students attending these programs has risen more than 300%. Summer school programs are vital to ensuring that kids from all backgrounds start the new school year ready to succeed. As Delegate, Shelly will bring more programs like these to Newport News and fight for an school system that levels the playing field in the classroom and in life.


Shelly believes healthcare is one of the defining issues of our time. Too many Virginians don’t have access to the care they need, which is why as Delegate, Shelly will fight to:

Defending Healthcare from Republicans’ Mismanagement

The Trump administration has shown America what Republicans really care about when it comes to healthcare. Rather than find ways to improve existing law, Republicans tried to rip away healthcare from millions of Americans and create a system worse than the one that existed before the Affordable Care Act. Shelly’s top priority as Delegate will be to ensure that Republicans no longer have a chance to mismanage healthcare in Virginia.

Increasing Access and Expanding Coverage

Republicans in Richmond—including Shelly’s opponent David Yancey—have voted multiple times to block Medicaid expansion in Virginia. Thousands of hardworking people in Newport News that could have access to healthcare don’t because of Republicans’ reckless and partisan decisions. As Delegate, Shelly would vote yes on Medicaid expansion so that hundreds of thousands of Virginians can access the care they need and deserve. Shelly will also be a determined advocate for expanding the number of community clinics across the commonwealth and fight for higher quality school clinics. She will defend rural hospitals from defunding so that every Virginian has access to healthcare, no matter where they live, and she will advocate to use state purchasing power and regulations to bring down drug costs.

Protecting Women’s Rights

A longtime member of Planned Parenthood and lifetime defender of women’s rights, Shelly will always fight for women’s reproductive health. She believes the government has no business interfering in a woman’s private medical decisions. Shelly knows every woman in Virginia must have access to cancer screenings, prenatal health, and family planning services. Our whole society suffers when women can’t get the reproductive healthcare services they need.

Energy and the Environment

Shelly got her start in politics as an environmental activist working with the League of Conservation Voters. As Delegate, Shelly will be a staunch defender of our environment and will fight to make Newport News a green city with a bright future. She will focus her efforts on:

Healthy, Sustainable, Green Communities

Shelly has always been an advocate for land conservation and will fight to improve Newport News’ land use accessibility for all residents. As Delegate, she will protect the James River from toxic substances like coal ash disposal, and she will demand monitoring of air quality in southeast Newport News to ensure that residents aren’t breathing polluted air. She will protect the Chesapeake Bay by funding land conservation and Best Management Practice agricultural programs.

Clean Energy

Shelly knows the threats climate change pose to coastal Virgina. We need to act now. That’s why she’ll always support solar and offshore wind energy generation, and will lead the charge in making Virginia a truly green, renewable and sustainable state. She will always oppose the expansion of fracking and uranium mining in the Commonwealth.

City Farm

Shelly is a champion for Riverview Farm Park. As Delegate, she will fight to bring state funding to City Farm to expand the park to the James River while defending the land against developers. Protecting City Farm will ensure all Newport News residents have public access to the riverfront and will drive economic growth in the area.


Without access to adequate transportation services, too many Newport News residents struggle to commute. In Richmond, Shelly will work hard to reduce traffic and make transit a more affordable and accessible experience. She will advocate for increased funding for better pedestrian and bike access across the peninsula, and she will ensure our tax dollars on transportation are well spent. Shelly strongly opposes unaccountable and wasteful spending like the recent Peninsula Airport Commission controversy.

Criminal Justice Reform

Shelly knows criminal justice reform in Virginia needs to be a bipartisan effort, and she looks forward to getting to Richmond to work with Republicans on this crucial issue. Virginia has the 8th highest incarceration rate in the America, with many people convicted for nonviolent drug offenses. We spend $25,000 per inmate per year—money that could be used to fix our roads and bridges and invest in our children’s’ future. We as a state can reduce crime and save money on incarceration if we work together on adopting reforms that have already worked in other states:

Preventative Reform

As Delegate, Shelly will be committed promoting preventative criminal justice reforms so that fewer people end up in prison and more people get the help they need to stay out. She’ll start by advocating for rewriting school discipline law and mandatory reporting of misdemeanors to law enforcement so that school children don’t get caught up in the criminal justice system. She’ll work to reform mandatory minimum sentencing in Virginia to allow sentence modification for juveniles, and she will fight hard to increase funding for mental health and addiction services so that our prisons don’t serve as makeshift treatment centers.

Strong Community Policing

Shelly is a strong believer in community policing and knows the General Assembly can do more to encourage strong bonds between the men and women that wear blue and the communities they serve. Shelly will fight to increase funds for police training and technical assistance in Newport News and encourage community policing everywhere.

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