Williamsburg resident Monty Mason will run for the 93rd District seat in the Virginia House of Delegates in November 2013.
Mason will challenge freshman Del. Mike Watson, a Republican who replaced Del. Robin Abbott, a one-term Democrat who moved briefly into the 93rd District in an attempt to keep her seat after her home was redistricted to the 94th District.
The 93rd District includes the city of Williamsburg and parts of Newport News, James City County and York County. Mason said the lines of the district were part of the motivation to run for the seat. “I’ve always been interested in the General Assembly. I started looking when they redistricted and it looks like a fair, moderate district,” he said. “Most are heavily gerrymandered and the outcome of the election is predisposed, but that’s not the case here.”
Mason, a Democrat, believes the time is right for a moderate to be elected. “I believe I could represent the people in a positive manner,” he said. “Virginia has always been a moderate, conservative state but in recent years, it’s swung wildly to the right. That’s not necessarily the makeup of the entire state and I believe the pendulum will swing back to the middle.”
This will be Mason’s first run for public office. A Farmville native, Mason moved to Williamsburg to attend the College of William & Mary, where he graduated with a degree in government in 1989. He currently serves as a senior director at Visa, Inc., where he focuses on fraud prevention and reducing risk for banks and consumers.
Mason serves as chairman of the Williamsburg Economic Development Authority. During his time as chair, the EDA has worked with the city to establish the Arts District, has hosted monthly Business Roundtable luncheons, added a demolition loan program and is now working to establish a joint regional business incubator with James City County and York County.
He said he and Watson both believe the General Assembly needs more experienced business people. “Small business is the backbone of the economy,” he said. “In my capacity at Visa, I get the opportunity to see the back rooms of a broad range of businesses, from enormous corporations to internet corporations and small businesses, as well. Hopefully some of that insight will help in Richmond.”
Mason wasn’t motivated to run by one specific issue, but said that because he has daughters ages 2 and 4, the “future of the education system is critical to my family.” Tourism is important to the region, he said, but solving the area’s transportation problems could help bring more tourists. “To get the tourism industry healthy, we have to make it easy to get to and from the area, or at least manageable,” he said. “People want to go to great places. They’ll go through some steps and hoops to do it, but not if it’s a continual problem.”
He also believes he could be an advocate for higher education, saying his role as a member of W&M’s Challenge I Strategic Planning committee has “given me great insight into the challenges and opportunities at the school.”
In addition to serving on the EDA, Mason serves on the Greater Williamsburg Chamber and Tourism Alliance Board, the Historic Triangle Collaborative Economic Diversity Task Force and the development committee of Child Development Resources. As an alumnus of W&M, he also served three years as chairman of the Athletic Educational Foundation and received the Young Alumni Service Award in 2002.
Mason and his wife Pamela, an assistant athletic director at W&M, live with their two daughters, four-year-old Taylor and two-year-old Hawley, in the Walnut Hills neighborhood of Williamsburg.
“I saw this as a great opportunity to get more involved, make a serious commitment to help the area and keep it a great place to live,” he said.
Watson said he anticipated competition for the seat, and plans to run again in November. “Maybe this will make people watch closely,” he said. “Last year, the election was all about economic growth and that’s what I’ve been working on and with so many people still looking for work, I’ll keep the same focus.”