The Bulletin

The Va. Redistricting Commission is down one GOP citizen member. Here’s how the vacancy will be filled.

By: - July 6, 2021 12:02 pm
The Virginia Redistricting Commission holds its first in-person meeting Tuesday. (Virginia Mercury)

The Virginia Redistricting Commission held its first in-person meeting in July. (Virginia Mercury)

A former coal mining executive from Bristol is resigning from the Virginia Redistricting Commission, leaving the bipartisan body temporarily down one Republican citizen and forcing the politically delicate body to fill a vacancy for the first time.

The resignation of Marvin W. Gilliam Jr., a Wise native whose family-owned coal company was acquired by Massey Energy, is effective Wednesday, according to an announcement at the end of a redistricting meeting Tuesday.

Gilliam, who had called in to Tuesday’s meeting while most members met in Richmond in person, did not explain the reason for his abrupt resignation.

“I’ve just enjoyed my time here. I wish I could’ve met people in person. It would’ve been much more fulfilling I think,” Gilliam said. “I do wish everyone good luck moving forward. You have a difficult task ahead of you and I wish you the best.”

Gilliam did not immediately respond to an email asking why he is resigning.

The vacancy creates another item on the Redistricting Commission’s to-do list as it prepares to redraw the state’s legislative and congressional maps for the first time ever, taking over a power previously held by the General Assembly. The 16-member commission was created to achieve a careful balance of power between Democrats and Republicans, citizens and legislators and the House of Delegates and Senate.

As explained Tuesday, the other commissioners will select a replacement for Gilliam, who was nominated by Senate Minority Leader Tommy Norment, R-James City, and appointed by a panel of retired judges who selected the commission’s citizen members from political leaders’ lists of candidates.

Under a state law being used for the first time, the commission itself, not judges, will select a replacement from Norment’s 14 other original nominees. The law requires at least one of the commission’s eight Democratic members to vote in favor of the new Republican member.

Amigo Wade, director of the General Assembly’s Division of Legislative Services, told the commission he was planning to reach out to Norment’s other 14 nominees to see if they were still interested in serving.

Gilliam was the only member on the commission representing far Southwest Virginia, an area that could see its political clout slip due to population declines.

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Graham Moomaw
Graham Moomaw

A veteran Virginia politics reporter, Graham grew up in Hillsville and Lynchburg, graduating from James Madison University and earning a master's degree in journalism from the University of Maryland. Before joining the Mercury in 2019, he spent six years at the Richmond Times-Dispatch, most of that time covering the governor's office, the General Assembly and state politics. He also covered city hall and politics at The Daily Progress in Charlottesville.