Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney shares personal story of education, perseverance and achievement
Student leaders from Trinity’s Black Alliance Initiative (student club) welcomed Levar Stoney, mayor of Richmond, to Trinity to share his story with the group on the morning of Tuesday, October 26. Attendance in the Perkinson Arts Center Theatre was limited due to COVID, but about 80 students and faculty were able to hear the mayor’s remarks.
Stoney spoke proudly of rising from humble beginnings to become the city’s 88th mayor. “I pinch myself each and every day,” he said, “that a child born to a couple of teenagers, a young Black man, can be the mayor of the former capital of the Confederacy. It is not lost on me.”
Education played a critical role in his youth, growing up in Hampton Roads, Va. “My time in school helped change the trajectory of my life,” he said. “I was the first in my family to graduate from high school, the first in my family to go to college and the first in my family to graduate from college.”
Stoney then attended James Madison University, where his election as student body president launched a career in government and politics. “I started working on political campaigns from the ground up,” he recalled. “I was knocking on doors walking around in 95-degree heat trying to get folks to register to vote. I steadily rose up the ranks.” As Secretary of the Commonwealth from 2014 to 2016, Stoney touted his work on behalf of restoring the rights of Virginia’s felons, which was inspired in part by the plight of his own father. “My father committed a felony in his youth and unfortunately that followed him through a lot of his life,” he said.
Stoney began his first term as mayor in 2017 and is now in the first year of his second term. “It has been a rollercoaster of a role,” he said, describing the experience of being at the helm of the city during one of the most challenging and historic periods in a lifetime. “Even last year with a pandemic, a wayward economy, and the protests that occurred in Richmond,” he recalled, when people asked him if he ever just didn’t want to get out of bed, he said: “Never. I love what I do.”
Stoney advised seniors in the audience to pick a challenging career that they love. “I have been fortunate enough that I have loved every job I have had,” he said. Contrasting his job to his father’s construction, janitorial and landscaping work, he concluded: “Those are hard jobs. I don’t have a hard job. I have a challenging job, the sort my dad wanted me to have. I try to see my work through the lens of my father and grandmother and that keeps me going every day.”
This was Mayor Stoney’s second visit to Trinity. He was the keynote speaker at the “TESMUNC” Model UN Conference in March 2017