I moved to Virginia in November of 2008 to take a job in the railroad industry. The Virginia I found was quite an interesting place, comfortably hosting Southern conservatives, Northern liberals and legions who didn’t care about either…but loved Virginia’s vibrant, growing atmosphere.

Fast forward to January of 2022, the vibrant, growing Virginia was long-gone. Though four years of Bob McDonnell’s leadership made Virginia the top state for business, the ensuing eight years of Terry McAuliffe and Ralph Northam left the Old Dominion a stagnant, sullen land, shorn of its history, devoid of direction and desperately seeking a new start.

The inauguration of Glenn Youngkin on January 15, 2022, changed all of that. Right out of the gate, Gov. Youngkin’s forceful and enthusiastic speech energized the crowd. That was reflected by the attendees who eagerly embraced the new governor, despite many of us having favored other candidates during the Republican nominating convention. Also strong was the crowd’s interest in the wide variety of Virginia-based groups that participated in the inaugural parade, despite the ice-cold temperatures.

For all the good feelings which happened at the ceremony, the bulk of the story was told by the three inaugural balls—each representing one of the Commonwealth’s newly-elected top officers. The Thursday evening gathering for Lt. Gov. Winsome Sears was lively with dancing and great food, while the Friday gala for Attorney General Jason Miyares was an oversized cocktail party, replete with guests wearing their best black tie attire.

But the zenith came on Saturday when more than 3,000 people gathered under the Main Street Station trainshed for an evening of Virginia’s best food and libations at Gov. Youngkin’s inaugural ball. While many initially grumbled about the idea of a ‘dressed-down’ gathering, all was forgotten when the Governor took the stage in full cowboy attire—including what might be Virginia’s most recognizable cowboy hat. He quickly gave way to the Zac Brown Band who rocked the house for the rest of the evening.

Overall, it was a great start to what many Virginians—Republican, Democrat, independent and otherwise—hope will be a revival for the Commonwealth. 

However, it remains painfully apparent that Virginia is not an island in the dysfunctional sea that is America in 2022. As attendees were leaving Richmond, the news broke that Arlington’s school board would ignore the governor’s elimination of the statewide school mask mandate. Social media users from Virginia continued sharing photos of empty store shelves, that are a direct result of two years of unnecessary and ineffective COVID restrictions. And closer to home, after the Sears gala, a friend and I were denied entry to Richmond’s popular Tobacco Company Restaurant. Our crime? Declining to “show our (vaccine) papers,” something we expected would only happen behind the 20th Century Iron Curtain…or the new 21st Century Iron Curtain of Boston, Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, Washington and Los Angeles.

That episode showed that while there is hope in Virginia, there is much work to be done.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the positions of The Republican Standard.