In my earliest years of service as a member of the House of Delegates, there was no guide or directory of state programs and services. Each constituent request that was different from previous ones resulted in an investigation to determine who was responsible for what in the area in which the constituent needed assistance.
Sometimes it took several long distance telephone calls to get to the right agency or the right person. There was no Internet and no search engines. State government was not all that friendly, and there were few “800” numbers to encourage calls from Northern Virginia and other parts of the state into Richmond.
Each successful investigation led to the completion of an index card with individual names, agency names, addresses, and telephone numbers that were eventually expanded to include facsimile telephone numbers to accommodate the new technology. The shoebox that was more than half-full of index cards became an invaluable tool in responding to constituent inquiries.
If it was invaluable to my office, it would clearly be useful to others. From that realization came the idea to print all the information from those index cards in a booklet that would be a citizens handbook. Our first edition was in great demand from citizens, businesses, agencies, and others. It clearly filled a void; it clearly met a need.
Last week I sent out the eleventh edition of my citizens handbook that has now been combined with my constituent guide. It is published every two years. The document is quite different from the first edition. Now users of the handbook are referred to the right website where all the details that were once printed in the guide can be found. It has gone from 24 pages to eight pages as a result. But with the expansion of the websites the guide opens state government to voters and constituents more than the original print-only version ever could. I organized and chaired the original Joint Commission on Technology and Science (JCOTS) where we placed an emphasis on state government expanding its use of technology and making its programs and services more accessible through the Internet. We have been wonderfully accessible. Virginia state government has received many favorable recognitions for its website.
You should have received the Citizens Handbook and Constituent Guide, Eleventh Edition, last week in the mail. If you did not, call my office weekday mornings at 703.758.9733 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you need more copies for your family or business, just let us know the number you need, and we will be glad to provide them. They are not printed at taxpayer expense. They are paid for by my campaign committee.