Youngkin Taps Ex-Heritage Chief James as Secretary of Commonwealth

Glenn Youngkin, Virginia Governor-elect has appointed Kay C. James, former President of Heritage Foundation, to be the next secretary in the commonwealth. 

“Secretary James will be a true asset to the administration,” Youngkin said in a Friday press release announcing James’ appointment. “Our shared vision, combined with her tremendous experience, will pave the way for a new day in Virginia.” 

James will serve as secretary to the governor and keep official state records. 

James, 72 years old, has spent a lot of her life fighting for conservative values. She is also no stranger to the worlds of public policy. 

“As a lifelong Virginian who has devoted much of my career to public service, I see serving as secretary as one more opportunity to give back to the commonwealth that has given so much to me,” she said.

James’ career in public service began as a School Board member in Fairfax County, Virginia, and then as a member of the Virginia State Board of Education. 

Service in the field of education has been a continual theme throughout James’ career. 

She served as dean of the Robertson School of Government at Regent University in Virginia Beach, Virginia, from the mid-to-late ‘90s. Later, she served as a member of Virginia Commonwealth University Board of Visitors between 2010 and 2014. 

James was elected president in 2018 of The Heritage Foundation, a large Washington D.C.-based thinktank. During her tenure as Heritage’s president, she brought attentionThis is why school choice programs are so important in the United States. pushed backon the teaching of critical racism theory. (The Heritage Foundation’s news outlet is The Daily Signal. 

James’ background and passion for education at all levels will likely serve her well in the Youngkin administration. 

Youngkin, who takes office on Jan. 15, has taken a strong stance on education issues, speaking throughout the 2021 off-year campaign about the need for parents’ voices to be heard and for public schools to stop teaching critical race theory. 

“We’re going to embrace our parents, not ignore them,” Youngkin said during his victory speech after his election on Nov. 3. Some attribute Youngkin’s victory over Democrat Terry McAuliffe, a former governor seeking to return to office, to his focus on education issues at a time in Virginia when far-left ideology is being embraced by some school districts, such as in Loudoun County.

Former Virginia state Rep. Winsome Sears will serve as the commonwealth’s lieutenant governor under Youngkin.  

In addition to James’ experience in the field of education, she also served on the National Commission on Children under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. Bush. She was also the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy associate director and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services assistant secretary for public affairs.

She has been a tireless pro-life advocate since childhood. In the 1980s, she was the chief spokesperson for the National Right to Life Committee. James is also the founder the Gloucester Institute, a group that trains African Americans college students to become leaders. 

James was raised in Richmond’s housing projects as a young child. She was among the first children of color to participate in the desegregation process in Virginia. James graduated from Hampton University, a historically black college in Hampton, Virginia. 

James has been serving as co-chairman of Youngkin’s gubernatorial transition team since stepping down as Heritage president in December. When Youngkin is sworn-in on Saturday, she will officially assume the role of secretary to the commonwealth. 

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