Sitting up straight from behind her desk at the Chamber of Commerce, Virginia Finlay is in complete control.
Effortlessly, Finlay rattles off numbers from the 2009 budget about expenditures, economics and sustainability.
It doesn’t take her long to navigate the spectrum of what she calls an anti-business sentiment in Richmond.
Finlay is brief with answers, but thorough in explanations. She seemingly has a document to support each of her claims.
“Take a look at this,” she said in a deep baritone, pulling documents out of a prepared folder.
It’s a response that would surprise few who know Finlay.
“I have a reputation for doing my homework,” said Finlay, in a dark suit and sporting a signature hairstyle coifed to perfection. “And what I don’t know about, there is the expectation that I will find out.”
Finlay has been a Richmond City Planning Commissioner for 16 years. She says her political experience and extensive knowledge of Richmond issues is crucial to her candidacy.
In a city with an 18 percent unemployment rate, Finlay is pushing for jobs.
“Stimulus money cannot go on forever,” Finlay said. “The only thing left, besides being very prudent in how you spend money, is either laying off employees or creating revenue.”
To do that businesses have to feel welcomed, she said.
“There are things you can do to be supportive, but we have to have businesses here to put these people to work,” she said.
But while Finlay prides herself on business sensibility, others find fault for not caring enough about other pressing community issues.
Her open support of casino development at Point Molate has earned her backlash from rival opponents, as has her consistent support of Chevron.
Jovanka Beckles, who is also running for City Council, has criticized opponents like Finlay for being too concerned about bringing revenue to a city at the expense of its reputation and the environment.
Beckles called the casino development a “handout.” Finlay called it a “business opportunity.”
Finlay asserts her goals are much more multi-disciplinary and that her campaign is focused beyond a “better business model” for Richmond.
“I care very much about all of this community (and) I care very strongly about the environment,” Finlay said.
“I have no Chevron agenda and I have no Upstream agenda (but) I do have an agenda to create revenue for this city to provide the needed services,” she said. “ It’s that simple.”