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Youngkin pitches school, vaccine choice as he promises to cut back health and environmental protections

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Gov.-elect Glenn Youngkin speaks with VPM News reporter Keyris Manzanares.

With lawmakers back in Richmond for the 2022 General Assembly session, VPM is taking a special look at different political issues affecting our community through a new series called “Capitol in Focus.” 

Earlier this week, Gov.-elect Glenn Youngkin sat down to speak with VPM News reporter Keyris Manzanares. Youngkin officially takes office as the 74th governor of Virginia on Saturday.  

During their conversation, the incoming governor was asked about his controversial pick for Virginia’s Secretary of Natural Resources, Andrew Wheeler. Wheeler previously served as the head of the E-P-A by then-President Donald Trump and rolled back environmental protections from the Obama administration. 

KEYRIS MANZANARES: Democrats have given a lot of push back on your recent appointment of Andrew Wheeler. What makes you sure he's the right person for the job? And how concerned are you about his confirmation? 

GOV.-ELECT GLENN YOUNGKIN: Well, (Wheeler) is absolutely the right person for the job. But I'm not concerned. What I get frustrated with is that we continue to live in this world of partisan politics. And my election in November represented Virginians standing up and saying we're tired of people trying to cast dispersions on folks because of who they worked for, or what team they're on. Andrew is going to be on the Glenn Youngkin team. He is incredibly qualified. And we, in fact, know that he will deliver for all Virginians. Our agenda is fundamentally focused on making sure that we protect the Chesapeake Bay, that we clean up our rivers, that we in fact, do a great job being stewards of this environment. And on top of that, that we have a permitting process that enables businesses to move forward. We have to grow. 

MANZANARES: Do you still intend to dismiss the parole board on your first day? What changes do you want to make to parole and probation in Virginia? 

YOUNGKIN: Well, we do intend to, and we will dismiss the parole board on day one, and we'll replace them. And in fact, we're going to stand up for victims’ rights as well. And we've got to change the way the parole board has functioned. Attorney general is going to press forward an investigation of the activities of the previous parole board, we're going to make sure that the parole board in fact, yes, evaluates the opportunity for second chances, because I believe in second chances, but also stands up for victims’ rights. 

MANZANARES: What is your plan for charter schools for Virginia? How do you envision that expansion occurring? 

YOUNGKIN: Charter schools are incredibly important parts of our day one plan and charter schools are associated with all kinds of responses. And let me just be clear, we're going to innovate in K through 12. Education. We're going to innovate through charter schools and lab schools and innovation schools, so that we have innovative curriculums that prepare our kids to be college ready or career ready. And it's going to be done within the public school system. So that in fact, parents have a choice. This is about providing parents with an opportunity to decide which school is best for their child within the public school system and to have creative, innovative curriculum to deliver for 

MANZANARES: The State's Health Commissioner Norm Oliver is resigning, saying that it's at your request. You've said Virginia will fight vaccine mandates with Omicron surging, can you give us a sense of how you intend to lead through this continuing health crisis. 

YOUNGKIN: I've said from the very beginning that COVID-19 is not going to go away. And so, we have to continue to react appropriately to it. I believe that the vaccine is the absolute best way to keep your family safe. I've gotten the vaccine and the booster. My wife's gotten the vaccine and the booster, and I encourage everyone to do so. But I also believe in individual's rights to make that decision. I believe that people should not be fired from their job for not getting the vaccine. And in today's healthcare environment, in today's healthcare system we have a crisis. And in fact, we must push back and Attorney General Miyares and I are going to push back against federal mandates that require health care systems to terminate employees. I believe parents should be able to make decisions for their children that are best in keeping with their view of their health priorities. These are things I believe in. We can do this, we can in fact, fight COVID-19. We can protect lives, but we can also protect livelihoods and individual liberties.